US State Department Publishes Clean Energy Solutions Journal

We US-based Treehuggers are quick to note that, while many state and local governments are creating innovative strategies for addressing global warming and other environmental issues, the federal government often seems mired in inertia and/or partisan squabbling. Thus, we were pleased to discover that the July issue of the State Department's Economic Perspectives journal series is entitled Clean Energy Solutions, and contains a collection of articles detailing the environmental, economic and security benefits of a national shift towards cleaner, greener energy sources. The journal touts an impressive list of authors, including the Rocky Mountain Institute's Amory Lovins, the American Council on Renewable Energy's Michael Eckhart, and the Clean Energy Group's Lewis Milford and Allison Schumacher.Not all of the arguments made in this publication will please every Treehugger, as energy sources such as nuclear power and "clean coal" receive attention equal to more renewable methods of power generation and conservation measures. Eckhart's article, though, presents a compelling case of why renewables are poised "to turn a corner" as prices come down and interest in addressing global warming rises. Eckhart notes that concerns about energy security are peaking along with awareness of climate change, and these dynamics, combined with the lowering prices, creates a sort of "perfect storm" in favor of renewable technologies. Perhaps one of the most important points the author raises concerns the "uneven distribution of renewable energy resources across the United States," which mandates more grassroots approaches to creating a renewable infrastructure: a "one-size-fits-all" policy won't work. Equally positive is the amount of investment funneling into renewables:

Venture capitalists invested close to $181 million in alternative energy companies in 2005, an increase of $78 million from the previous year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Venture Economics, and the National Venture Capital Association.

Major industry leaders have begun to take notice of this growing market opportunity and are showing their support. For example, General Electric recently invested $51 million in a 50-megawatt wind project in California, and Cascade Investment LLC placed $84 million into Pacific Ethanol, which produces and markets renewable fuels. The accelerated market growth has created a favorable environment for investors, with opportunities for substantial profits, as well as risks, in this now $50-billion-a-year industry.

While Clean Energy Solutions will likely not change the minds of proponents of one or another form of energy generation, it is encouraging to see that some divisions of the federal government recognize the need to change the course of energy production and consumption in the US. The vision presented in the journal is complex and challenging: let's hope our political leaders of both parties can handle such complexity, and respond in kind. :: Clean Energy Solutions

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