02/01/2012 04:40 pm ET Updated Apr 02, 2012

Putting Americans Back to Work With Clean Energy

In his State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to "double down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising." Indeed, America's strengths in innovation, entrepreneurship, and advanced manufacturing will help create jobs and build businesses.

The global clean energy economy has experienced a 630 percent growth since 2004. Last year, private investment increased to $260 billion, and installed clean energy capacity exceeded 400 gigawatts -- putting it on par with nuclear power. President Obama is right to call for policies that support this emerging sector, just as the government has done with traditional energy.

Clean power isn't just wind and solar; it includes a variety of technologies. At this time last year, I wrote about the need to add industrial efficiency to the forward-looking agenda. We still have more to do on this front.

During the State of the Union, President Obama called for assistance to "help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories." Each year, America's utilities and factories send enough heat up their chimneys to power all of Japan. But with existing, proven technologies, we can harness that wasted energy, dramatically cut electricity costs, and make our industries more competitive. According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, significantly increasing our industrial energy efficiency would promote more than $200 billion in new, private investment in the United States and create up to 1 million jobs.

The United States should seek to double its use of industrial energy efficiency as the Oak Ridge lab suggests. A draft bill by Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-NH) contains language calling for this ambitious goal. Several bipartisan bills introduced in the House of Representatives could help by making changes to the tax code, and similar efforts are also expected in the Senate. Just last week, more than 200 businesses and trade groups signed on to an advertisement calling for significantly increasing industrial energy efficiency.

Congress can soon literally look in its own backyard for an illustration. The Capitol Power Plant is developing a design for producing 18 megawatts of electricity through improved energy-efficiency processes to heat congressional buildings. These improvements will help Congress reduce energy use by up to 30 percent.

Creating one million American jobs, making manufacturers more competitive, spurring private investment, saving energy, and protecting the environment are practical, achievable goals that everyone in Congress should be able to support.

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