Innovative Energy Strategy Can Power Economic Growth
The reaction from Democratic and Republican Members of Congress to Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address and Republican response show the genuine opportunity for the development of a next-generation energy strategy that can jumpstart U.S. job creation and economic growth. And the technology sector can be a leader in this effort, utilizing innovative products that boost efficiency and productivity while driving down pollution and costs.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address:
“Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future . . . . Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.”
Senator Rubio’s Republican response:
“One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry . . . Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas . . . If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle-class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.”
And, while the two men may have differences of opinion on particular aspects of an energy strategy, the fact is that there are areas of common agreement between the President and Senator Rubio on energy and sustainability. But the political agreement doesn’t stop with them. There are Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who have identified areas ripe for bipartisan agreement and action, and political scorekeeping should not stand in the way.
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is a leading voice for sustainable energy priorities and is the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“We ought to grow things here, we ought to make things here, we ought to add value to them here and then we ought to ship them somewhere. That's going to take affordable energy.”
House Energy and Commerce member U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he and his party are willing to find areas where they can work with the President on a pro-growth energy and sustainability strategy.
“If this is a reasonable approach to lowering our carbon emissions by using alternative fuels, especially natural gas -- moving it into transportation, lowering the carbon emissions in electric generation -- we can do that. We can actually work on a plan like that. He’d get enough Republicans to sit down with a reasonable plan.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, along with Senator Wyden, recently introduced an energy policy blueprint that can serve as a foundation for bipartisan energy legislation. Importantly, their her plan highlights the important contributions that will need to be made by technology and innovation, including new ways that tech-driven smart systems can save energy and increase U.S. productivity.
The potential gains are significant. If Congress and the President can work together to develop and implement an effective national energy strategy, it would be a major accomplishment for the entire economy. The Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy’s recent Energy 2030 report show that doubling of U.S. energy productivity (getting twice as much from each national energy dollar) could add 1.3 million jobs, save U.S. businesses $169 billion a year, increase GDP by up to 2 percent, decrease energy imports by more than $100 billion a year, and save households more than a $1,000 a year. Information and communications technology efficiencies will be key to achieving these goals.
Now, let’s be pragmatic for a minute. Even with the clear intersection of economic growth and energy innovation, if a bipartisan energy strategy were easy to achieve, it would have been done already. We wouldn’t be talking “what if…” year after year. But this is starting to feel like a different moment in time, with key players coming together on their own to forge potential solutions. To secure a broader national energy strategy, policy champions and stakeholders may need to start with approval of key planks – shared political priorities that can be enacted and demonstrate the ability to overcome long-entrenched interests that have blocked any comprehensive approach. It’s the old adage – walk before you run. Let’s walk together, and find areas where Congress can work with the President in a bipartisan fashion to make progress for America’s long-term future.
After the State of the Union Address, reporters quoted Senator Murkowski saying, “If we’re talking about ways to reduce our emissions through the use of our technologies, sign me up. If we’re talking about a command-and-control approach, I think you’re going to have some real struggles in Congress.” That’s a good place to begin. We can work with that. Sign us up, too.