Clean PR

Clean Tech. PR. Sustainable Business.

Renewable Energy’s $16 billion weekend

This weekend’s news: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed a Democratic rewrite of U.S. energy policy that strips $16 billion in tax incentives away from Big Oil and puts it toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

In a time when it’s standard to see overall clean tech and renewable energy funding or incentives barely put a dent into what’s going into fossil fuels, it’s a big moment when $16 billion is in the same sentence as renewable energy. David Roberts at Grist talked yesterday morning about the need for a national renewable energy standard, highlighting a new 150-page report, “Renewing America: The Case for Federal Leadership on a National RES.” I’m curious what David and the report’s authors think about yesterday evening’s news.

Many states have enforced similar measures but we’ve yet to see big action at a federal level. Reuters sums up how the skeptics feel… House Republican leader John Boehner said the bill “cuts the lifeblood of our economy off at the knees by increasing taxes to pay for green pork projects.” Green pork?

Clean tech, clean energy and whatever else you call them are new industries that need new infrastructure and new innovation. Aside from the often talked about reduced reliance on fossil fuels and global warming benefits of cleaner energy, what gets me excited about this “green pork” are the jobs already being created around the country. The same people talking about green pork are raising red flags about losing U.S. jobs and our ability to compete in a global market. The same way Silicon Valley become a global hub for technology innovation (and helped boost Calif. to become the world’s sixth largest economy), clean energy can do it again for the U.S. It’s a nice goal, right?

Century-old incentives and subsidies are what got fossil fuels to where they are today. Let’s not forget that when we try to compare the real cost of our energy. Those coal plants have had some help along the way (understatement).

How a bill like this could impact the clean tech industry is a good topic for a policy communications expert like Sean Garrett at 463 Communications. Maybe he’ll have something to add…


August 5, 2007 - Posted by | clean energy, environment, global warming, policy


  1. I really am just excited by the thought of green pork. Yum.

    But, really, from a tech policy perspective, the bill is an obvious boost to the sector. However, the industry needs to recognize that this is just like scoring a touchdown in the first quarter. There is lots of game still left on the clock.

    And, the emerging players need to learn from the play book of the “incumbent” energy providers, and provide a consistent stream of information and education about the benefits they can and will provide to ensure that this $16 billion and future earmarks are seen as some of the smartest taxpayer dollars spent around. This also includes demonstrating what the sector is doing and the benefits it is providing outside of the subsidy structure.

    Comment by Sean Garrett | August 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. Great post!

    If the economics don’t work, recycling efforts won’t either.
    As our little contribution to make this economics of recycling more appealing, blogs about people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.

    Comment by Luis | August 30, 2007 | Reply

  3. Fossil fuels consistently get a lot of subsidies because they have consistently delivered massive amounts of cheap, easy to obtain energy. They have been doing so since the 1860’s (in the case of oil)…and no, they didn’t get subsidies to get started. They simply delivered massive economic value quickly to large numbers of people.

    Renewable energy, on the other hand, has a very poor if not atrocious record of delivering on any promises whatsoever. Solar was touted 30 years ago and still comprises almost none of the energy grid of any civilized nation. Wind is being touted now but will likely be a big nothing when we look back 30 years from now.

    The reason for Renewable’s poor performance is very simple: most renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind, are amazingly weak, wimpy, lame energy sources. They just don’t deliver much power. And they never will. That’s just the laws of thermodynamics at work.

    So yes, sad to say it is green pork. 16 billion in subsidies from the feds will produce very little actual energy. Although it will pay for a lot of PR.

    Comment by Jim Freeman | September 18, 2007 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the thoughts, Jim. I agree that solar was touted 30 years ago and delivered poorly. And I suspect the people who have been driving the renewable energy industry for the past 30 years would agree as well. It is why much of the still nascent industry is kick starting in Silicon Valley — where innovation problems as big as this have been addressed many times before. It’s easy to claim that solar and wind are “amazingly weak, wimpy, lame energy sources,” but don’t forget life on earth wouldn’t exist without the sun’s energy. That’s the laws of photosynthesis at work.

    To think that an effort that started and failed in the 1970’s has reached its potential is shortsighted. No one is claiming these renewable energy sources are the answer to all of our energy needs; they are much needed addition to our portfolio. We’re just starting to get the level of funding, research and corporate attention to possibly turn a corner, with our without the approval of naysayers.

    Comment by David Swain | September 18, 2007 | Reply

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