U.S. getting lapped in the clean energy race

The catastrophic event off the United States’ Gulf Coast serves as a reminder that we should be accelerating our transition to a clean-energy economy. The starting gun in this race toward the future global economy sounded years ago, and there is no doubt that clean energy will be a central 21st century economic driver and job creator. Yet, while countries like China recognize this opportunity and are racing ahead, the U.S. Senate’s inaction is relegating our country to the back of the pack.The economic opportunity associated with climate change solutions is not a new conversation in New Hampshire. During the 2008 presidential primary, voters challenged the candidates to talk about climate change and its economic impacts in New Hampshire and around the globe. The Carbon Coalition Campaign that we had the honor of co-chairing, was a grassroots effort by New Hampshire voters to push presidential candidates of both parties to put energy and environmental issues on the table.Now, as U.S. policymakers continue to fumble at the starting blocks, other nations race to dominate fast-growing global markets for clean energy, creating an ever-widening gap between countries that will seize the leading edge of the next industrial revolution and those left behind.What’s at stake is America’s global competitiveness and new job creation for many decades to come.Moreover, there will be serious long-term implications for businesses across New Hampshire, from traditional manufacturers to promising startups that could provide the jobs of the future, if only we would seize this moment.Make no mistake: this race will go to the swift. Today, the U.S. is home to only one of the top five wind turbine manufacturers, one of the 10 largest solar panel producers, and two of the top 10 advanced battery manufacturers. China is now the largest wind turbine manufacturer, the largest solar panel manufacturer and a dominant market player in advanced vehicle and battery technology.Given all the innovation, technological prowess and economic resources the United States can muster, why are we falling behind? One reason is that our elected leaders have offered no clear path to the low-carbon economy, no clear price signal guiding investors and businesses to move away from our carbon-intensive infrastructure, and no long-term certainty about America’s clean-energy future.There is currently important legislation under consideration in Washington. What’s needed now is leadership from both parties to build on the bipartisan work that has led to this moment. Senators – start your engines. It is time to take action on a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and get America into the race. Each day we fail to act, we fall further behind, sacrificing economic growth and much-needed jobs here at home.The way to make New Hampshire and America competitive is to adopt strong, comprehensive, forward-looking clean energy and climate legislation that provides businesses and investors the certainty they need to make low-carbon investments. Legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions and strongly promotes energy efficiency and clean energy will spur investments in low-carbon technologies, unleash American innovation in the next breakout technology sector, lessen our dependence on foreign oil – or domestic sources that threaten to despoil our environment – and create jobs and economic growth at a time when it’s needed most.The House has already approved one approach to a comprehensive climate bill and other proposals are pending in the Senate. It’s past time for the Senate to act – to get the country out of the starting blocks and into the clean energy race. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is on record supporting legislation to address climate change. We strongly urge Sen. Judd Gregg to do the sameJoe Keefe and Ted Leach are co-chairs of the Carbon Coalition.

Categories: Opinion