A conservative tech entrepreneur has created a foundation dedicated to finding clean-energy solutions to the climate crisis.
Jay Faison has several defining characteristics. He is a Republican, a member of a wealthy Charlotte family, and a supporter of GOP campaigns in North Carolina and nationally. Faison founded the ClearPath Foundation in December, and recently announced that he is giving $175 million to a campaign to get Republicans talking about market-based solutions to climate change.
He talked to WUNC's Jessica Jones about this project:
Jessica Jones: Pledging $175 million is a pretty big commitment to make to this cause. How are you going to spend that exactly?
Jay Faison: Well, ClearPath makes strategic grants, we support innovative advocacy efforts and we have a cutting edge digital media platform to present the facts to conservatives on market-based solutions for clean energy and climate. We really want to elevate this issue in the dialogue through a lot of communications and messaging around the issue and supporting others that do the same.
JJ: What are some of the key messages that you want to emphasize?
JF: First of all, I think climate change is the biggest risk and the biggest opportunity of our time, and that there are republican solutions to mitigate that risk and maximize that opportunity. Secondly, I really see this as a conservative issue. Really a lot of of what we are talking about is opening up free markets, and allowing entrepreneurs like Elon Musk to compete without a lot of regulations or laws that prohibit him from entering into new states to sell cars or for SolarCity to enter into states to provide rooftop solar.
We really think this conversation should be flipped away from a command and control government solution into a free market, entrepreneurial American solution that conservatives should like and embrace
JJ: Why do you think Republicans have had such a hard time figuring out how to deal with the issue of climate change in general?
JF: Unfortunately, we are all very politically divided as a nation, we all know that. And Democrats have owned the narrative on this issue and because we are so divided, the right doesn't like the solutions provided by the left and they have generally been not free-market solutions. Our encouragement to the right side of the aisle is to come up with our solutions and be forward-looking and visionary about this and encourage people like Elon Musk.
JJ: It certainly does seem like there is a lot of room to encourage business developments in the solar field and electrics cars. That seems like a pretty clear business opportunity.
JF: In 2014, North Carolina was the second largest solar producer. New solar was installed in North Carolina mostly at utility-scale. It created thousands of jobs, tons of property taxes, payments to farmers, corporate relocations, data farms, and yet in Raleigh the bill passed in the House that would restrict free markets around solar and I don't think that is a good thing.
As a Republican and an entrepreneur and somebody who likes to create value through business, I wonder what we are up to.
JJ: What convinced you personally that climate change was a real problem and something you wanted to work toward changing perceptions among Republicans?
JF: Like I said, I think climate change is the biggest risk and biggest opportunity of our time. I've thought that for a long time and I felt alone as a Republican on this issue and over time I came to the conclusion that somebody with my political affiliation needed to stand up and speak loudly and try to be part of the solution.