Read

Search form

Five Strategies to Build a Clean-Tech Nation

Five Strategies to Build a Clean-Tech Nation
Fri, 11/16/2012 - by Ron Pernick
This article originally appeared on Clean Edge

The election is over and the people have spoken. After months of highly-charged attacks, lively and lackluster debate performances, and never-ending punches and counter-punches, Barack Obama has prevailed as the winner of the 2012 election. It won’t be an easy job. Mr. Obama will need to enable the creation of millions of new jobs, embolden U.S energy, environmental, and national security, and lead our country into a robust economic future – all while dealing with a sharply divided electorate.

Now that the election is over, what steps can the president and new Congress take to ensure our nation’s ongoing clean-energy leadership? Here are five actions for Mr. Obama that, if implemented, could supercharge the U.S.’s clean-tech economy:

1.Open Up Master Limited Partnerships to Renewables and Efficiency

After the energy crisis of the 1970s, Congress created an effective investment structure to support domestic oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects called Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). These tax-advantaged structures now comprise more than $220 billion in assets, and on average return between five and 12 percent annually to their investors. The president should call on Congress, in a bipartisan manner, to open up these same investment tools to renewables as soon as possible. There’s no reason that fossil fuels should get special treatment, and this effective investment structure is well suited to renewables which have their own built-in annuity streams (electricity generation from a solar, wind, or geothermal installation, for example, could provide a regular revenue stream to investors). U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) has written a bill entitled the MLP Parity Act, which if enacted, could level the playing field and open up critical financing to the renewables sector.

2.Leverage the Nation’s Abundant Natural Gas, Renewables and Energy Efficiency Resources

The U.S. is blessed with perhaps the most abundant natural gas and renewable sources of any nation on the planet, along with being a global leader in energy efficiency and green building technologies. While the U.S. will continue to use oil and burn coal, the future needs to be built on cleaner, less environmentally destructive, less volatile sources of energy. Based on its unprecedented natural advantage, the U.S. should focus new generation assets on environmentally responsible natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency-based “megawatts.” To a great extent that’s already been happening, with the majority of new generation assets in 2011 and 2012 coming from new natural gas and wind power plants. The president should further leverage these resources by supporting policies and building bridges between renewables, efficiency, and natural gas interests – and highlighting how these industries can work together to enable true U.S. energy independence and security.

3.Establish a National Renewable Portfolio Standard of 30 Percent by 2030

Nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that have been one of the most effective tools in supporting the growth of clean energy. California, with one of the most aggressive RPS in the nation, is on target to reach 33 percent renewables by 2020. The president should push for a national RPS of 30 percent by 2030, which would bring this effective tool to the entire nation, while allowing states to exceed the federal target.

4.Rebuild the Electric Grid to Withstand Major Disasters

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, it’s very clear that our nation’s electric grid is woefully inadequate to meet the needs and requirements of a digital, energy-hungry, and increasingly climate-challenged society. We need to invest billions of dollars (and create millions of jobs in the process) in updating our grid with smart meters, distributed power resources like solar and fuel cells, and backup energy storage built in. And we need to look at burying the most vulnerable utility cables underground so they aren’t constantly subject to high winds and fallen trees. This won’t be inexpensive, but our electric utility infrastructure needs to be upgraded. There isn’t much that the AFL-CIO and chambers of commerce agree on, but they both believe the U.S. must rebuild its infrastructure. The president should make the pursuit of smart, resilient, and secure utilities of the future one of his highest priorities.

5.Phase Out All Energy Subsidies

It’s time to level the playing field and get rid of distorting energy subsidies. While admittedly controversial, this is certainly something where folks on both the left and right can find common ground. Let’s start with subsidies for long-established fossil fuel industries like coal, oil, and natural gas. These entrenched industries simply don’t need government handouts. The estimated $3 billion or so in annual federal subsidies to these industries in the U.S. should be removed immediately. Over the next five to ten years, similar subsidy support should be phased out for renewables and nuclear power. For renewables, a five to ten year phase out makes sense since subsidies are meant to help support expansion of new, fledgling industries. And while the deployment of renewables in the U.S. has doubled over the past four years, they could use a final push. So for now, we should extend successful tools like the wind production tax credit, but have a clear plan to end them within a decade. Nuclear, which has been the most subsidy-dependent of any energy sector, will need five to ten years to see how it might be able to compete in a subsidy-free world. Once all subsidies are phased out, the energy market can compete in a more open and transparent environment.

Clean tech, which represents industrial breakthroughs in energy, water, waste, transportation, buildings, and more, offers one of the greatest opportunities to rebuild our economy, slow the growth of and adapt to climate change, upgrade our failing infrastructure, and create millions of jobs in the process. Voters overwhelmingly support clean-energy initiatives and believe it’s crucial to our nation’s future competitiveness. Governors and mayors on both sides of the political aisle support clean tech and the tens of thousands of jobs it represents to their regions. And clean energy is scaling. Two states, South Dakota and Iowa, already get approximately 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy, with a host of other states not far behind.

There were an inordinate share of partisan attacks during this election cycle. But now that the election is settled, let’s move on with the business of building a clean-tech nation – with bipartisan support that unleashes American capital, innovation, and leadership. It’s not only up to our 44th president to help make this change happen – but also to business owners, policymakers, investors, teachers, students, and citizens across the country.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Standing Rock Sioux protests, Dakota Access Pipeline, police brutality, police violence, fossil fuel protests, Big Oil, Diggers, attack dogs

Some of the faces and voices from Standing Rock, in their own words.

U.K. surveillance legislation, Investigatory Powers Bill, Snoopers Charter, U.K. terrorism surveillance, U.K. surveillance programs, internet surveillance, cell phone surveillance, metadata

The Investigatory Powers Bill – or “Snoopers Charter” – is now enshrined in U.K. law, forcing internet and mobile phone companies to keep a record of all citizens’ browsing and phone use, even if they aren't suspected of terrorism.

Big Oil, Big Finance, economic transformation, climate collapse, economic alternatives, fossil fuel free, fossil fuel divestment, copyright laws, infrastructure investment, worker-owned cooperatives, jail the bankers, too big to fail

Moving society away from carbon dependence is not just about becoming good consumers, but engaged citizens.

money in politics, Don McGahn, campaign finance laws, FEC, campaign finance regulation, Citizens United, money as speech

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.

Posted 4 days 18 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, Alex Garland, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests

Here are some of the faces from Standing Rock, in their own words.

Posted 4 days 18 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, DAPL

"We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us."

Posted 5 days 13 hours ago

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Posted 3 days 17 hours ago
Big Oil, Big Finance, economic transformation, climate collapse, economic alternatives, fossil fuel free, fossil fuel divestment, copyright laws, infrastructure investment, worker-owned cooperatives, jail the bankers, too big to fail

Moving society away from carbon dependence is not just about becoming good consumers, but engaged citizens.

Posted 2 days 12 hours ago
money in politics, Don McGahn, campaign finance laws, FEC, campaign finance regulation, Citizens United, money as speech

Don McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank.

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, demagogue, Republican Party control, climate catastrophe, American militarism, fascism

Some years ago, the public intellectual warned that the U.S. was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now he describes the threat Trump poses to the planet.

Matteo Renzi, 5 Star Movement, Italian populists, anti-EU vote

Matteo Renzi resigned Sunday night after suffering a crushing defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform – signaling a fresh populist blow for the E.U.

Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.