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Markey on racing for clean energy

June 6th, 2009 · No Comments

Chairman Ed Markey’s OPED, The race for clean-energy innovation, earns both cheers of agreement and moans of discord.

Absolutely spot on is the beginning, highlighting the truth that we are facing a

race for trillions of dollars in clean-energy investments. As President Obama says, “the nation that leads in 21st-century clean energy is the nation that will lead the 21st-century global economy.”

And if we win the race, it could bring 150,000 new jobs and billions of dollars to Massachusetts.

The question is whether — and how — we will engage in this race in this nation. Will we sit back and watch, continuing to surrender any hope of leadership to other nations? Will we enter the race in a halfhearted manner, dipping our toes in the water? Or, will we double down, dive into the water to sprint at full speed, with serious determination to win this race?

But then Congressman Markey moves from those cheers of agreement to far less certain space.

American companies would get an edge with passage of the Waxman-Markey bill, the most sweeping energy legislation Congress has considered in a generation. The plan would end America’s dangerous dependence on foreign oil, increase the amount of clean energy we produce, make our buildings, homes, cars, and trucks more efficient, and cut the harmful carbon pollution causing global warming.

While W-M has some tremendous elements, especially in the realm of energy efficiency, scratching my head at these words.

Really, for example, W-M ends our oil import dependency?

The bill requires that 20 percent of our electricity in 2020 come from clean-energy sources like solar or wind, or from energy efficiency.

Sigh. This is, to be clear, a weak target due to the combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the package. (By the way, do note that “energy efficiency” — this is not 20% of clean energy, but a (variable) combination of new renewable energy and energy efficiency.) And, it seems quite possible that BAU (business as usual) would just about get us to┬áthis level, in any event. That is a reason that a group of progressive and environmental groups have called for upping this target to a more serious, yet absolutely achievable, 30% by 2020.

The Waxman-Markey bill would invest more than $190 billion in clean-energy technologies

Actually, this figure and the implications behind are perhaps the most seriously discomfiting element of this OPED. The only way that I see to get to $190 billion is include funding for “clean coal”, which is far from a “clean energy technology” in this analyst’s perspective.

In fact, other analysis comes to a figure of under $130 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy. On the other hand, there are over $1 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies (including “clean coal”) for fossil fuel use.

To be blunt, Representative Markey is one of the members of Congress who ‘most gets it’ when it comes to climate change’s challenges, risks, and opportunities. He understands the need to drive the US energy situation to something much cleaner that will not just mitigate catastrophic climate change but also create new opportunities for Massachusetts’ citizens and the rest of Americans. He has dedicated much of his Congressional efforts to turning the tide on Global Warming’s rising seas. If Ed Markey could (with Henry Waxman) have true control of the pen, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act would look quite different. The subsidies, the huge subsidies, for fossil fuel interests (rewarding them for past polluting and ‘bribing’ (excuse me, incentivizing) them to accept moves toward action on climate issues would not be in the bill. There would be more funding for energy efficiency and clean energy, more serious Renewable Electricity Standards, and targets that meet scientists’ best analysis of necessary changes to provide good odds of averting catastrophic climate change.

But, Markey and Waxman did not have full control of the pen. And, the bill they introduced is weaker than what they might have desired to see as legislation. And, the ACES has mainly been weakened since then.

So, while the ACES will help move the United States out of the near abandonment of the race of the Bush-Cheney regime, we have to wonder if it truly would put us (the US) in a good position to surge forward to recapture and maintain the leadership position that we once held across the renewable energy realm.

[Massachusetts] has always led the way in innovation, but, like the rest of America, our technological dominance is threatened. Germany has emerged as the global photovoltaic market, even though Massachusetts has 30 percent better solar resources. Korea and Japan are leapfrogging America in battery and electric vehicle technology, even though we pioneered invention of these technologies.

Only one-fourth of the world’s top renewable-energy companies are American-owned, because we have failed to put in place a set of policies to promote alternative energy sources. China is spending $12.6 million per hour on clean-energy development and is preparing to invest $440 billion to $660 billion this year in clean energy development.

If China is going to put in $440-660 billion (just “this year”), how will $190 billion (actually under $130 billion) over 20 years put us in the leadership position?

The American economy and the American dream have succeeded because we refuse to be shackled to old technologies and business as usual, but instead always look for the newest idea or opportunity.

In Massachusetts, we have the brain power. We have the potential. What we need are the right policies to unleash this revolution. And with the Waxman-Markey bill, the next great revolution will come to New England, as we shape a new-energy destiny for the nation.

Congressman Markey merits respect and admiration for his knowledge about and dedication to energy and climate issues.

He also merits questioning: Will, as structured, ACES truly “unleash the revolution” or does it it require strengthening to foster a true Energy Revolution to a prosperous, climate friendly future?

Tags: Energy · ed markey · energy efficiency

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