The clean energy economy is upon us -- but will the U.S. heed the call?
That's the gist of today's Washington Post story with this stark headline: Asian Nations Could Outpace U.S. in Developing Clean Energy.
President Obama has often described his push to fund "clean" energy technology as key to America's drive for international competitiveness as well as a way to combat climate change.
"There's no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy," he said on June 25. "The only question is: Which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America."
But the leaders of India, South Korea, China and Japan may have different answers. Those Asian nations are pouring money into renewable energy industries, funding research and development and setting ambitious targets for renewable energy use. These plans could outpace the programs in Obama's economic stimulus package or in the House climate bill sponsored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).
In due time fossil fuels will be gone -- no one can dispute that. So why is it that so many people -- including an alarmingly high number of those serving in Congress -- would rather waste time and energy denying the clear and present danger of climate change and resisting the solutions promised by a clean energy future?
[UPDATE: This just in...A new Harvard study finds that wind energy potential is considerably higher than previous estimates by both wind industry groups and government agencies.]
In my mind I can see a television commercial with just an hour glass on screen and this narration:
"Oil is running out."
"Coal is running out."
"Whether we like it or not, fossil fuels are going the way of the dinosaurs."
"But we know that the wind and the sun will never run out. And we can generate power from these natural, safe and limitless sources."
"It's time to move beyond the dirty energy of the past and embrace reliable clean power for the 21st century."
"As a nation, we need to do this...before time runs out."
Let's all remember that America is a nation built on the foundation of freedom, independence and self-sufficiency -- and those values must be at the heart of our strategy for energy policy. We shouldn't be losing ground in the world economy, buidling up massive trade deficits to pay for foreign oil. It's time we commit ourselves as a nation to develop clean, safe energy from the sun, wind and other natural sources that will create millions of jobs and rebuild our manufacturing base.
It just so happens that the best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is also the way to end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and protect the Earth we leave our children. Let's get back to building things again, starting with wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say 'Made in America.' After all, we have led every technological revolution of the last two centuries -- electricity, railroads, the telephone, automobiles, the television, computers -- and there's no reason we can't lead this one.
I have to question the logic (and patriotism!) of those politicians who would do the bidding of polluting industries -- Big Oil, Big Coal, Nukes -- when those dirty and unsafe technologies offer only short-term energy generation benefits at an extremely high cost to our heath, air and water, and climate. The sun, the wind, and the geothermal energy at the core of the Earth provide a limitless supply of clean energy -- our scientists can harness them and our workers can build them. Our leaders should harness -- not hamper -- the greatest source of power we have in this country: American ingenuity.
The fact is, we already have wind and solar technologies that can dramatically cut our reliance on dirty coal plants that create most of the pollution that is poisoning our lungs and damaging our atmosphere. What we need now are leaders who can build on this progress by partnering with business to develop and deploy innovative energy technologies that will recharge our economy and create jobs.
As Thomas Friedman wrote in his book "Hot, Flat and Crowded": "[T]he ability to develop clean power and energy efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country's economic standing, environmental health, energy security, and national security over the next 50 years."
The story in the Washington Post today is yet another wake-up call. We shouldn't need countries in Asia or Europe or South America to show us how to compete in the emerging markets for efficient appliances and alternative fuels. We need leaders with vision and courage who will invest in technological breakthroughs that will once and for all end our reliance on oil and spur manufacturing jobs that can't be outsourced. That way, America can start exporting clean energy instead of jobs.
As a nation, we have a choice to make. Fortunately, we don't have to choose between clean, new energy sources and economic prosperity. The choice is between accepting the status quo by holding tight to the dirty energy of the past or boldy embarking on the path to safe, reliable clean energy -- an investment which promises both immediate and long-term gains.
At this important juncture in our history, what choice will our elected leaders make? It's up to each and every one of us to help them make the right decision.