Green Energy Opportunities Start with Smart Climate Policy
by Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council
January 15, 2010
Each new commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is yet another indicator that the clean energy market will explode.
The question is: how rapidly will this market grow in the United States?
I have seen promising signs here in America. Green jobs, for instance, are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. But there is another indicator as well: the enormous sense of possibility that is spreading across the country. Everywhere I go I meet people who want to design, invest in, or build the next wave of clean energy technology.
I have talked with researchers at MIT who are fired up to create the next generation of hybrid car batteries. I have met with green entrepreneurs in Ohio who are converting windshield factories to make solar panels. And I have heard from steel workers in Indiana who want to revive America’s industrial heartland by manufacturing wind turbines.
These people are doing what America has always done well: leveraged our ingenuity to become technological leaders.
But there is no guarantee that we will retain our leadership when it comes to clean energy. Germany and Spain have long been leaders in clean energy, but now China has created stringent fuel-efficiency rules for vehicles and strong renewable energy standards. It is also reportedly preparing plans to invest between $440 billion and $660 billion in the next 10 years on alternative energy development. India’s cabinet meanwhile, just approved a bold plan for generating 20,000 megawatts from solar energy by 2022.
America has yet to take similar action. We remain dependent on dirty fossil fuels that endanger our national security and escalate the costs of curbing global warming.
The best way to secure a place in the global clean energy market is through smart policies. We need government incentives to get technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace, and we need pollution-reduction targets to increase demand for cleaner options.
The most powerful tool we have for accomplishing this is a law that puts a price on global warming pollution and directs investment into clean energy alternatives. Such a law will give businesses an incentive to invest in things like hybrid technology and highly efficient heating and cooling equipment, and it will reward consumers for buying more efficient appliances and better insulated homes.
The businesses supplying these low-carbon solutions will experience dramatic growth. NRDC’s experts say that contractors who can successfully manage commercial-scale green-building projects have more work than they can handle. The same will soon be true for energy auditors, smart grid engineers, green architects, and hybrid battery designers.