Few issues are now as politically polarizing as the role of government in supporting clean-energy technologies. It pits those concerned about global warming against climate science skeptics; those who see government playing a role in shaping a new industry against those who support a free-market approach; and clean-technology funders and technologists against incumbent energy interests.
These debates only heated up during the presidential campaign, as promises of new clean-technology jobs faced off against reports of failed green technology companies. For some, “clean energy” is synonymous with “government overreach.”
Yet the need is great for domestic energy production that is reliable, safe and affordable. The United States needs innovative solutions that help Americans use energy more wisely.
The first critical step, particularly in today’s political climate, is to recognize that previous efforts, no matter how well intentioned, need to be updated. There are smarter ways to support important innovations without pushing us over the “fiscal cliff.” Clean technologies are likely to be the next great industry and economic success story. Whether that happens in the United States or not is up to us.
The question now is how to do this in a financially prudent way. There are no more blank checks, and no more patience for promises of green jobs. The Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deadline is just the first in a series of bracing negotiations over government spending and tax policies. Given this environment, there is little doubt that clean-technology funding and support will be put to the test.