Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A New Era of "Post-Partisan Power"?

Written by Daniel Goldfarb and Clifton Yin

Originally published by Americans for Energy Leadership

Post-Partisan Power, a report released today by the unlikely triumvirate of the Breakthrough Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Brookings Institution, provides the most compelling argument to date for a bipartisan energy agenda. National hyper partisanship has made it difficult to bring the right and left together on any issue. But the death of cap and trade this summer provides a renewed opportunity for a united American energy agenda. The report’s press release lays out a list of policy goals that both sides of the aisle can get behind:
“The new report calls for increasing federal innovation investment from roughly $4 today to $25 billion annually, and using military procurement, new, disciplined deployment incentives, and public-private hubs to achieve both incremental improvements and breakthroughs in clean energy technologies.”
Most Americans can agree on the appeal of innovating clean energy technologies, creating new jobs in America, staving off environmental catastrophe, and freeing our nation from dependence on foreign sources of energy. Where cap and trade went wrong was insisting that these goals could only be accomplished by raising the price of carbon emitting energy sources. But not only was cap and trade not the only means of accomplishing these goals, according to the New York Times’s assessment of “Post-Partisan Power”, it may not have even been the most effective:
“the benefits of the bills that died in the Senate — which would have raised the cost of carbon emissions, through a system known as cap and trade — were sometimes exaggerated. Once the necessary compromises were made, the bills might not have raised the cost of carbon by much. And they obviously wouldn’t have done anything about fast-growing emissions in China and India.”
The new bipartisan agenda will be founded on comprehensive, pragmatic policies that strive to add as little to the national debt as possible. Government spending will be necessary, just as it was for the creation of the Internet or satellite technologies. Rather than making dirty energy more expensive, the report concludes, the government will have to focus its spending on making clean energy cheaper:
“Though Washington and policy elites were polarized by the ‘climate wars’ of the last decade, Americans as a whole remain largely united in their attitudes toward energy policy. They are grateful for cheap fossil energy and are willing to pay modestly more for affordable, cleaner energy sources. The most popular and effective energy policy is technology innovation aimed at making clean energy sources better and cheaper.”
To accomplish this worthy goal, Congress will have to put aside the stale arguments that it settled into during the climate debate. Our representatives must realize that they are no longer talking about the merits of climate change or a cap system, but American jobs and innovation capacity.

Today’s Thomas Friedman piece relates an anecdote about President Obama and Secretary of Energy Chu’s plan to create eight clean energy innovation hubs around the nation. The $200 million price tag for these research and deployment centers would reap untold benefits in advanced R&D, technological innovation, and regional employment, yet funding has been limited to three of the eight proposals. When Friedman told this to his guest Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Mahbubani was baffled that they were discussing millions and not billions of dollars. Meanwhile, as America is squabbling over $200 million dollars, China is lavishing its clean energy sector with $738 billion over the next decade.

The ashes of this summer’s climate change bill could provide rich soil for bi-partisan energy efforts. Building on "Post-Partisan Powers" work, Americans of all political persuasions should strive to identify how much they actually agree on in regards to the growth of the American economy and energy infrastructure.

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