A Down-Payment On America's Future: Green Technology Incentives For Innovation & Sustainability


This opinion piece is by Marian E. Hopkins, Senior Director at the Business Roundtable.

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama met with Business Roundtable's member CEOs, and his speech reminded me of the "space race" of the 21st century - the development and deployment of green energy technology - something I recently discussed on Treehugger. In his speech, he called for a "smart energy policy" based on enhanced production, greater efficiency and increased incentives for alternative sources. He also acknowledged that the only way forward is to adopt a "comprehensive strategy, not an either/or strategy but a both/and strategy when it comes to energy." It's a message he also sounded in his State of the Union, and one our CEOs resoundingly support (as outlined in our blueprint for a balanced portfolio of technologies, The Balancing Act).

The United States has the brightest minds in the world and a dynamic economy that rewards innovation, so there is no reason we cannot and should not be the international leader in developing new technologies. As the President said, "There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products." The stimulus package was a down payment on incentives for a range of initiatives, from energy efficiency to advanced battery technology. However, we need to build on that success with aggressive energy technology investments that will nurture our nation's natural innovative instincts; the President has done just that in the green energy technology portion of his budget.

First and most importantly, the Administration's large increase in support for nuclear technology is a uniquely progressive - and bipartisan - step towards greater energy independence and reduced greenhouse emissions. Under the President's plan, we could expect to see as many as a half-dozen new, emissions-free plants built over the coming years. Nuclear's centrality in helping our nation meet its ambitious energy and climate goals cannot be overstated. In order to be truly effective, this new strategy should be coupled with a realistic plan to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. Yucca Mountain does not have to be the answer, but an alternative and workable solution will have to be proposed.

Additionally, the President allocated $15 billion in incentives for the development of alternative energy sources. Renewable energy is going to be increasingly important over the coming years. It's important we plant seeds today that will allow us to reap the benefits of these energies as they mature and come online. The maturation process is going to take many years, and we will need other affordable, domestic energy supplies in the coming years and decades. Therefore, these investments can be made most impactful by reconsidering plans to repeal incentives for other traditional American sources.

Finally, the green technology budget contains funds that will help us develop a more reliable electric grid, another top priority that I recently posted about. Updating our nation's aging grid is essential to getting both traditional and alternative energy sources "from point A to point B" in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

These provisions in the President's green energy technology budget will help build on the success of the stimulus and past initiatives in moving us forward. The global race for a cleaner, greener and stronger future is one we can win. The government is making the right moves that will allow everyday Americans - entrepreneurs, scientists and innovative thinkers - to take the baton and bring us across the finish line.

As the President said, "A competitive America is also America that finally has a smart energy policy." I couldn't agree more.