How to Build America’s Energy Future
by Kate Gordon
President Barack Obama last night presented in his State of the Union address a blueprint for sustained growth in our economy consisting of four key parts: manufacturing, energy, worker preparedness, and American values. When it comes to America’s global leadership on clean energy, these four are inextricably linked.
A strong clean energy industry will give rise to more American manufacturing jobs, especially for skilled workers. This in turn will help rebuild our struggling middle class and reinforce the basic American idea that the economy must work for everyone, not just a wealthy few. Here’s how the four parts work together to build what the president says is an economy that can last.
Scaling up America’s clean energy sector
America is already in a leadership position on clean energy. In 2011 we reclaimed the title of “World’s Largest Energy Investor” from China. U.S. investment in these technologies rose a staggering 33 percent to nearly $60 billion, whereas investment in China remained steady at about $47 billion. Globally, U.S. venture capital dominates the cutting-edge clean energy investment market, with U.S. venture dollars accounting for 76 percent of the $2.2 billion in clean-technology venture investments across the world in 2011. Visionary programs such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s targeted subsidies to renewable energy developers have catapulted us into this leadership position, and contributed to bringing renewable energies to a place where they are nearly cost-competitive with the much more established, much longer-subsidized traditional fossil fuels.
The president’s energy recommendations in his State of the Union address will continue this trend. As my colleague Dan Weiss writes, the speech included important recommendations to increase renewable energy development on public lands, provide incentives to businesses to upgrade their buildings and factories, and support the U.S. Navy in its goal of making the largest purchase of renewable energy in history. President Obama also called on Congress to show similar leadership by passing a clean energy standard, and by finally extending the Production Tax Credit for clean energy development.