Clean Energy Debate

Below you will find an interesting article written back in Oct 2009 by Brian Coppa from the Green Business Examiner

As the health care debate winds down, the next major national debate will focus on energy reform. The investor coalition Ceres and the Clean Economy Network organized a clean energy debate forum this week at the White House including corporate executives from more than 100 companies, representing a wide variety of industries including renewable energy, information technology and athletic apparel. The business leaders met with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who introduced a clean energy finance bill this past summer, Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), all of whom are critical to passing the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act introduced last week by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

The full list of companies represented is available at the official Department of Energy (DOE) site, and one glimmering fact, is the lack of representation from a company located in the state of Arizona, which is a state with enormous solar power potential. Even though Phoenix, Arizona is hosting the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo November 11-13 of this year, where former U.S. Vice President, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and environmental advocate, Al Gore will be the keynote speaker, the state still lacks significant corporate development in the clean energy sector, and manufacturing in general.

During the forum in Washington, executives also met with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner. Chu warned that if Congress does not pass climate change and energy reform legislation soon, the U.S. will likely be surpassed by China as a global leader in the production of wind turbines, solar panels, solid state lighting and other clean energy technologies. According to the DOE, China invests approximately $12.6 million in clean energy every hour, and the nation is ratcheting up to generate 100 gigawatts from wind turbines by 2030. In essence, if the U.S. lapses in building a competitive clean energy infrastructure, including complete supply chains for related technology, while signing onto a new United Nations (U.N.) greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions treaty, which will require significant reductions in fossil fuel energy usage, it may simply be exchanging foreign oil imports for Chinese or other country’s green energy imports. Thus, foreign oil dependence and ramifications for national security will be simply transferred to leading foreign clean energy manufacturing countries. Currently, the U.S. ranks behind Germany, Japan and China in terms of solar capacity.

Mainly, the business leaders descending on Washington this week have urged members of Congress to pass a comprehensive climate change bill, which they forecast will foster billions of dollars in clean energy investments and ease the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, which has been a cause for natural gas advocates such as T. Boone Pickens, while creating millions of green jobs in the process. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the original related House bill entitled the American Clean Energy and Security Act would only increase energy costs for the average household by the price of a postage stamp, 44 cents, each day. The White House has welcomed the corporate involvement and its financial backing for this capstone climate change legislation, which is one of the major prongs of Obama’s overall agenda, including the green energy stimulus, as it will face a heated battle with Congressmen and lobbyists associated with the oil and coal industry in the coming months.

Moreover, a related business group called We Can Lead is heading a campaign on Capitol Hill this week including 150 business leaders from utility companies and the clean energy industry that involves 35 lobbying meetings. Twenty-eight companies and labor and green advocacy groups such as: United Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, GE, Weyerhauser, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Action Fund are launching a seven-figure advertising campaign in support of comprehensive climate change legislation to win the clean energy debate. A barrage of television commercials is expected to attract national support, analogous to the heath care reform initiative.

Amidst the lobbyist activity and legislative discussions in Washington, a vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, strongly support development and funding of solar energy, and their support for solar has remained relatively unchanged over the last year. These and other findings were reported today in the 2009 SCHOTT Solar Barometer (TM), which is a nationally representative survey conducted by independent polling firm Kelton Research. 

The survey stated that 92 percent of Americans consider it important for the U.S. to develop and use solar energy. This strong support for solar is essentially the same as the 94 percent figure indicated by the June 2008 poll result with the same question being posed. The difference is within the margin of error for both polls. This support for solar power is consistent across political party affiliation with 89 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of Independents agreeing that it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power.  

In addition, 77 percent, nearly eight of ten, of Americans feel that the development of solar power, and other renewable energy sources, should be a major priority of the federal government, including the necessary funding for bringing it to fruition. This sentiment also remains the same since June 2008 with a tally of 77 percent. What’s more, the study also showed that if people had to choose one energy source to financially support if they were President, 43 percent of Americans would opt for solar over other sources such as wind (17%), natural gas (12%) and nuclear (10%).

According to a recent study conducted by the environmental group Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, clean energy will create more jobs than coal. By 2030, there will have been 2.7 million more jobs created than if countries were to retain their current coal and other fossil fuel energy production levels. These findings provide additional carrots needed for both the U.S. and other major countries to agree to a new United Nations global warming reduction pact in Copenhagen in December.

In comparison to the health care debate, there appears to be a much more unified national sentiment for clean energy technology, which is linked to the overall climate change and energy reform initiative of the Obama administration. The transformation towards a clean energy economy would offer a facelift to America’s manufacturing sector, particularly hard hit by the recession beginning in December 2007. Numerous recently closed factories for the production of: automobile parts, chemicals, coatings, raw materials, aerospace turbines, computer components, microchips and other electronic components are excellent candidates for the transition towards the manufacturing of clean energy or energy-efficient products such as: solar panels, advanced batteries, ethanol fuel, innovative hybrid electric vehicles, concentrating solar dishes, wind turbine blades, and carbon storage components. In particular, as more semiconductor companies outsource production to Asia, an emerging opportunity exists for the utilization of idle silicon-based microchip process equipment for the production of silicon-based solar cells due to some overlaps in materials and techniques that are administered.

Hoping this information continues to create innovation and technology R & D toward a green sustainable future. Its more that corporate social responsibility its the future resting in our capable hands.

by:   SPB : Technical Editor, Sr. Account Specialist and Product Development