Clean Energy Race At Stake

Publication: National Journal

Author: Phyllis Cuttino


09/27/2010 - Last week, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on the global clean energy race. The overarching message of industry leaders: The United States needs to adopt a national renewable energy standard (RES) if it wants to compete on the world’s stage.

This message echoes the findings of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report on clean energy investment in the G-20 countries. Documenting intense international competition for leadership, our analysis indicates that in countries where national policies are adopted, private finance and investment surely follow. We also found that here in the United States, the lack of a clear, long-term and consistent clean energy policy is a major barrier to building this sector. In 2009, for the first time, China pulled ahead of the United States to take the top spot in clean energy investments and finance by attracting $34.6 billion in capital—nearly double the United States’ total of $18.6 billion.

In the remaining weeks of Congress, the House and Senate have a unique opportunity to get our nation back in the race. Last week Senators Bingaman (D-NM) and Brownback (R-KS) introduced a stand-alone RES bill. Unlike so many other issues before Congress, RES legislation has already passed the House. Senate champions say they have the votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, and the bill is supported by labor and industry. This legislation would help the United States compete in the global clean energy economy, and it is one of the few bills that could be on the President’s desk and signed into law before the end of the year.

With $160 billion invested annually and 25% growth projected in 2010, the clean energy industry is emerging as one of the great economic and jobs engines. The United States cannot afford to miss this opportunity. Delay means we fall further behind. It’s time for Congress to enact a nationwide renewable standard.

Phyllis Cuttino is director of the US Global Warming Campaign in the Pew Environment Group

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