By Blu Putnam |
The United States government must continue to invest in renewable energy by supporting research and development and by adopting other long-term policies that are needed to overcome key market barriers and capture important economic, environmental, and public health benefits that are not currently priced in the market. These policies would also help create new competitors to established energy industries that have received decades of subsidies, and generally continue to receive them.
Federal lawmakers must not let budget negotiators pull the plug on federal renewable energy policies that have created high-paying jobs and increased local tax revenues. For instance, the Federal 1603 Treasury grant program, which was allowed to expire last year, and the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power, which if not renewed will expire at the end of 2012, have been extremely effective policies, generating tens of billion dollars of investment in rural communities and creating new wind manufacturing and construction jobs during the economic recession. A recent report completed by Navigant Consulting finds that 37,000 American jobs could be lost in the wind industry if Congress allows the PTC for wind to expire.
The federal government should also continue to support emerging clean energy technologies, as it is doing through the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programs that explore creative "outside-the-box" technologies that promise genuine transformation in the ways we generate, store, and utilize energy. ARPA-E funds high-risk, high-reward concepts that industry alone cannot support, but whose success would dramatically benefit the nation.
Federal policies, combined with renewable electricity standards adopted by 29 states and growth in the international market, have been also effective in lowering the cost of wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies. For example, the cost of solar power has declined by about 50 percent in the past few years. The cost of wind has fallen by about 33 percent, according Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, making it cheaper than building a new coal plant and cost competitive with new natural gas plants in areas with high-quality winds.
America should also establish a national renewable electricity standard to rebuild the country's aging energy infrastructure, stabilize energy prices, and lessen the severity of climate change and the impacts it will have on public health. As part of this strategy, the government must support aggressive research and development of sustainable energy technologies and deploy more wind, solar, geothermal, and sustainable sources of low-carbon bioenergy, and greatly increase the energy efficiency of our nation's economy. Ramping up national reliance on clean energy technologies will allow the United States to remain a leader in the global clean energy marketplace by developing innovative solutions and creating new industries. Such a sustainable energy strategy will also bolster our economy, preserve our natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce our long-term energy costs.
About Maureen Reno Energy Economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists
Daniel Kish Senior Vice President for Policy at the Institute for Energy Research
Nicolas Loris Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation
Steven Chu U.S. Secretary of Energy
Jerry Taylor Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute