In his State of the Union on January 28, 2011, President Obama set new goals for clean energy and innovation in America as means of boosting the economy and ensuring energy security. Most notable was the President’s call for 80 percent of U.S. electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2035, including clean coal and nuclear power. He also cited his desire for America to become the first country with one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Moreover, by mid-February, the Obama administration is expected to release a budget that includes $8 billion for clean energy projects. Of this $8 billion, roughly $800 million would go to the Advanced Projects Research Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a program that funds transformative energy technologies.
Many noted the President’s use of the term “clean energy” as opposed to “renewable energy” as a means of garnering widespread support. Some democrats, like Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, believe that by putting a variety of energy sources on the table, there is an opportunity for a bipartisan bill. However, republicans are concerned with the possibility of increased federal spending and federal mandates that could drive up the cost of energy.
While many of the details surrounding the President’s call have yet to be released, as a part of the President’s clean energy strategy, last year, the Department of Energy launched three Energy Innovation Hubs focused on accelerating research and development in three key areas: fuels from sunlight, energy-efficient building systems design, and modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors. These hubs will launch clean energy projects that will then be commercialized by the private sector. With these programs and other innovations, Department of Energy Secretary, Steven Chu is optimistic that America will be able to meet the President’s call by 2035. Some in the industry also agree. Chris Perrault, vice president of government relations at Direct Energy, a provider of electric and natural gas service, believes that America’s natural gas resources are sufficient to get the nation through to meet the President’s clean energy goal. Moreover, David Muchow, CEO of SkyBuilt Power, notes that the nation already has the technology available to achieve that goal.
With the current focus on reducing government spending and reducing the nation’s deficit, it will be interesting to see a fleshed out proposal that can garner support from both sides of the aisle.
Dionne Nickerson February 1, 2011
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