Cross-posted at the NDN blog.
The historic victory of Barack Obama last night and increased majorities for Democrats in the House and Senate create a huge opportunity to build a high-productivity, low-carbon economy. The last eight years have been lost economic years — the exceptions of the housing and financial markets have now, of course, imploded. The silver lining to the crash, however, is that it has cleared the way for a new round of economic growth built on new economic policies. And if the right lessons are learned, with new leadership in place, the next round can be one of real engineering, not financial engineering, high-paid jobs, not low-paid ones, and inclusive, broad-based growth, not speculative fortunes for a few.
The number one priority of the United States must be to raise the real incomes of the middle class. To do that, however, we must accomplish a variety of things at once that include creating new high paying jobs to replace old ones that have moved overseas, taming energy costs, and creating modern, high-efficiency infrastructure to undergird higher productivity and our future prosperity.
Fortunately, as President-elect Obama has joined NDN in arguing, clean energy has the ability to address many of our economic problems at once. For this reason, President-elect Obama has indicated that he believes clean energy must be a key priority next year. At NDN, we are rolling up our sleeves to embark on this economic journey with him.
In the short-term, spending on clean infrastructure — to modernize the grid, weatherize homes and buildings, and upgrade transportation — has the ability to jumpstart the economy. The long backlog of infrastructure projects means that many are teed up and ready to go. There is a short lead-time between appropriating money for infrastructure and shovels in the ground, and infrastructure investments, because they occur in the local economy, have high multiplier effects.
Second, investments in clean energy have the potential to create millions of high-paying jobs, many of which can go to people without extensive education. Because these jobs cannot be done overseas, and are either inherently domestic or have a high technology component, there is reason to expect them to be high paying.
Third, investments in clean energy will pay long-term dividends in taming our volatile energy costs. Even though oil costs have fallen, the virtual destruction of the American auto industry as a result of the twin blasts of soaring gas prices this summer and the credit implosion, shows that we cannot afford this sort of volatility in a critical commodity. Meanwhile, the underlying trend of energy prices remains upwards.
Fourth, investments in clean energy and infrastructure will benefit our environment and the environment of our children. The costs of climate change in the form of erratic weather and rising water levels have already been considerable and may increase. We cannot afford not to make these investments.
Clearly, clean energy and clean infrastructure are ideas whose time has come. As the new administration takes form, we look forward to working closely with it and leaders in Congress to build a low-carbon economy with the potential not only to jumpstart America’s current ailing economy, but also to power prosperity for decades to come.
In coming days, we will be making a number of specific proposals for ways that the new administration can move quickly to achieve these goals and realize the clean opportunity.