The Economic Crisis Will Not Stop Clean Energy Initiatives

While there is now much negative news about the drive for renewable energy and clean technology in the US in light of the economic crisis, what the pundits fail to realize is that energy prices at over $70 per barrel are substantially higher than the floor of $40. There seems to be so much nay saying before the election that it may help to set the record straight.
Both presidential candidates and the next Congress understand that energy security depends on diversity of energy supply sources. Those sources include not only traditional oil, gas and coal but also renewables and energy efficiency. What the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) did for solar will now be replicated for wind, geothermal and other renewables. To say we can’t afford it, misses the fact that we import $700 billion worth of oil this year. Can we afford that trade deficit? So, the push in next Congress will be two fold on renewables. The first is the long-term extension of tax credits for all renewables. The second is the movement toward a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Today, 34 states have some form of renewable energy standard (go to for a map of all the state renewable initiatives). With the enactment of these state standards there has been an increase in renewable energy deployment for that state. The relationship between the RPS and renewable energy development has been piecemeal and cries for federalization. That will not only set a national standard but also create a viable renewable energy credit (REC) trading market. Trading should be looked at as a facilitator to the deployment of more renewables. In last year’s energy bill there was a provision for 15% RPS starting with 3.35% in 2010 which was stripped out of the bill. This is going forward with the next administration and new Congress.
Finally, there is the standard talk that we can’t afford carbon controls on the economy. Wrong again. If the 5 million green jobs are going to be delivered, we will need long-term climate change legislation. That will occur in the next 18 months and as a fall back, the Obama team has indicated that from Day 1 of the new administration that they will ask US EPA to begin proceedings to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air amendments of 1990. This is a fall back position toward expected Congressional action on climate change. In fact, with Congressman Waxman taking over the powerful House Energy Committee today we will see more stringent federal standards on GHG. Similarly, on the Senate side, the $7 and $12 price caps have now given way to a $20 cap which may be even higher (hopefully $30 per ton).
The bottom line is that US climate change and renewable energy legislation at the federal level will not be side tracked by the credit crunch and the recession now underway. US energy security, oil dependency, job creation and clean energy investment are now poised to ramp up not down. After all, it’s the only engine for job growth out there!