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GETTING BEHIND THE OBAMA ENERGY AGENDA

Obama’s climate omission: Can we disagree on climate and win on clean energy?

By Teryn Norris & Daniel Goldfarb President Obama’s exclusion of “climate change” from the State of the Union, combined with Carol Browner’s exit as the administration’s top climate advisor, has sparked wide debate across the climate movement. On one hand, many climate advocates are backing the president’s strategy. As Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) put it, “He's trying to unify ... I think it was very smart of him.” On the other hand, climate advocates like Joe Romm of Climate Progress and David Roberts of Grist are criticizing the president for not using climate change as a central justification for his clean energy proposals. Unfortunately, even after the …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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GETTING BEHIND THE OBAMA ENERGY AGENDA

Obama’s climate omission: Can we disagree on climate and win on clean energy?

By Teryn Norris & Daniel Goldfarb President Obama’s exclusion of “climate change” from the State of the Union, combined with Carol Browner’s exit as the administration’s top climate advisor, has sparked wide debate across the climate movement. On one hand, many climate advocates are backing the president’s strategy. As Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) put it, “He's trying to unify ... I think it was very smart of him.” On the other hand, climate advocates like Joe Romm of Climate Progress and David Roberts of Grist are criticizing the president for not using climate change as a central justification for his clean energy proposals. Unfortunately, even after the …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Climate Movement at the Crossroads

When future scholars document the history of global warming, one of the watershed years will almost surely be 2010. For over a decade, the primary goal of U.S. climate policy advocates has been to establish a strong carbon pollution cap and a binding global emissions treaty. Armed with large war chests and major electoral victories, climate advocates had one of the best opportunities to achieve these goals. This agenda has collapsed. In the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate negotiations and recent developments in the Senate, it is clear that carbon caps in the U.S. and globally will not happen for …

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How America Can Lead the Clean Energy Race

U.S. economic leadership is at a crossroads. Recent outlooks suggest we may experience long-term stagnation and unemployment comparable to Japan's lost decade. Yet while we have suffered an economic crisis produced by our own financial sector - losing millions of jobs, trillions in economic output, and further damaging our industrial base - China has largely shrugged off the global recession with high levels of growth and self-financed stimulus, all while purchasing billions of Treasury bills to finance our own deficit. Meanwhile, as Breakthrough Institute and ITIF documented in "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant," China and other nations are establishing dominance in …

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A Bipartisan Strategy for Energy Leadership

By Teryn Norris & Clifton Yin When President Obama and key Senate leaders meet today to reach a compromise on energy and climate legislation, they should strongly consider increasing federal investment in clean energy technology to at least $15 billion annually. This is a comprehensive third-way strategy to improve U.S. energy independence, economic competitiveness, and climate security, and it deserves bipartisan support. We are a Democrat and Republican. One of us campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008, the other was a delegate for John McCain. One of us worked on energy and climate policy for the progressive Breakthrough Institute, while …

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If cap-and-trade is dead, what's the alternative?

Obama signals need for new energy agenda

The biggest news from President Obama's Oval Office address is that cap-and-trade legislation is probably dead for the foreseeable future, and the administration is seeking new ideas.

Instead of using last night's prime-time opportunity to push cap-and-trade in the form of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act -- as many climate advocates saw as their last hope for "comprehensive" climate reform -- President Obama pressed the reset button on energy and climate policy, saying he was "happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels." He made no mention of setting a price on carbon or establishing an emissions cap-and-trade system.

As Andrew Revkin observed at the New York Times Dot Earth, the president "signaled that he is leaving open a variety of paths on energy and climate policy and no longer hewing tightly to the idea of a cap-and-trade system for restricting heat-trapping emissions -- which he never wavered from during his campaign." David Roberts of Grist, one of the few remaining hopefuls for cap-and-trade reform, wrote "Final thought: Obama didn't drive the carbon cap tonight, so there won't be a carbon cap in the energy bill this year."

Several key Democratic Senators have reached a similar conclusion. "I doubt very much whether those 60 votes exist right now," said Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) yesterday on C-SPAN, referring to the 60 votes necessary for cap and trade in the Senate. "The climate bill isn't going to stop the oil leak," said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), asserting that "The first thing you have to do is stop the oil leak." Echoing these sentiments, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) stated, "There's not a great call for it in the Democratic caucus," and Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) called climate legislation "unrelated" to the Gulf spill.

If cap-and-trade is dead, then what's next? The only serious alternative that could attract bipartisan support is a comprehensive national strategy for clean energy competitiveness and innovation -- including substantial new federal investment in research, development, demonstration, deployment, and manufacturing -- to accelerate America's transition away from fossil fuels, build a strong and competitive clean energy industry, and rapidly drive down the price of low-carbon power and transportation technologies. These investments could potentially be included as part of a comprehensive energy package, building upon the proposed American Clean Energy Leadership Act.

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Student Governments Urge Congress to Support Clean Energy Education

A group of more than 100 university and college student government presidents submitted a letter (PDF download) last week urging Congress to launch a national program for clean energy science and engineering education. The presidents – representing more than one million American students – warned Congress that advanced energy education is critical for U.S. leadership in the global clean energy industry. “The United States is rapidly falling behind in the burgeoning clean energy industry – especially in comparison to China – and our educational system and workforce is not prepared to compete,” declared the 107 presidents, including dozens of the country’s top …

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WATCH: China building ambitious “Solar Valley City” to advance solar industry

China is building an ambitious “Solar Valley City” as a new national center for manufacturing, research and development, education, and tourism around solar energy technologies. as part of the Chinese government and industry’s efforts to promote clean energy technology and grow the nation’s global market share (see video below beginning at 10 seconds). Solar Valley City is located in Dezhou, Shandong Province, where I visited last month as part of a delegation from Stanford University, and it is unlike any city you’ve seen before.  The city houses over 100 solar enterprises including major firms like Himin Solar Energy Group Ltd, …

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brain drain

Racing for cleantech jobs: Why America needs an energy education strategy

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the United States faces serious questions about the future of its economy and jobs market. Where will the good jobs of the future come from, how do we prepare the American workforce, and what is our strategy to maintain economic leadership in an increasingly competitive world? A growing consensus suggests that cleantech will be one of our generation’s largest growth sectors. The global cleantech market is expected to surpass $1 trillion in value within the next few years, and a perfect storm of factors -- from the inevitability of a carbon-constrained world, to …

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To make poverty history, make clean energy cheap

Why Bill Gates is right

Bill Gates speaking at the TED conference.Photo: jurvetson via Flickr"If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years," declared the world's wealthiest man during last week's TED 2010 conference, "I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine ... or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no CO2 emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact." Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major …