The Republican and Democratic National Conventions mark the beginning of the end for the 2012 presidential campaign and – one hopes – the end of a regrettable chapter in American politics: a time when supporting real economic growth by encouraging American entrepreneurs became less important than throwing political punches.
For the better part of a year, politicians have paid lip service to aiding entrepreneurship, arguing that to pull our economy out of a recession we need to support small businesses and growing industries. Despite this, one sector filled with entrepreneurship and successful companies has been maligned, ignored, and in some instances vilified (Solyndra being the most prominent example). What’s so wrong with the U.S. solar, wind, biofuels and other clean, renewable energy industries?
It’s long past time to move beyond the accusatory politics of misrepresented facts and return to the bipartisan collaborative spirit that has driven clean energy’s success in this country. With less bad politics and more good policy, the sector can rapidly expand and make America a world leader in clean, renewable energy technology.
The fact is that the U.S. renewable energy industry is far stronger today than it was when the bipartisan Energy Policy Act passed in 2005; since then private investment has leveraged government support and both have played an important role in the industry’s success. Overall last year, U.S. solar installations doubled. Since 2007, 35 percent of all new electricity-generating capacity in the U.S. came from wind power. And last year, America produced 14 billion gallons of biofuels – double the amount of oil we import from Venezuela.
The U.S. now leads global clean energy investment, and clean technology is the leading venture capital category. Recent weeks have seen the announcement of hundreds of millions of dollars in new private investments in these technologies. For example, on July 25 investment bank Credit Suisse announced $300 million in new funding for rooftop solar installers SunRun and SolarCity. That is in addition to more than $120 billion in commitments to renewable energy by Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and other major financial institutions.