Bold Action Required
Today, we are once again at a critical inflection point in the development of this nation’s energy industry that requires bold leadership and federal action. We have an economic crisis coupled with a looming energy crisis — and we have the technological ability to help solve both. The country has shown this kind of bold leadership before and can do it again.
Seventy-three years ago today, the generators at the Hoover Dam's power plant located near Las Vegas, Nevada began transmitting electricity from the Colorado River to Los Angeles — 266 miles away. Massive projects like the Hoover Dam defined the United States in the 1930s. These projects prompted growth in the western half of the country, boosted the economy and changed the landscape of the country’s energy market. Bringing these projects to life required visionary leadership, bold policy, and a dedicated workforce.
The federal government recognized the possibility that these projects represented — providing necessities such as fresh water to populations on the west coast, cheap power to consumers across the country, and, perhaps most of all, creating thousands of jobs during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Leaders also recognized that the rewards of these projects were too important not be realized. In order to make them happen, the government had to step up to the plate.
The Hoover Dam project created more than 5,000 construction jobs and used 3.25 million cubic yards of U.S. manufactured concrete.
At the time, hydroelectric programs provided 40% of the electricity in the U.S. Even today, they provide 14% of our total power. In fact, between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal government is the largest producer of power in the country, generating about 250 gigawatts of electricity in 2008.
A program to develop large, utility-scale renewable energy projects across the country would jump-start a domestic, clean-tech economy and have a dramatic, positive effect on employment, energy prices, and the environment for decades to come.
As in the 1930s, the federal government has the opportunity to step up to the plate and channel resources that can position the country for long-term prosperity. By creating the solar equivalent of the Hoover Dam, the federal government could spur the domestic solar market, help secure energy independence in the future, and last but not least, put hundreds of thousands of people to work right here in America.