The Race Is On for Clean Energy

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This week the Obama administration took up the clean energy baton and called for the U.S. to get in the race to become a world leader in clean energy.

The statements by the President, Vice President and top officials all echoed the same message: America must transition to a clean energy economy that creates jobs, provides greater national security and reduces harmful global warming pollution.

At a recent speech at MIT, President Obama called for the U.S. to become a global leader in clean energy and called for "the passage of comprehensive legislation that will finally make renewable energy the profitable type of energy in America." On Tuesday, he followed up the call for leadership by announcing a $3.4 billion stimulus investment to modernize the electric grid at an event in Arcadia, Florida. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden visited an auto plant in Delaware that will produce electric vehicles and talked about the potential for clean energy to create jobs. And Wednesday, the White House hosted an energy forum where top-level cabinet members revealed strategies for clean energy reform.

As President Obama has said many times: the nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. The administration's leadership and embrace of renewable energy technology thus far puts America on the path to becoming that global leader. But the President is right: in order to fully realize the potential that clean energy offers we must pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.

Appearances by the President and Vice President put climate and energy initiatives center stage, just as the Senate kicked off hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. On Oct. 27, five senior administration officials backed up President Obama's vision with expert testimony. They appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and confirmed that this comprehensive legislation would not only reduce pollution but also increase the nation's economic competitiveness.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Senate panel "When the starting gun sounded on the clean energy race, the United States stumbled... but I remain confident that we can make up the ground."

History has shown Americans to be strong competitors and the desire to win this race and protect the planet continues to build. A recent CNN poll showed that six in ten Americans support a "cap and trade" proposal to cut pollution. In recent weeks, military veterans traveled across the country on a 21-state bus tour to talk to citizens and local community leaders about the dangers of climate change and its threat to national security.

Senators Kerry and Graham also demonstrated bipartisan support for clean energy legislation by authoring a joint Op-Ed in the New York Times saying "even with separate accents, we speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world."

The business community is calling for clean energy loudest of all, which demonstrates the economic opportunity at hand. Executives from 150 corporations recently came to Washington to urge lawmakers to pass clean energy legislation, saying a shift to a clean energy economy could lead to a new industrial revolution and create millions of jobs related to renewable technologies. Apple and a number of utility companies -- such as PG&E Corp., Exelon Corp. and PNM Resources -- have decided to drop their membership with the Chamber of Commerce based on its opposition to climate legislation.

Senators Kerry and Boxer have provided the Senate with an excellent starting point for achieving comprehensive legislation that can reduce global warming pollution and repower America's economic recovery. And, just as important, the EPA has reaffirmed that transitioning to a clean energy economy is affordable: analysis showed the legislation would cost less than $120 per year per household.

We heard it this week -- the race is on and the lead is ours for the taking. The Senate must work to pass a clean energy and climate bill that makes President Obama's vision of a clean energy future a reality and positions the U.S. as a global leader in the new energy economy.