Foreign Policy Blogs

The Business of Renewables

Economic Stimulus – In the U.S. Senate yesterday, they tried to get a vote on the economic stimulus package. See this from the A.P. The measure couldn’t get the votes necessary for cloture – the magic 60 necessary for a bill to be fully considered on the Senate floor.

What’s this got to do with climate change you ask? Good question. One of the missing components from the energy legislation signed into law in December was the extension of tax credits beyond 2008 for the renewable energy industries. The Senate Finance Committee heeded the call and included a renewal in the economic stimulus package that was sent to the full Senate. The American Wind Energy Association has been trumpeting the need for this and has voiced its concern for 75,000 U.S. jobs that would be at risk “solely as a result of the decline in wind energy investment.” They further calculate that tens of thousands of additional jobs will be threatened because of similar slowdowns in other renewable energy industries. See their statement from January 30 lauding the action of the Finance Committee and their release from February 4 of a report calculating the potential for loss of “116,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $19 billion in U.S. investment” in just one year if the tax credits are not renewed. I’d say this fits in with the economic stimulus package, wouldn’t you?

But, surprise, surprise, the Senate Republican leadership pulled out all the stops and killed the package. To be fair, the target was not the tax credit extension per se, but based on past experience such as keeping the Renewable Portfolio Standard out of the energy bill as well as keeping the rescission of tax breaks for the oil & gas industry and renewable tax credits out, I’d say the Republican leadership was perfectly happy to have the tax credits go down with the ship. (For further background, see Senate Energy Update and any number of other posts from December on the legislation.)

Green Energy Industry – The “NY Times” had a good story recently on how the industry’s doing in California. The short answer: very well, thank you. The boom is “the product of billions of dollars in investment and mountains of enthusiasm.” I’ve written about this boom any number of times here, including how venture capital is seeking projects all over the place. One of the students in my climate change class was opining that there are no good environmental stories. I told her and will continue to tell you that there are hundreds of good stories, with more every day.

Trillions for Renewables! – Trillion has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? An article in the “S.F. Chronicle” – Trillions likely to boost clean energy technology – Rising fuel costs, global warming spur investment , is about a new report from Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consultancy headed by Daniel Yergin, a longtime energy expert who has done some very solid work over the years. Yergin, quoted in the article, says: “We are seeing a major shift in public opinion. This is providing a vital impetus that is moving clean technology across the great divide of cost, proven results, scale and maturity that has separated it from markets served by mainstream technologies.” There is, according to CERA, a worldwide “bubbling” of clean energy activity. CERA’s press release on the study, “Crossing the Divide: The Future of Clean Energy,” quotes Robert LaCount, head of CERA’s Climate Change and Clean Energy Group. “The rapidly advancing new paradigms of climate change, energy security, and policy implementation and cooperation among the United States, the European Union, China and others will produce a broad range of opportunities, risks and pitfalls as the modern energy industry increasingly moves to adopt clean technologies that will be part of the alternative, low-carbon pathway to the energy future.”

Pinch me. Am I dreaming?

And one has to wonder how soon will the people so desperately trying in Congress and elsewhere to block this kind of progress be swept away by history? Not soon enough for me.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change