I've said it before and I'll say it again: when it comes to clean energy in America, awareness is not the problem.
Awareness is sky-high. If you're not interested in clean energy, it's probably not because you haven't heard of it (although you should be interested, because it's the key to beating the recession and reversing unemployment trends). You could say it's the next Internet - the driver of our economy in the decades to come.
The problem is implementation. How do we provide our market base with a product? In a spot-on editorial last week, the New York Times proposed three top-down policy solutions: subsidies, faster approvals for renewable energy projects, and sorely needed updates to the country's electrical grid.
It's a compelling trifecta. As the editorial points out, we're falling far behind Europe and China, both of which have wasted no time investing in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines. America shouldn't be struggling to keep up.
Subsidies could be the fast-track fix:
Renewable energy projects will require significant federal help until they can compete with cheaper and dirtier fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Congress has provided a variety of tax credits and loan guarantees, but the support has been erratic. When the production tax credit expired at the end of 2003, development of newly installed wind capacity fell from 1,687 megawatts to less than 400 the following year.
Investors will remain cautious until Congress commits to multiyear programs of support. Most immediately, it needs to extend a grant program for new wind and solar projects that was part of the 2009 stimulus package. Grants worth more than $2 billion have since jump-started hundreds of projects, creating thousands of jobs.
With facts like these staring us in the face, it's simply shocking that clean energy wasn't a bigger part of the midterm election debate. From the Tea Party to the White House, clean energy should be an easy place to find common ground. If the Republicans and the Tea Partiers are serious about fixing our country, they'll target clean energy as priority #1.
Luckily for me, I won't be holding my breath.
Follow Brian Keane on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SmartPower_org