America Needs to Catch Up on Alternative Energy
Note: This is a guest post from Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.
The question of whether to invest in innovation in the laboratory or to deploy new technologies in the field is too narrowly drawn and presents a false choice. We should do both.
The federal government has an important role in setting long-term goals to accelerate the transition to advanced energy technologies that serve our interrelated economic, security and environmental objectives. Yet Congress has failed to pass an energy bill since 2007. A national policy should encourage a transformed system deploying domestically available power resources that are cleaner, more reliable, more affordable and promote domestic job creation and prosperity.
While much smaller than conventional energy subsidies, the production tax credit for wind has been used over the past decade in the emerging clean energy industry. Letting this clean energy tax credit expire would be unfair and unwise, especially while maintaining the tax credits for oil, gas and nuclear power.
What’s more, the production tax credit is working. It spurs deployment of clean, cost-competitive wind energy. It injects choice into the electricity sector. It provides tens of thousands of jobs. And it positions the United States to compete in one of the growth industries of the 21st century. Uncertainty surrounding the future of this important tax credit, however, is shaking the confidence of potential investors and keeping private capital on the sidelines. Indeed, as we approach the end of 2012, there are few orders for new wind turbines for the coming year, manufacturing lines are sitting idle and workers are receiving end-of-year pink slips.
Policymakers should continue and expand U.S. investments that will provide American businesses and consumers with cheaper, cleaner power. Technological advancements have produced hydraulic fracturing, solar photovoltaic panels and energy storage. National laboratories are working more closely than ever with inventors, entrepreneurs and industry to speed the development of new technologies and to drive down costs. Manufacturers are eager for innovation, because it keeps engineers and jobs in the United States.
Congress should establish a long-term policy that sets national goals for clean energy deployment to create certainty, thereby sending a positive market signal to investors, spurring job growth and strengthening our global competitiveness.
The United States must seize the opportunity to be the world’s leader in the rapidly expanding clean energy sector for our economic, environmental, and security future.