Five Strategies to Build a Clean-Tech Nation

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.

Article Tabs

Davi Kopenawa, the leader of the Yanomami people in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, who is internationally renowned for his struggle against encroachment on indigenous land by landowners and illegal mi

Cooperative Home Care Associates has 2,300 workers who enjoy good wages, regular hours and family health insurance.

In the past three years, 22 U.S. companies have relocated through mergers with or purchases of a foreign company, enabling them to escape American corporate tax laws. Learn how they're getting away with it.

11% of business leaders in Britain think that modern slavery is taking place somewhere within their company’s production of goods. Will the Modern Slavery Bill make a dent?

The Blair Mountain Battlefield was the scene of a 5-day clash in September 1921 between more than 5,000 West Virginia coal miners and 3,000 men backed by coal companies – the largest armed labor conflict in US history.

If we want a healthy society that follows its laws and applies them equally to everyone, we must demand a full investigation and criminal prosecutions for everyone involved in the mortgage backed securities fiasco.

Posted 4 days 23 hours ago

The vote on Independence is a moment of unprecedented possibility for Scotland to peacefully reject the U.K.'s failed neoliberal agenda.

Posted 4 days 4 hours ago

FarmDrop and Open Food Network stress the desire to create positive, systemic social change that disrupts the existing dominance of supermarket provision of food.

Posted 4 days 4 hours ago

On Sept. 7, people will host screenings of “Disruption" ahead of the People's Climate March - in living rooms and libraries, on campuses and in community centers, all across the country.

Posted 4 days 4 hours ago

Borrowers with federal student loans appear to be buckling under the weight of their debt, as more than half of Direct Loans – the most common type of federal student loan – aren't being repaid on time or as expected.

Posted 6 days 7 hours ago
The Latest Foreclosure Horror: The Zombie Title

Thousands of homeowners are finding themselves legally liable for houses they didn't know they still owned after banks decided it wasn't worth their while to complete foreclosures on them.

Unrestrained data collection by private companies and the government is threatening the very nature of how the Internet – and, likewise, the companies that populate it – was intended to run.

Keep The Tip: How a Note Left on a Receipt Got an Applebee's Waitress Fired

I make less than $9 an hour on average, before taxes. I was a waitress at Applebee's restaurant in Saint Louis. I was fired Wednesday for posting a picture on Reddit.com of a note a customer left on a bill after he refused to leave a tip.

The Internet Is yours. If you do not stand up to be counted, you will lose this information and communication tool as you have come to know it.

Incorporated with the coalition government’s pro-business austerity agenda, the right to protest has faced severe cuts in Britain.

Sign Up