Forty years ago this week, the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the surface of the moon, and the U.S. won the space race. As we celebrate this historic moment, we are reminded that today America faces a new global competition that will have far greater implications for the future of our nation and the world: the clean energy race.
Unfortunately, instead of summoning the same vigorous commitment to innovation and education that won the space race four decades ago, Congress today is poised to reject a critical initiative to invest in the generation of young engineers, scientists and innovations who must win the clean energy race.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee began markup this week of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), a bill that promises to cap and reduce carbon pollution, create clean energy jobs, and spur technology innovation.
Unfortunately, as our analysis of the use of carbon pollution allowances in the bill revealed, ACES is on course to invest very little of the hundreds of billions of dollars in value created by its cap-and-trade program over the coming years towards those objectives.
Most of the allowance value (74 percent) is dedicated to blunting the impact of the carbon price established by the program on industries and consumers (and securing the critical swing votes on the committee representing these entrenched energy and industry interests).
In contrast, just 12 percent of the allowance value is dedicated to clean energy investments, broadly defined.
At an average allowance price of $5 to $15 dollars per ton of CO2 between 2012-2025, that would amount to clean energy investments of just $3 billion to $9 billion per year, and just $245 million to $745 million for clean energy R&D.
President Obama has repeatedly promised to "Invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development to transition to a clean energy economy".
Forget Seattle and Berkeley. Move over Portland and Boston. When it comes to deciding America's energy future, places like Akron and Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Detroit deserve the spotlight right now.
While many leading cities in the traditionally green bastions along America's coasts are showing what's possible, the American Heartland is where the nation's clean energy future must be built. It's also where the political fate of federal climate and clean energy legislation will be decided.
It's good timing then that Nationwide Town Halls for Clean Energy Solutions are happening all around our country right now.