Conservative legislators must remember their party’s legacy of conservation and the importance of promoting clean energy, former Republican Gov. Tom Ridge told lawmakers during a symposium on clean and renewable energy on Tuesday.
Ridge, the nation’s first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and the 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania, spoke at the Clean and Renewable Energy Symposium held by the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum in Harrisburg. Citing Republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, who created the National Park system, and Richard M. Nixon, whose administration created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and signed both the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts into law, Ridge reminded Republicans not to surrender their history of environmental stewardship.
“Neither party should claim that they are the heirs of one kind of energy or another,” he said, “Let’s be smart, innovative and supportive but as Republicans lets accept the reality that we are blessed with multiple sources of energy and when it’s appropriate to use them lets embrace them all.”
Ridge challenged party members who ignore scientists when writing policy. The former governor said decades of research provided by scientists related to carbon emissions and the improvements that clean energy sources can have on the environment should be at the heart of policy.
As Governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001, Ridge is known for advancing Pennsylvania’s economic development, education and health care. Under Ridge’s leadership, the state established Growing Greener, legislation that has since funded a number of state agencies to administer farmland preservation projects, state park renovations and upgrades to water and sewer systems.
If Republicans articulate the need for clean, renewable energy policies as not only an issue spearheaded by Democrats, the party will be able to continue to attract new, young voters, Ridge said.
“From my experience, (young voters) are a lot more concerned about where our country is going and what we are doing to our environment than other demographics in the political world,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum is a part of the Conservative Energy Network, a Lansing, Michigan-based nonprofit that works with conservatives in 21 states to promote clean energy policies.