The Economic Imperative For Clean Energy

Our guest blogger is Brian Levine, a Senior Policy Adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The United States faces an economic imperative to develop reliable, affordable, clean sources of energy and use them more efficiently. In the face of deep economic challenges and a rising federal budget deficit, some have argued that the United States should postpone its investments in a clean energy supply. But the opposite is true. There is widespread agreement that running a deficit to pay for an economic stimulus and recovery plan is necessary now. Investing in clean energy creates jobs in the short run, helps combat global warming, spurs long-term growth, and ultimately helps restore fiscal balance by improving our economic circumstances.

Our dependence on oil leaves us vulnerable to higher and higher prices in the coming decades, continued price volatility and shocks, and the demands of hostile and unstable countries. Climate change caused by reliance on fossil fuels is leading to stronger hurricanes and other storms, floods caused by rising sea levels and massive precipitation, droughts, and heat waves that will ultimately cost trillions of dollars a year.

These are the reasons why we need action on clean energy, and it should proceed in two stages. First, we should act immediately to invest in a green stimulus and recovery plan, creating desperately needed jobs and beginning the transition to a clean and more efficient energy future. Second, in 2009 we must begin putting in place an economy-wide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program—the best long-term solution to catastrophic climate change—as a central component of a comprehensive clean energy strategy.

Yesterday, Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, and Obama transition adviser Carol Browner met at the Center for American Progress to discuss these challenges and opportunities. The complete session, introduced by CAP’s Joe Romm and moderated by Bracken Hendricks, can be watched online here. In the following excerpt, Rendell discusses the future of renewable energy, coal, and regional transport, and Friedman explains the meaning behind the title of his new book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded.”

Watch it:

Our nation faces great economic challenges. Immediate government investments will help put us on a path to recovery while also speeding the arrival of an economy powered with clean, sustainable, and secure sources of energy. We cannot be confident of sustainable economic growth in the future unless we also move ahead with the important structural transformation to a low-carbon economy.

Read the full memo on the Economic Imperative for Clean Energy.