Clean technology investments vital to U.S. leadership

And the more we focus on creating jobs, the more we see that our economy needs a new launching pad. That launching pad is clean energy. The world is “going green” and to be the economic leader in a global marketplace we must seize this opportunity to build a new clean energy economy in the United States. This will lead to exports and a reduction in the $1 billion a day we spend on imported oil.

A Bloomberg News report released in December found that clean energy is already expected to draw $200 billion in job-producing investments worldwide in 2010.

Just a few weeks ago, The New York Times reported that China is now the world’s leading producer of solar panels and wind turbines.

Germany, India and other nations are moving quickly to grab leadership in the clean energy economy as well. As President Barack Obama pointed out in his State of the Union address, “These nations aren’t playing for second place … They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.”

The bottom line is that to ensure American leadership in the clean energy economy, we don’t have time to waste.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included over $58 billion in funding for important clean energy priorities, and those funds are already creating clean energy jobs and helping to build the foundation for America’s clean energy future. For example, Solyndra, a solar manufacturer in my home state of California, is putting a $535 million Department of Energy loan guarantee to work building a new facility in Fremont. Construction is expected to put 3,000 people to work, and once it’s completed, it will provide jobs for 1,000 workers.

I am pleased that the president has committed to making the federal government a model of energy efficiency by aiming to cut the government’s emissions 28 percent by 2020. Agencies from the Treasury Department to the General Services Administration are implementing plans to cut their energy consumption by improving the efficiency of their facilities, installing solar panels and buying hybrid vehicles. These improvements are expected to save taxpayers between $8 billion and $11 billion over the next decade, based on current energy prices, while helping spur private-sector investments and create good clean energy jobs.

But I agree with the president that tapping into America’s full potential for clean energy job creation means passing clean energy and climate legislation. Legislation that puts a market-based cap on carbon pollution and moves us away from our dependence on foreign oil will also unleash billions in private investment.

John Doerr — one of the nation’s leading venture capitalists, who helped launch Google and Amazon.com — has predicted that the investment capital that will flow into clean energy will dwarf the amount invested in high-tech and biotech combined.

California has been a leader in the development of clean energy jobs. The Pew Charitable Trust reports that 10,000 new clean energy businesses were launched in California from 1998 to 2007. During that period, clean energy investments created more than 125,000 jobs and generated jobs 15 percent faster than the California economy as a whole.

Taking steps to invest in clean energy is crucial for creating jobs here at home and speeding economic recovery — but it’s also vital to America’s health and security.

Scientists in the Obama and Bush administrations and our own National Academy of Sciences tell us that we have a narrow window of time in which to avert the worst ravages of climate change. National security leaders tell us that conflicts over food and water resources related to climate are a huge threat to world stability.

The message is clear — acting now to make America the clean energy leader is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but it is the best choice to create jobs, ensure America’s economic leadership, and safeguard our security in the 21st century.

Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.