Brent Suter, pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, recently endorsed the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act which is working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Fellow endorsers include many names that will be familiar to New England readers, including former Vermont governor Howard Dean and biathlete Susan Dunklee. Over seven hundred businesses, 116 faith groups, 118 local governments, 187 nonprofits, and six tribal entities also support the legislation. The bill has 82 co-sponsors including Adam Schiff, Chellie Pingree, Barbara Lee, Seth Moulton, and Karen Bass, all Democrats. (There is one Republican cosponsor, Francis Rooney of Florida.) Representatives of all northeast states except Vermont are cosponsors.
In brief, the bill Energy Innovation Ace puts a small fee on fossil fuels, which will increase over time. This is intended to drive down their use. The money gathered by the carbon fee will be returned to American people; the law is designed to be revenue-neutral. In order to protect American jobs and industry, imported goods will pay what’s called a ‘border carbon adjustment,’ and American companies will receive a refund. According to the website energyinnovationact.org, “This policy preserves effective current regulations, like auto mileage standards, but pauses the EPA authority to regulate the CO2 and equivalent emissions covered by the fee for the first 10 years after the policy is enacted. If emission targets are not being met after 10 years, Congress gives clear direction to the EPA to regulate those emissions to meet those targets. The pause does not have an impact on EPA regulations related to water quality, air quality, health or other issues. This policy’s price on pollution will lower carbon emissions far more than existing and pending EPA regulations.”
The bill’s tight focus on climate change makes it a natural to receive the support of player Brent Suter. Born in Chicago in 1989, Suter has spoken of his environmental awakening which resulted from seeing Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, as a high school student. The snow-lover recognized that the normal winters he loved were in danger of disappearing. Suter attended Harvard, where he played baseball and studied environment and public policy. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012 and made his major league pitching debut in 2016. He is a left-handed starting pitcher who achieved a 3.91 career ERA before being sidelined for a year with an injury. After undergoing Tommy Johns surgery, he spent much of that year working to eliminate plastic waste. He founded the Strike Out Waste initiative with his cousin.
In doing so, he brought a day-do-day environmental ethic—composting, turning out lights when leaving a room, reusing grocery bags, installing solar panels on his house—to the Brewers’ clubhouse. In a 2018 interview with SportTechie Suter said, “I didn’t get ribbed that much for my Tupperware and my bottle at all when I got called up, and I haven’t gotten much since, just the occasional fun ribbing. The really cool response was when I went around asking teammates if they want to do StrikeOutWaste and use a reusable water bottle that we can get them instead of the cups and plastic bottles at the facility. Over 100 guys responded with a resounding yes. We shipped over 100 out to the guys and saw a pretty big dent in our spring training plastic usage, so that was a pretty cool sign that the guys were on-board. I’m looking to increase that number in the next couple of months and years.”
Suter isn’t alone in his environmental concern. Major league baseball has turned to solar panels and LED lighting in many stadiums. Many franchises have taken up composting food waste, and some stadiums have roof gardens.
Suter is also a member of Players for the Planet and is involved in local environmental programs in Milwaukee. He plans to become an environmental consultant or work in a sports league sustainability office when he eventually retires from baseball. He spent the COVID-19 quarantine growing food with his family and is currently playing the abbreviated season with the Brewers.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Vermont.