Posted by: greeningwashington | February 25, 2009

The Big Three

Last night in his address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama laid out the three critical areas essential to help stabilize our economic future. The Big Three if you will: energy, healthcare, and education.

While I am only going to comment on the first of these three, I must say I thought the President delivered a persuasive and comprehensive plan, albeit broad, which is to be expected without concrete legislation in place.

Energy was the first topic President Obama broached last night, and I thought it was fitting given the current state of energy production, consumption and regulations.

Here is an excerpt from his speech last night regarding energy:

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century.  And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.  We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it.  New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either.  It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.  We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.  And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

America must transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy if we are going to survive in the 21st century. Lawmakers know it, energy producers know it, and scientists and scholars all understand.

We must embrace clean energy production in order to be better stewards of the earth, to set an example for the world, and to regain leadership (as President Obama stated several times during his speech). But more importantly, we must revive America – regain some independence in this globalized world. For clarification’s sake, independence does not come from fighting lone wars in the Middle East or from beefing up our industrial complex; it comes from stability and security within our borders. Imports of oil from the Middle East, loans from China, cars from Japan and Europe all attest to our dependence. Exports of textile jobs to Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, and crop production to Mexico and Columbia affect us just the same.

I am not arguing against oil and coal consumption in the short term. I am arguing for the integration of renewable energy sources in order to not only create jobs, but to prepare for a future of scare nonrenewable resources.

Experts tell us that China is industrializing at a rapid rate and their demand for oil, cars, electricity is growing exponentially. We already consume 15 million bb/d of imported oil. Even the foolish optimist should not expect that number magically to decrease overnight. Even if we were to begin extensive offshore drilling in places previously closed, the fix would not be immediate.

The benefits of clean energy far outweigh its costs. It creates jobs. Permanent jobs. According to a recent report, wind industry jobs outnumber those in the coal mining industry. 

According to another report released by the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy jobs increased 70 percent to 85,000 in 2008, which equates to 4,000 more workers than are employed in coaling mining according to Department of Energy figures.  Add to this equation the fact that mountaintop mining has replaced thousands of human jobs with machines and harmful shortcuts.

The 2009 stimulus plan (“Bill”) provides for 27.5 billion dollars for transportation projects, which includes public transit. Investing in public transportation is one of the fastest ways to create jobs. As a city expands its public transportation system, there will be a need for construction and long-term maintenance. The key is accessibility and convenience. The public will use public transportation that is available – just take New York, Chicago or San Francisco as examples. Increased transit use will translate into savings on automobile repair and gasoline bills.

The Bill provides money for worker training in “green jobs,” which will help employ the unemployed who are looking for jobs but lack the skills.

Additionally, the Bill provides money for updating the electric grid and expands tax incentives for renewable energy facilities. Renewable energy may require tax incentives or subsidies as it tries to compete with big oil and coal; however, as it becomes cheaper to produce, and our infrastructure is updated to handle 21st century innovations, clean energy will become less dependent on government for support. Naysayers have no room to complain after what has transpired with the automobile industry (let’s remind everyone who was in power during the collapse of several key industries and who deregulated those industries *cough* W. *cough*) in addition to the fact that our agricultural sector is highly subsidized.

Clean Energy is essential. Perhaps eight years of inaction will spur bipartisan efforts to actually resolve problems, not prolong them.

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