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A few sunny questions

March 3, 2010 - Jim Anderson
Let’s keep this simple.

What’s the biggest problem in the economy? There are too few jobs for people who want to work.

What’s one of the economy’s biggest needs for the long term? Clean, sensible energy.

Why, with 15 million Americans officially unemployed, aren’t we doing more to encourage new energy sources?

The Breakthrough Institute, a think tank that has long advocated a clean energy economy, reports that America — once the global leader in solar power — is now chasing Asia.

China, South Korea and Japan are expected to invest more than $500 billion over the next five years to extend their lead in clean technology products and applications. That’s enough to out-invest the U.S. by a 3-to-1 margin, even as the U.S. has allocated $70 billion for energy-related programs in the stimulus bill.

As for jobs, domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies was targeted for $2.3 billion of funding in the stimulus bill — substantial, but weak in comparison to Asia. In China, the Breakthrough Institute reports, the city of Baoding (dubbed “Electric Valley”) is already home to more than 200 renewable energy companies.

It might be tempting to dismiss the clean energy sector as another special interest trying to get a bigger piece of the stressed federal pie.

The reality is, we have 15 million unemployed. Meanwhile, we have an investment gap against Asia in a crucial emerging market.

It goes beyond climate change. Making new energy sources cost-competitive is a priority its own right — unless, of course, we want increasing dependence on imported fossil fuels from unstable/unfriendly sources.

As it stands, are we now setting ourselves up to become massive importers of new technologies and products?

While 15 million are unemployed.


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