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Going, Going ...

Clean energy jobs will be gone soon, if America fails to commit.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2011

1980, he signed an Energy Security Act 8 promoting solar energy and other renewable energy sources. President George H.W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 1992 9 to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by requiring certain fleets to acquire alternative fuel vehicles capable of operating on non-petroleum fuels. Between 1993 and 2001, President Clinton announced initiatives to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of sustainable energy technology. 10 In 2005, President George W. Bush signed another Energy Policy Act 11 aimed at encouraging energy efficiency and conservation, promoting alternative and renewable energy, and promoting the expansion of nuclear energy. In 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, 12 which, among other things, increased automobile fuel economy standards and provided incentives for increased energy efficiency in public buildings and lighting. Finally, on Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, 13 a $787.2 billion economic stimulus package providing energy development incentives, tax incentives, direct grants, and financing assistance.

Notwithstanding the efforts of seven U.S. presidents, these policies have fallen far short of their laudable objectives. In the meantime, world energy consumption continues to grow, including a 5.6 percent increase in 2010 alone, which represents the largest increase since 1973. 14 The year 2010 was also significant as China, which increased its consumption by more than 11 percent, surpassing the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer. 15

By 2035, word energy consumption is estimated to increase by 53 percent over 2008 levels and China is projected to use 68 percent more energy than the United States by that year. 16 By 2020, the global clean energy market is expected to reach $2.3 trillion. First Solar, a major solar manufacturer headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., announced the largest solar project in the world in a joint venture with China Guangdong Nuclear (CGN) Solar Energy Development Co. Even as this investment by China in green technologies will ultimately be subsidized by taxpayers in the United States and other Western countries where it’s exported, China is moving forward in the development of new clean energy resources—in fact, investing nearly double what the U.S. invests in green technologies.

Another U.S. company, Chevron, is the largest producer of geothermal energy in the world; however, the company’s prominence is attributable mostly to its geothermal operations in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Iceland is the world’s largest exporter of geothermal technology and expertise, and India is developing cutting-edge wave technology with pending construction of a tidal power project. And Denmark continues to outpace the United States in installed offshore wind capacity, with nine offshore farms and more than 300 turbines.

Nothing less than a Sputnik response is required by the president and Congress to catapult the U.S. back to the forefront of the current race for clean energy technology and energy independence. Providing for U.S. energy security requires a Sputnik-like technology commitment—a national effort to develop technology that will provide America with energy independence while cleaning up the air, land and water for our children and their children, and ensuring energy for our