Finally (perhaps) we are going to have a real discussion about clean and green technologies in the United States.
President Barack Obama, in his 2011 State of the Union address, put the need for clean energy technology front and center in the effort to create jobs and reclaim America’s position as the innovation leader of the world. That should be a very good thing for getting more money-saving energy management systems into our homes.
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” Obama declared, referring to the space race of the late 1950s through the ’60s, in which the United States initially fell behind the Soviet Union but a decade later succeeded in putting men on the moon. Obama put a large emphasis in his speech on investing in the development of clean energy technology to boost the economy—and rightly so, as it can increase manufacturing in the United States, boost exports, create jobs and foster decades of new wealth.
Obama also linked innovation in clean energy to technology—another good sign. He wants 80 percent of the nation’s energy should come from clean energy by 2035, 80 percent of Americans to have access to high-speed rail within 25 years, and 98 percent access to high-speed wireless within five years.
I almost like the high-speed wireless part the best, because it’s technology and innovation in technology that will make all of this possible. And I’m not just referring to technology in solar and wind.
We should also wisely invest in programs that can help homeowners and small business people invest in these technologies themselves. The Home Star (Cash for Caulkers) bill that was before Congress last year would be a great start in this direction. It would give rebates to homeowners for purchasing energy-efficient products and technologies in the home, possibly including energy management systems.
Other programs like the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score, which will rate a home’s energy efficiency, can help spur a thriving, active economy in home retrofits beneath the loftier goals of solar, wind and other clean technologies. These things may not be as sexy as solar and wind, but they can help us achieve our goals of energy efficiency much more rapidly.
To pay for the investments in clean technology, Obama proposes ending billions of dollars in government subsidies paid to oil companies. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,’’ he said. “So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.’’
I applaud this. Loudly. Megarich oil companies do not need any more of our money. If they want that money, they should invest in clean technologies themselves. And you can bet those gallons of gas in your tank right now that the oil industry lobbyists and other special interests are already mobilizing large and extremely well-funded resources to fight and block this. Their war of words will be immense.
We Have the Technology
Obama closed his speech by saying “There’s not a person here who would trade places with another country on Earth.” And why would we? The United States faces a host of problems and challenges, but we still have the coolest stuff. We have the technologies and innovation power to do exactly what Obama is proposing. And it can be funded with the senseless oil industry subsidies. So let’s use it and all prosper.