Today a new report was jointly released by the Institute for America’s Future, Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance, “The Green Industrial Revolution and the United States: In the Clean Energy Race, Is the United States a Leader or a Luddite?”
The report is a challenge to a nation known to chant “We’re Number One” and “Made In The USA.” While President Obama’s Recovery Act supercharged public investment and briefly catapulted America to the top of the world rankings in clean energy investment, the expiration of those funds and the return of tightfisted conservatism to the House quickly ended our reign. China reclaimed the top spot in 2012, thanks to more consistent and robust “12th Five-Year Plan, which set aggressive growth goals for ‘strategic emerging industries’–including three new energy industries: clean energy technology, alternative energy, and clean energy vehicles.”
But the report also offers a roadmap that does not require us to emulate China’s top-down economic approach.
Instead of China’s “centralized economy,” an American green energy plan should follow a “regional approach” recognizing that “we are a collection of states and regions, each with diverse natural and human capital resources, energy consumption patterns, and economic growth strategies.” But such a regional strategy would need to be complemented with a national framework of “a price on carbon, a true national clean energy standard, certainly and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.”
As it stands, Republicans in Congress are making all of that impossible, rejecting out of hand policies that would put a cost on carbon pollution and set standards for clean energy productions. And congressional dysfunction may cause the wind power tax credit to lapse at the end of the month, injecting uncertainty into the industry.
But there is hope. President Obama is moving without Congress to cap carbon pollution from power plants, a big step forward in the fight to price carbon. Just as the reality of Obamacare is slowly forcing Republicans to accept that health reform is not going away, so will the reality of carbon regulations open the door to negotiations with both Republicans and corporations.
Until that day of reckoning, we must push hard at the state level to advance our green energy infrastructure as much as possible. We are losing the race and have no time to lose.