Rising to the Clean Energy Challenge
In his first Oval Office address to the nation on Tuesday, President Obama laid out the steps needed to bring about our country’s next great industry. For starters, America has to regain its economic competitiveness with respect to our investment in clean energy technologies. Last year, China surpassed us in this space by an almost two-to-one margin. And in the next five years, China, along with their “Rising Tiger” peers, Japan and South Korea, will out-invest us three times over. The status quo needs to change, and it needs to change now.
As the president astutely stated, we, as Americans, have the innovative spirit to lead the clean energy race once again, but only if we “seize the moment.” The tragedy in the Gulf should have already awakened our collective consciousness to the fact that our addiction to foreign oil is long overdue for a cure. The $1 billion that we send overseas each day is money that could be much better spent investing in the research and development of renewable energy technologies right here at home. Furthermore, we need to address the lack of parity between renewable incentives and traditional fossil fuel incentives in order to create a truly balanced energy policy. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who fielded questions on the White House blog immediately following the president’s speech, agreed that fossil fuel handouts have to end. In their place, he told viewers, should be “an earnest investment in the type of clean and renewable energy that we know has the possibility to power our economy…and give businesses the type of assuredness to plan” for a clean energy future.
While we were disappointed the president neglected to call for a price on carbon in whatever energy/climate bill the Senate comes up with next month, it was encouraging to at least hear him cite the need for a renewable electricity standard and an increase in public/private investment in R&D for clean tech. As he mentioned more than once, the costs of “inaction” will be substantial, not only to our economy but to our national security and environment as well. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prepares to meet with the Senate Democratic Conference today, we hope that he and the rest of the caucus will take the president’s appeal to heart and set America on a new course of prosperity.