Today, as the ARPA-E 2012 summit kicks off, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Americans for Energy Leadership (AEL) announced that our two groups are joining forces to launch Americans for Energy Innovation, a new campaign to strengthen the nation’s commitment to clean energy and technological competitiveness.

Pew’s press release is published here: Pew Clean Energy Program Launches Innovation Initiative

Fact-sheet is published here: Innovation Drives Investment, Job Growth, Manufacturing

In recent years, the expert consensus on the need to expand federal investment in energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) has become increasingly formidable, with a wide range of groups calling to triple the current budget to $15 billion annually.  Yet what has still been lacking is a serious national operation to build broad-based support and translate this consensus into policy reality.

Americans for Energy Innovation will help to fill this critical gap and deliver on the promise of U.S. technological leadership.  Building on AEL’s efforts to date, and collaborating with the broader energy and innovation community, Pew will leverage its extensive national field operation, work with its network of more than 2,000 clean energy businesses, and engage a wide variety of stakeholders to support the optimization and expansion of federal energy RD&D — including entrepreneurs, universities and academics, policy advocates and analysts, business leaders, and investors.

This is an exciting development for AEL and our community.  Since our founding in 2009, AEL has become a leading national group working to advance a federal energy innovation agenda and train the next generation of energy policy leaders.  Even as the first phase of AEL comes to a close, joining forces with the Pew Clean Energy Program will take our efforts to the next level and ensure a long-term commitment to AEL’s mission.  Pew offers a truly unique set of resources to take these efforts forward, and we’re very hopeful about the campaign’s future.

Of course, this is only the beginning, and Pew looks forward to getting started with the broader energy innovation community.  For now, we encourage you to review Pew’s press releasefact-sheet, and innovation webpage, and stay tuned for upcoming developments and opportunities to get involved.

Finally, a big thank you to all of AEL’s colleagues and supporters, and special thanks to the Nathan Cummings Foundation for its generous support.  This wouldn’t have been possible without all your guidance and commitment over the past couple years, and I’m sincerely grateful for everything.  I look forward to our continued work over the months and years ahead.

Many thanks, and onwards,

Teryn Norris
Founder & President
Americans for Energy Leadership

Busting the Myth of the “Clean-Tech Crash”

Over the past few months, we’ve heard growing speculation about the coming “crash” in the clean-tech sector.  Wired published a widely-read piece, “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust,” The New Republic attempted to write Secretary Chu’s obituary, and some analysts expressed understandable concern about the depletion of Recovery Act funds and expiring tax credits.

Now the data is in, and it’s telling a much different story.  Last year, VC investment in U.S. clean-tech companies reached a record high of $4.3 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, and total global investment in clean energy reached a record $260 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  And despite bankruptcies like Solyndra and Evergreen Solar, the U.S. reclaimed the top spot for global clean energy investment, attracting $56 billion compared to $47.4 billion by China.

For the full story, see Walter Frick’s latest in BostInno, “There is No Cleantech Venture Bust, Sorry Wired,” and ongoing analysis from The Cleantech Group.

Some advocates and pundits hoped the “clean-tech crash” story would serve as a productive wake-up call to ramp up federal investments and reform existing subsidies.  Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect, pouring more fuel on the Solyndra firestorm, creating misguided perceptions of clean energy as a “failed” industry unworthy of public support, and encouraging some fossil fuel-backed groups to invest millions of dollars in anti-cleantech campaign ads.

Does the federal government need to further optimize its investments in the sector?  Absolutely.  But the time has come to bust the “clean-tech crash” myth and tell the public the truth: the clean energy industry is experiencing robust growth, and with strengthened public-private partnerships to further unleash our innovative and manufacturing capacity, the U.S. is positioned to lead the world in this multi-trillion dollar market opportunity.


A new report released today, “Powering America’s Communities,” provides a comprehensive guide to state-level policies needed to unleash distributed clean energy technology in the United States.  The report was produced as part of the New Energy Leaders Project of Americans for Energy Leadership.

Powering America’s Communities” finds that distributed generation (DG) clean energy offers a unique set of benefits to electricity consumers, clean energy generators, and communities overall.  It provides a framework that can cost effectively spur the demand needed to push DG clean energy further down the cost curve, based in part on the best practices of numerous states. This framework is designed to overcome the four key barriers to widespread deployment of DG clean energy:

  • Insufficient demand for DG clean energy
  • Lack of proper incentives to stimulate investment in DG technologies
  • Exclusion of key rate payer groups from effectively using DG clean energy sources
  • Gaps in financing options for households and businesses looking to install DG systems

“Powering America’s Communities” not only showcases the best practices of state energy policy, but also introduce new ideas to promote DG clean energy without burdening ratepayers or taxpayers. Four central policy topics were explored that, if implemented, can put a state on the path toward greater clean energy adoption, local economic development, and greater energy security.


On Tuesday, a group of the nation’s most formidable business leaders — including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday – gathered in Washington, DC to deliver a full-throated warning to lawmakers: increase the federal government’s investment in energy innovation or risk losing out on a $5 trillion global industry.

“If the U.S. fails to invent new technologies and create new markets and new jobs that will drive the transformation and revitalization of the $5 trillion global energy industry, we will have lost an opportunity to lead in what is arguably the largest and most pervasive technology sector in the world,” they stated.

The seven-member group, called the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), also includes Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric; Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and undersecretary of the U.S. Army; John Doerr, a leading venture capitalist; Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp.; and Tim Solso, CEO of Cummins Inc.  The group gained national recognition in 2010 in releasing its first report, A Business Plan for America’s Energy Future, which called for a three-fold increase in federal energy innovation budgets.

This week, the group released a new report called Catalyzing American Ingenuity: The Role of Government in Energy Innovation. In a rare move for high-profile business leaders, the report directly challenges the notion that government should cut investments in technology and calls energy innovation spending “a top national priority.”

“In these debates, some argue that government serves little essential role in innovation… Based on history and on our own experiences leading innovative companies, we disagree,” states the report. “In a time of austerity, the last thing one should do is under-fund R&D and high technology priorities… to do so is the equivalent of removing an engine from an overloaded aircraft in order to reduce its weight.”


Today, the Romney campaign released his 59-point economic plan in a 160-page book (PDF here). While most of the energy policy section is spent debunking the “green jobs myth” and calling for expanded domestic fossil fuel production, it endorses a significant role for federal investment in alternative energy research and development (R&D) and supports the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).

The report also quotes his book as saying, “Spending our energy dollars here for domestically produced energy while also funding research, development, and production of new sources of energy creates jobs, strengthens the dollar, and reduces our exposure to supply risks and volatility.”

More specifically, points #38 and #39 of Romney’s economic plan are “Concentrate alternative energy funding on basic research” and “Utilize long-term, apolitical funding mechanisms like ARPA-E for basic research,” respectively.  Of course, ARPA-E doesn’t simply engage in “basic research” only, but the plan’s general thrust toward increased focus on energy R&D and innovation is clear.  These points are summarized on pages 95 and 96 of the report:

Government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. However, we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches. That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example.

Focus on Basic Research
There is a place for government investment when time horizons are too long, risks too high, and rewards too uncertain to attract private capital. However, much of our existing energy R&D budget has been devoted to loan guarantees, cash grants, and tax incentives for projects that might have gone forward anyway. As president, Mitt Romney will redirect clean energy spending towards basic research. Government funding should be focused on research and development of new energy technologies and on initial demonstration projects that establish the feasibility of discoveries. This approach offers the best opportunity to promote innovation without distorting the market.

Design Long-Term Funding Sources Free from Politics
From the perspective of creating new jobs and strengthening our economy, the main line of policy should be directed toward technologies that will replace imported oil with domestically produced fuels or electric power. Mitt Romney believes the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model—ensuring longterm, non-political sources of funding for a wide variety of competing, early stage technologies—holds the most potential for achieving significant advances in the energy sector. Investment should be channeled through programs, such as “ARPA-E,” that seek to replicate DARPA’s success in energy-related fields.

Tagged with:

This post was co-authored by Matthew Stepp, Clean Energy Policy Analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), and Teryn Norris, President of Americans for Energy Leadership

In the aftermath of the debt ceiling crisis and as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction seeks a second budget deal, many public interest groups are working hard to ensure that even while Congress cuts wasteful spending, it preserves vital public programs and expands smart investments in the nation’s future.  In the energy and climate policy community, a broad range of groups are fighting to defend clean technology investment programs – such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) – that have taken years to establish and offer a glimmer of hope amidst a largely bleak political and policy landscape.

Other organizations are taking a different approach.  This week, two progressive groups – the environmental Friends of the Earth and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen – drew attention when they joined the libertarian Heartland Institute and deficit-hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense in releasing a spending cut plan.  In a report called “Green Scissors 2011,” the groups call for $380 billion in spending they identify as “wasteful government subsidies” and “environmentally damaging.”

These types of collaborations are rare, and the report marked a unique opportunity for traditionally opposed organizations to take a leadership role and break the gridlock on budget, energy, climate, and environmental policy.  Unfortunately, the report not only fails to realize this opportunity, but makes fundamentally misguided choices that would be counterproductive to reducing the budget deficit and could potentially exacerbate America’s climate and energy challenges.

At the heart of “Green Scissors” is a collection of $380 billion in “wasteful [federal] government subsidies that are damaging to the environment and harming taxpayers,” which the groups believe should be targeted for cuts or elimination.  The proposed cuts include:

  • Eliminating $61.275 billion in conventional fossil fuel subsidies and tax incentives.
  • Eliminating $49.615 billion in nuclear energy programs for R&D, loan guarantees, environmental cleanup, and nuclear waste liability funds.
  • Eliminating $95.817 billion invested in renewable energy loan guarantees, corn ethanol subsidies, R&D, the FutureGen carbon capture demonstration project, and fuel technologies development among others.  The report also targets the elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).
  • Eliminating $56.655 billion in agriculture subsidies.
  • Cutting over $106 billion in selected transportation programs and projects including transfer payments to the Highway Trust Fund.
  • Eliminating $15.290 billion in selected land and water subsidies and programs.

At first glance, the proposal correctly identifies some unproductive spending that should indeed be eliminated. For example, corn ethanol subsidies do little more than prop up an uncompetitive alternative fuel that offers little to no carbon emission reductions (its initial intended goal) and doesn’t represent a future, robust economic growth opportunity.  In this way, the proposal appears to open a more nuanced budget debate that the United States desperately needs.  Instead of across the board slash-and-burn budget politics, policymakers should be examining the entire federal budget with a fine-tooth comb and differentiate between vital public investments – such as programs aimed at solving our key economic, energy, climate, and environmental challenges – from government spending on unproductive programs.  Like Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald lamented, “Here’s a crazy thought: Maybe we should spend more on good things and less on dumb things.”

But this potential is never fully realized, and the report ends up making several factually incorrect statements, misguided recommendations, and errors of omission.  These recommendations are often supported by ideologically-driven economic myths and backed by shallow analysis and evaluative criteria. In particular, the report makes three major errors:


It’s the Chinese, Stupid

Published by National Journal’s Energy & Environment Expert Blog

It’s time to take off the kids’ gloves in the energy debate.

For the last five years, clean-tech advocates have extolled the potential benefits of a clean energy economy. You know the drill: millions of new jobs; freedom from oil; better technologies and cleaner air.

Where have we gotten in terms of policy outcomes? Besides ARRA’s clean energy investments and higher fuel mileage standards, practically nowhere, and the clean energy industry is poised for a crash, as my colleagues argued on this forum.

Meanwhile, on the political front, we are witnessing one of the harshest backlashes against the role of government and public investment in U.S. history. The Tea Party has successfully hijacked the national agenda to focus on deficit reduction at all costs, even with unemployment above 9%. Science and technology budgets are under attack across the board, with the recent House Appropriations bill slashing budgets for energy innovation, NIST, NASA, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was cut by over 55 percent. What will emerge from the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction – or what the outcome will be if it fails to reach a deal – is highly uncertain, but it could result in even more draconian cuts to energy and technology budgets.

The bottom line: clean energy and innovation advocates across the board are losing. Badly. No matter how grand the benefits of a sensible economic policy proposal might be – whether in clean energy or other sectors – extolling these benefits is hardly a winning approach in today’s political environment.

Hence the need to take off the kids’ gloves and develop a new strategy.


Tagged with:

America Needs a New Vision

Published by The Huffington Post
By Teryn Norris
August 5th, 2011

Just three short years after Barack Obama’s campaign, “No We Can’t” is the new “Yes We Can,” and the vision of hope and unity that re-inspired a generation has been shattered.

In the aftermath of Washington’s fabricated debt-ceiling crisis, and amidst a looming double-dip economic recession, prospects for the United States look grim. Public disapproval of Congress has soared to the highest level on record, and a deepening sense of disillusionment has swept the country.

When future historians look back, they may conclude that 2011 was the beginning of a lost decade – when the U.S. descended into a decade or more of political dysfunction and economic malaise, and the American people concluded that the nation’s problems are largely insurmountable.

But it doesn’t have to end this way.

Instead, those future historians might conclude that 2011 and 2012 were watershed years that ignited a Great Renewal — when a generation of Americans realized how much is at stake if we fail to unite behind an optimistic vision for national revitalization, make essential investments in our future, and fight back against those who would tear the country down. For what is at stake today is nothing less than the foundation of American leadership and the international order.

The 20th century was the American century in large part due to our economic dynamism and innovation, which depended on unrivaled public-private partnerships to invest in the engines of progress: science, technology, infrastructure, and education. This dynamism positioned the United States to underwrite the most peaceful and prosperous global period in modern history.

These investments spanned across Democratic and Republican administrations alike. As one president declared in a national address, “I’ve urged Congress to devote more money to research… It is an indispensable investment in America’s future… Some say that we can’t afford it, that we’re too strapped for cash. Well, leadership means making hard choices, even in an election year.”

Jimmy Carter? No, that was Ronald Reagan.

He was no exception. President George Washington supported the development of interchangeable parts, which revolutionized U.S. manufacturing, as the Breakthrough Institute has documented. Lincoln delivered railroads and land grant universities, FDR oversaw the Manhattan Project, Eisenhower developed interstate highways and nuclear power, Kennedy advanced microchips and the Apollo Project, Nixon launched the quest to cure cancer, and both Clinton and George W. Bush helped triple the budget of the National Institutes of Health.



A new bipartisan paper released today called “Climate Pragmatism,” co-authored by a broad range of energy and climate policy thought leaders, adds to the large and growing energy innovation consensus.  In response to the ongoing gridlock in domestic and international climate negotiations, the paper outlines a new climate strategy focused on three areas — energy innovation, resilience to extreme weather, and “no-regrets” pollution reduction — which the authors believe can guide a more productive and pluralistic approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation. As the press release summarizes:

Climate Pragmatism, a new policy report released July 26th by the Hartwell group, details an innovative strategy to restart global climate efforts after the collapse of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. This pragmatic strategy centers on efforts to accelerate energy innovation, build resilience to extreme weather, and pursue no regrets pollution reduction measures — three efforts that each have their own diverse justifications independent of their benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation. As such, Climate Pragmatism offers a framework for renewed American leadership on climate change that’s effectiveness, paradoxically, does not depend on any agreement about climate science or the risks posed by uncontrolled greenhouse gases.”

The authors include scholars from Oxford University, London School of Economics, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Arizona State University, McGill University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Breakthrough Institute, and Third Way.

Energy innovation policy is the first and foremost area the paper identifies for progress.  The authors note (emphasis added):



Can conservatives support federal research budgets even in tough budgetary times? (For example, advanced energy research.)

Here’s President Reagan delivering a national address in 1988 (emphasis added):

“Federal funding for science is in jeopardy because of budget constraints. That’s why it’s my duty as President to draw its importance to your attention and that of Congress.

…The remarkable thing is that although basic research does not begin with a particular practical goal, when you look at the results over the years, it ends up being one of the most practical things government does… Major industries, including television, communications, and computer industries, couldn’t be where they are today without developments that began with this basic research.

…one thing is certain: If we don’t explore, others will, and we’ll fall behind. This is why I’ve urged Congress to devote more money to research. After taking out inflation, today’s government research expenditures are 58 percent greater than the expenditures of a decade ago. It is an indispensable investment in America’s future.

Some say that we can’t afford it, that we’re too strapped for cash. Well, leadership means making hard choices, even in an election year. We’ve put our research budget under a microscope and looked for quality and cost effectiveness. We’ve put together the best program for the taxpayers’ dollars. After all, the American tradition of hope is one we can’t afford to forget.”

Tagged with: