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Electric Current Events: Middle East Revolutions and the Need to Revolutionize American Clean Energy

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Pro-democratic movements in the Middle East are in the midst of their rendezvous with destiny, but America's destiny can no longer be linked with the fates of dictators, military juntas, and theocratic regimes. We must develop energy independence; we must Make It In America.

America must develop a national energy plan that prioritizes the need to (1) Make It In America, (2) transition away from dirty fossil fuels, and (3) secure energy independence. The events unfolding in the Middle East -- and subsequent spikes in fuel prices -- demonstrate America's need to transition away from unclean energy from an unstable part of the world.

We spend 16 percent of our defense budget -- more than $100 billion -- securing oil shipments in the Straits of Hormuz and elsewhere, and there is little doubt that American foreign policy has been perversely shaped over the years by the raw calculus of oil politics (see: U.S. policy in Iraq over decades). It's long past time that we wean ourselves off of foreign dirty fossil fuels. Energy security is national security.

A comprehensive national clean energy plan, including solar, wind, geothermal, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuels, and the Integral Fast Reactor is necessary to break our dangerous addiction to oil and to keep America safe. We have the technology and resources to be completely energy independent, creating thousands of good American jobs and strengthening our global competitiveness.

In 2009, the United States received 8 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources of energy and 9 percent of its energy from nuclear power. Renewable sources of energy are anticipated to reach 17 percent of total energy consumption by 2035, but this will not provide the baseload power that is needed to meet our future energy demands.

According to a recent Pew study, between 1998 and 2007, clean energy jobs "from scientists and engineers to electricians, machinists and teachers" grew almost three times faster than jobs in the overall economy. An analysis by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley suggests that transitioning to a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020, utilizing 40 percent biomass, 55 percent wind, and 5 percent solar, would create 188,018 jobs.

Clean energy is good for the environment, good for national security, and good for thousands of Americans who desire a rewarding career. That's why I've authored Make It In America legislation that requires clean technology made with federal taxpayer dollars to be made in America. If we don't Make It In America, we'll buy it from a global competitor. China is now the world's third largest wind power producer and the world's fifteen largest photovoltaic solar power stations are in the European Union.

2011 has been electrifying year for millions of 'small d' democrats and people throughout the Middle East, but if we don't act fast, we risk letting the 2010s be known as the decade the lights went out in America. For centuries, America has led the world on a long march toward freedom and democracy. Let's reclaim our clean energy leadership and lead the world toward clean energy independence.

Congressman John Garamendi represents California's 10th Congressional District. As a state legislator in the 1970s, he authored the first renewable energy tax credit in America.

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