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):

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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.”

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The U.S. Department of Energy released the following announcement today.  The funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is available here under the reference number “DE-FOA-0000570.”

Department of Energy Announces Funding for Nationwide Student-Focused Clean Energy Business Competitions Competitions Will Encourage Entrepreneurship in Clean Energy Nationwide

Washington, D.C. – As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to support and empower the next generation of American clean energy entrepreneurs, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced $2 million in available funding for the National University Clean Energy Business Challenge. This nationwide initiative will create a network of regional student-focused clean energy business creation competitions whose winners will compete for a National Grand Prize at a completion held at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012. The funding will support up to six regional competitions that will inspire, mentor, and train students from across the country to develop successful business plans to create a new generation of American clean energy companies. These regional competitions will take place before May 1, 2012. This national initiative will enable student participants to gain the skills required to build new businesses and transform promising innovative energy technologies from U.S. universities and national laboratories into innovative new energy products that will to solve our nation’s energy challenges, spur business creation, create American jobs, and boost American competitiveness.

“Fostering innovation at America’s universities and producing our nation’s next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs is vital to ensuring our nation’s competiveness in the clean energy economy of tomorrow,” said Secretary Chu. “This investment will train a new generation of scientific and technical leaders and support the Administration’s continued effort to ensure that America has the workforce we need to secure our energy future, create jobs here at home, and win the future.”

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will consider applications that propose annual U.S. university-based business creation competitions for student entrepreneurs with business ideas in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Student teams that participate in the competitions will work with experienced mentors from the energy industry and start up community, along with university and national lab-based researchers, to develop creative business plans for transforming ground-breaking energy technologies into high impact market solutions. The FOA has been posted to FedConnect and is available under the reference number “DE-FOA-0000570.” Applications are due on August 22, 2011. Selections are expected to be made before the end of September 2011.

This initiative, facilitated by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), aims to increase the number and quality of start-up businesses created with university-based energy technologies and to promote a new generation of energy entrepreneurs. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

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Over the past few years, “green jobs” and the “clean economy” have become the growth mantra for a wide variety of energy, climate, and economic policy advocates. Much of this excitement has been productive and justified, but some of it has been misinformed. Few reports have shed more light on this debate than the new study by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment.”

The report offers a plethora of data and analysis, and several commentators have already weighed in with various interpretations (see Bryan Walsh at TIME). But one of the key conclusions worth highlighting is that the driving force behind the U.S. “clean economy” over the last decade has been emerging energy technologies –- not in other “green” sectors related to buildings and home weatherization, energy-saving consumer products, or efficient appliances (as some advocates predicted). In other words, emerging energy technologies appear to have the greatest job and export growth potential, and this carries important implications for U.S. policy priorities — a conclusion recently echoed in Google’s energy innovation report.

Brookings defines the “clean economy” as a very broad range of goods and services that provide environmental benefit, including everything from electric vehicle technologies to organic foods and waste management (see list below). As it explains, the report is “the first study of the U.S. clean economy to provide timely information that is both comprehensive enough in its scope and detailed enough in its categorization to inform national, state, and regional leaders on the recent employment dynamics of the U.S. low-carbon and environmental goods and services super-sector…”

According to the data, the highest job growth and export intensity in the overall clean economy between 2003-2010 was primarily in emerging energy technologies. Out of the 39 measured sectors, the top eight with the greatest relative job growth were all energy-related: wave/ocean power, solar thermal, wind, carbon storage and management, solar PV, fuel cells, biofuels, and smart grid.   In terms of export intensity, seven of the top eight sectors were energy technologies: biofuels/biomass, electric vehicle technology, battery technology, wind, solar PV, and fuel cells. The most export-intensive “category” of sectors was renewable energy technologies, at $64,884 in exports per job, compared to only $20,129 for the aggregate clean economy.

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On Friday, the House of Representatives voted on its final version of the 2012 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill. In terms of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) — the Department of Energy’s flagship energy innovation program — the good news is that advocates were able to boost the budget from $100 to $180 million with a last-minute amendment, which passed by just one vote.

Americans for Energy Leadership was proud to support this effort, joining dozens of universities and high-tech companies in signing a letter supporting ARPA-E. Now we move on to the Senate appropriations bill, where we expect to achieve a larger budget and eventually come out somewhere inbetween the House and Senate version at conference.

Yet even while we “celebrate” salvaging a $180 million budget for ARPA-E in the House, we recognize this amount falls fall short of what ARPA-E needs to achieve its potential.  Indeed, ARPA-E merits a much larger budget for its investments, which can spur the development of entirely new industries and technological breakthroughs, create high-skilled jobs, support small businesses, improve U.S. energy security, and enhance our competitiveness in the advanced energy industry.  As the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation recently concluded in a report, “A Model for Innovation: ARPA-E Merits Full Funding“:

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