Among the cost-cutting measures in its 2010 budget, the White House has 86’d longstanding subsidies to the oil and gas industries—casualties of both the swollen deficit and a larger initiative towards clean energy. And that initiative, an Obama talking point since the campaign trail, is being presented as more than just an environmental opportunity.
In order to get the public and congress behind the initiative, the White House is conspicuously linking clean energy with job creation. As President Obama said in his State of the Union, “we should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.”
Key non-governmental groups on the left are also aggressively promoting this “green economy of the future.” The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently unveiled a star-powered ad campaign with Leonardo DiCaprio, Forrest Whitaker, Emmy Rossum and others exhorting US citizens to pressure congress into passing “a comprehensive clean energy policy that will repower our economy and fuel our future.”
In the clip, ubiquitous in the liberal blogosphere, Edward Norton warns that “the question isn’t whether the jobs of the 21st century will be centered around clean renewable energy. The only question is: which country will be the leader in creating those new jobs and industries? Will it be America? Will it be us?”
This competitive urgency is nothing new. In a July 2009 editorial (“Can I Clean Your Clock,” New York Times), Thomas Friedman presented the issue in the same light:
“China is increasingly finding that it has to go green out of necessity...and when China starts to do that in a big way — when it starts to develop solar, wind, batteries, nuclear and energy efficiency technologies on its low-cost platform — watch out. You won’t just be buying your toys from China. You’ll be buying your energy future from China.”
And this point, bound to resonate in a country with a crippled job market and a precarious position atop the global economy, is not lost on the Obama administration. In fact, his State of the Union can be read as a spur to the hindquarters of our nascent clean energy economy: “China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations are not standing still.”
Recent data from the Global Wind Energy Council supports the claim: in 2005, the United States was installing five times more wind energy capacity annually than China. In 2009, China installed 31% more.
Unfortunately, and despite the efforts of Hollywood and the White House, DC is seemingly content doing exactly that: standing still.