03/30/2011 05:52 pm ET Updated May 30, 2011

We're Number Three!

Here we go again.

In the wake of turmoil in the Middle East and the nuclear accident in Japan, we're hearing pleas for national energy policies to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make America energy secure. As President Obama observed today, every leader since President Nixon has said he was going to do something about our energy challenges. And yet here we are once more.

One thing is certain: if we continue to do nothing, we'll get higher gas prices. Doing nothing will threaten our nascent economic recovery and the troops who defend our national security. And doing nothing will ensure that clean energy jobs and investments go elsewhere. And they are.

A report out this week from the Pew Charitable Trusts entitled, "Who is Winning the Clean Energy Race?" shows that in two short years, China has solidified its position as the world's clean energy powerhouse. China attracted a record $54.4 billion in private sector clean energy investments in 2010 -- a 39 percent increase over 2009 and equal to total global investment in 2004. Germany saw private investments double to $41.2 billion and was second among the Group of Twenty (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, up from third last year, which tells you that it's not just about labor costs. The United States, which maintained the top spot until 2008, fell another rung in 2010 to third place. Hooray -- we're number three!

Why this drop for the U.S.? Because China, Germany and other countries have adopted policies to ensure they snag the clean energy market. China is now making half of the world's solar panels and wind turbines because they have a national commitment to deploying renewables, and are making a strong business case for manufacturers to locate there. America is doing neither.

In less than a decade, clean energy has become the mother of all markets, witnessing a whopping 630 percent growth in private sector investments in the G20 countries since 2004. In 2010, worldwide finance and investment grew 30 percent in one year to a record $243 billion. We have not seen this kind of growth in one sector since the advent of the Internet. But this is bigger, the boom will be around longer, and the future for new energy jobs is wildly promising. Millions of jobs are being created; the only question is where the jobs and investment will be.

And unless we have a pragmatic, national clean energy policy, it won't be here.

As the former governor of Michigan, I know first-hand the impact that pragmatic clean energy policies can have on job creation. Because of incentives and a modest renewable energy standard, in less than two years 47 companies invested $9.4 billion in Michigan that is projected to create more than 89,000 jobs. Smart energy policy and government assistance to the auto industry spurred economic growth. And recently, the Gallup organization found that Michigan had the most improved job market of all states in 2010. This would not have happened without policy. The bottom line: policy matters.

Absent national policy and clear roadmap, it's not surprising that we find ourselves in the same soup as Nixon and every administration since.

Will America miss yet another opportunity to change the status quo? Circumstances may have conspired to make things different this time, but only if we take advantage of the moment. The president has challenged us, advocating pragmatic policies that should garner bipartisan support. Indeed, polls show that 84 percent of Americans -- including 75 percent of Republicans -- want Congress to adopt a national energy policy that encourages both energy efficiency and the use of alternatives to make us energy independent.

More fuel efficiency. More electric vehicles. More clean alternatives. And, by the way, more jobs. It's hard to imagine an issue with broader support. Let's push Congress to act, and show the world that we can make a commitment worthy of a great nation to address this critical challenge.

Indeed, let's strive to become number one again.