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Reshaping clean energy as a global competition

In February of 2015, a group of six corporate executives concerned with innovation in America released a report on United States research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) related to clean energy. Their findings are telling.

The group is called the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC). Their primary conclusion about the state of energy RD&D in the U.S. is that America needs to triple its current funding dedicated to the task. According to AEIC, the U.S. will continue to lose ground in terms of innovation among other countries such as China and Germany who are increasingly supplying new and growing energy companies with public funding. The report states that, “The United States must proactively prepare for a more competitive economic future and scale up innovation investments as other countries increase their own.”

{mosads}Budgeting within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has shifted increasing amounts of funding toward clean energy RD&D, but overall funding for the DOE is nowhere near what it should be.

Uniting the global community around a common goal of proactive RD&D surrounding climate change and clean energy is the solution to future environmental problems.

As it stands, two-thirds of electricity generated and almost all of current U.S. transportation emit greenhouse gases. AEIC claims that viable alternatives currently exist, but remain too expensive until funding allows for these clean energy industries to scale larger and establish themselves. A robust clean energy industry in the U.S. will foster greater innovation in the field. Without such an industry, attempts at combating climate change are simply not enough.

Bill Gates, one of the six AEIC committee members, asserts that, “To solve the world’s energy and climate challenges we need hundreds of new ideas and hundreds of companies working on them. That is not going to happen without the U.S. government’s continued tradition of leadership in R&D. Everyone has a role to play – from the private sector, to philanthropy, to the academy – but we will not be able to find the type of energy miracle we need without investing in the programs that support that innovation.”

The solution is more funding, more RD&D, more competition, and more of a sense of urgency surrounding topic areas that are shaping up to have lasting impacts on the global community.

Congress continues to debate individual issues related to climate change and clean energy. While debates over regulations and adhering to ongoing EPA plans wage on, significant funding increases to innovation in these areas would end all of the debates for us. If there is anything to invest time and money in, it is the environment. Life, as we know it, will cease to exist without a sustainable environment.

Chad Holiday is CEO of DuPont and another member of AEIC. He states that, “Achieving rapid growth in clean energy will require constructive partnerships that enable the public and private sectors to work together effectively and leverage the unique strengths of each.” All parties involved in clean energy have a place at the table. All parties have mutual interests and something to gain from committing to increased innovation. The next step is allowing for it to happen.

AEIC notes that, “The federal commitment to energy RD&D is less than one-half of 1 percent of the annual nationwide energy bill.” Concerns about over-spending and the national debt are valid, but without increased funding related to innovation, there is no growth and there is no progress.

The idea behind AEIC’s plan is quite clear: “Technology innovation enables new, expanded possibilities for economic action. Business innovations find new ways to translate those possibilities into sustainable market propositions. Financial innovations find new ways to unlock investments for those businesses and technologies. All these innovations aim at the same goal: to compete with and ultimately supplant the current way of doing things with a better way.”

The end goal of AEIC’s report, current debates surrounding climate change, and any governmental oversight related to all of these topics ought to be the same – a better future with increased innovation, a healthier economy, and a sustainable environment.

Floyd is the program coordinator at the Clean Fairfax Council, promoting urban sustainability in Fairfax County, Virginia. He is also the author of PANIC: One Man’s Struggle with Anxiety and holds a Master of Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.


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