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The U.S. Government Cares About Green Technology, Right?

After some bluster early on, the Obama Administration seems to have turned away from green tech a bit. Earth Eats' Cory Barker rounds up recent developments.

The US Capitol Building by Laura Padgett on flickr

Photo: Laura Padgett/Flickr

With the economy in shambles, job loss at a sickening level and environmental issues and debates popping up fairly regularly, it seems realistic to think that the Obama Administration would want to push innovation through green technologies that create jobs and save the planet. And the president has certainly attempted to get green technology industries rolling in his first seven months in office.

But with the president pushing so many initiatives at once, some proponents of green technology are getting restless, and maybe even a little angry. This week, a few op-ed pieces appeared in major news sources calling into question the United States’ dedication to the new race to the top of the green technology mountain.

Venture capitalist John Doerr and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt penned such a piece in Monday’s Washington Post, noting the United States’ current status (second place to China) and the dire need to push green technology harder. This should hit a little harder with Immelt’s involvement, considering GE is one of the biggest new/green/alternative technology developers around the world. The two emphasize job creation (China will create 120k based on wind power deployment alone) and the environmental improvements (China is also saying goodbye to 350 million tons of CO2 this year).

Moreover, Doerr and Immelt aren’t about to criticize without providing a few solutions. Five of them to be exact:

  • Send a long-term signal that low-carbon energy is valuable.
  • Get the rules of the road right for utilities.
  • Set energy standards that grow steadily stronger.
  • Get serious about funding research, development and deployment, at scale.
  • Fulfill President Obama’s commitment to “become the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy.”

To supplement their op-ed, CNET’s Martin LaMonica had a bit to say on the issue as well. LaMonica more or less agrees with the thoughts of Doerr and Immelt, and also notes that even though the mainstream media is devoting a good portion of their “Obama legislation coverage” to the health care plans, work is still being done to pass solid legislation to make some of Doerr and Immelt’s thoughts a reality. But like any issue, politics and conflicting interests complicate matters:

But proposals to encourage deployment of these technologies at scale has met resistance from entrenched interests and some lawmakers. Among the concerns are that climate and clean-energy policies will significantly raise energy prices for consumers and hurt U.S. industry compete globally.

Still, work continues on energy and climate policy in Washington even though much of the media attention is on the health care debate.

The House narrowly passed an energy and climate bill that would mandate more renewable energy from utilities and establish a cap-and-trade system for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters. The Senate is devising its version of the bill and could vote on it in the fall.

Even with all the issues arising in relation to the climate bill and other possible legislation (a new report says household consumption could decrease between $21 and $235 by 2020 because of the increase in costs caused by the climate bill), President Obama seemed very serious about green technology initiatives a few months ago.

Yet, research groups who applied for funding in the green technology “revolution” received rejection letters – only 2 percent were likely to be supported with the $150 million available. And who decided $150 million was enough for these plans? The government can give $1 billion for “cash for clunkers” (an energy-friendly initiative though) but only $150 million for this?

But with health care reform on the minds of millions because it seems more urgent and the economy still in the toliet – does the government actually care about moving forward with green technology? And if they do, could they maybe appear to be a little more serious about it?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Cory Barker

Cory Barker is a summer intern for Earth Eats and senior IU student from Hartford City, Indiana. He is double majoring in journalism and communication and culture with a minor in business.

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