Picking Winners and Losers

11/02/2012 10:46 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Tom Steyer Tom Steyer is a business leader and philanthropist who has pledged to give most of his wealth to charitable causes.

There's no question that energy policy will be a driving factor of whether America continues to drive the global economy. Governor Romney continually criticizes President Obama's energy strategy for using taxpayer dollars to invest in an advanced energy economy, particularly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He calls it "picking winners and losers."

Governor Romney -- let's be real.

The American government has been investing taxpayer dollars in our strategic and economic future as far back as the Louisiana Purchase and "Seward's Folly" of buying Alaska in 1867.

Let us be clear about something else: The advanced energy economy is not going away. It represents a drastic global need and will create many of the jobs of today and tomorrow. These are high-paying, high-quality jobs across a huge range of occupations and industries.

The only question is whether the winners of these good jobs will be in the United States or in places like China.

America has been in a similar position in the more recent past -- and we chose to make America the winner. In the 1950s and '60s, both parties supported taxpayers backing the Department of Defense programs and the private-sector rocket companies that helped create the aerospace industry -- and America emerged the winner. In the 1970s and '80s, both Democratic and Republicans Administrations provided support to companies engaged in technology research and development that was the catalyst for the development of the high tech industry -- and American emerged the winner.

And under President Obama, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has provided critical support to private-sector energy companies that hold the promise of positioning America as the hub of advanced energy industry, putting America once again in the position to emerge as the winner.

In fact, in large part because of the president's game plan -- and with bipartisan support in many areas -- we are winning... right now.

The Recovery Act's Department of Energy's loan guarantee program has generated $13 of private sector investment for each $1 spent by Uncle Sam. Those are wind farms in Iowa, which Republicans running for Congress in Iowa reportedly support because they want to pick America as the winner.

Over the past two years, the Recovery Act has helped the U.S. double the amount of electricity it gets from renewable energy. Republican governors in New Jersey, Mississippi, and Texas have all worked to lure advanced energy jobs to their states; Mississippi Governor Barbour actually helped relocate a solar plant from China to his home state. These politicians understand that advanced energy jobs make America a winner.

Better fuel efficiency standards and new investment in advanced vehicle manufacturing have helped bring back the U.S. auto industry. Those are thousands of jobs in states like Michigan and Ohio that otherwise could have been lost -- for good. And this was accomplished through a truly bipartisan agreement that picked America as the winner.

The Recovery Act has helped over a million households save energy and dollars through energy efficiency retrofits. At a time when housing construction has been at a low, retrofits have created jobs for construction workers all over the country -- whether they lived in a red state or a blue state. And these are jobs that can only be performed by American workers since they only can happen in our communities.

The entire Recovery Act leveraged billions in private capital investments, with the result that the U.S. is now the winner when it comes to global advanced energy investment beating out -- you guessed it -- China.

The issue going forward is whether we want to continue to move forward supporting the advanced energy economy and keep winning or, by leaving the field, forfeit the game to the Chinese and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Governor Romney is right -- it is all about picking winners and losers.

And President Obama is picking America as the winner.