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.