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October 17, 2012 / Todd Larsen

There’s No Debate: Clean Energy Is the True Path to Energy Security

In last night’s debate, Governor Romney and President Obama both responded to a question regarding high gas prices by talking about the need to create more energy in the United States.  To the extent that their answers (particularly Governor Romney’s) highlighted increased fossil fuels production in the US as a solution, the American public was misled.  In reality, the only way the United States is going to get stable energy prices, and true energy security, is by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy in the US.

Increasing domestic oil drilling and production is meaningless to energy security, since oil is traded on a global market, and the US can’t do much to control its price.  Increased drilling also risks more catastrophic oil spills, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps us addicted to oil (which will undermine our long-term energy security).  Increasing other fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal, is also short-sighted, since both are finite, and the economic (and environmental) damage of using them exceeds any benefits.  Only renewable energy promises true energy security, since no one can own the sun, the wind, and the tides.  Paired with energy efficiency, which could reduce our overall consumption dramatically, renewable energy can pave the way for a truly sustainable economy. However, while the pathway for energy efficiency and clean energy has been looking increasingly bright over the past decade, the future of these crucial technologies is now in jeopardy.

Since 2004, global investments in clean energy have risen every year at a steady rate. New technology and strong returns have made the renewable energy market robust over the past decade. But new reports are starting to illuminate the fact that 2012 has a good chance to be the first year that does not show an increase in clean energy investments since Bloomberg started tracking data in 2004.

Third-quarter global investment in clean energy was $55.6 billion, which was down 5 percent from the second quarter and down 20 percent from the third quarter of 2011.  The year to date total for clean energy investments, $164.2 billion, is down over $30 billion from last year’s pace. The main shortfall has been caused by the lack of utility-scale renewable projects being supported, partially because manufacturing plants are worried about the impending expiration of the Production Tax Credit in the US. This credit has helped wind energy thrive in recent years and without it, wind producers would struggle to make energy that is cost effective.

Producers in the U.K. and Italy have experienced similar problems with uncertainty in the clean energy market, which illustrates the fact that there are many factors that have contributed to the global decline seen in 2012.

The lessons for the United States are clear.  If the US increases our support for clean energy, including renewal of the Production Tax Credit, we can reverse the declines we are seeing in 2012, create a secure energy future at home, and create a competitive clean energy sector that will compete in the broader world.

Thanks to Matt Jennings for research and writing

8 Comments

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  1. mollymay5 / Oct 18 2012 8:54 am

    100% agree with this post. Sustainability is the only way to a better future – there really is no debate. We have similar current climate debates in Australia and the backlash and criticism of the new Carbon Tax. But in time I think we will find that our future is more secure because of it.

    • Todd Larsen / Oct 18 2012 11:59 am

      The progress made in Australia is really exciting. It’s essential in all countries that citizens understand the need for reducing carbon emissions — both to address climate change and to create energy security and jobs. People fear that adopting clean energy and energy efficiency will lead to economic harms, when, in fact, they are already leading to a more prosperous economy in the countries that are leaders in adopting these technologies.

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