Finally, we have a lively presidential debate squabble over energy, and it’s about who can drill for more oil. Sad.
President Barack Obama missed another golden opportunity to sell the American public on a clean energy economy that could bless us with economic prosperity and continued world leadership. With the proper investments, the United States could easily be the world leader in clean energy technology and energy efficiency—as we export clean and efficient technologies to developing nations for decades. What an economic boon we are sitting on.
We know Obama wants to go there. We know he still needs to show America the way forward to clinch this election. So why be so meek about laying out the plan for clean technologies that can transform the world, when Americans have consistently showed a strong majority interest in developing clean energies? According to poll release before the first presidential debate, as reported in USA Today:
Nine out of 10 registered voters (92%) said it was “very” or “somewhat” important for the United States to develop and use solar power, according to an online survey of 1,206 adults released Tuesday by the independent polling firm Hart Research Associates. This support spanned the political spectrum, including 84% of Republicans, 95% of independents and 98% of Democrats.
The question for you is: Should you be cautious like Obama in discussing clean technologies and energy efficiency with clients? Should you be like Obama or not on energy?
Those Darned Complications
Yes, the president had to answer GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s charge that oil and gas drilling on public lands has decreased under Obama. (It has actually increased.) And Romney made another flip-flop concession that he now supports solar energy, after he has campaigned to slash government help for these programs and his running mate Paul Ryan in last week’s vice presidential debate essentially labeled all green energy funding as corrupt.
There are also the can-of-worms topics like Solyndra, the solar manufacturer that went under after receiving government millions. Now, too, we have battery maker A123 filing for bankruptcy. Obama wold rather avoid these topics, because apparently it’s too difficult to explain to the public that only a tiny percentage of clean and green energy companies receiving government funding have failed, and that the success rate far exceeds that of the most successful Wall Street investors. (Obama did say this in the first debate, but like his overall performance, it lacked conviction.)
Let’s also examine why several solar companies have failed: The glut of cheap solar panels from China on the market—which ironically has helped to make the solar industry grow and put panels on more and more rooftops. In any emerging industry like this, early pioneers are going to fall by the wayside. That’s why it’s called the “cutting edge.”
And according to an excellent article on the U.S. solar business in the consistently conservative Wall Street Journal:
After growing 71% this year, the U.S. solar-power industry is likely to grow 21% next year and 25% to 40% a year through 2016, GTM Research predicted.
Other industries should dream of such growth.
So what’s stopping us?
The Story of Energy Efficiency
My own small and relatively conservative town erected a wind turbine a few years ago, and many of the older folks in town who were initially skeptical of such a thing turned out over several days to see the turbine go up. It now provides 5 percent of my town’s power, and those older, initially skeptical folks now largely like our clean energy source. I could almost literally see the changes in our townspeople’s perceptions. (Though I admit it helped that the turbine was largely funded through state and federal grants!)
Conservatives and others also consistently ask me about solar panels for their homes and electric vehicles and even how much my little Honda Insight hybrid gets for gas mileage (40 to 50 mpg, even when driving like a demon!)
People want clean energy and energy efficiency, folks. Mr. Obama may not fully believe it, but it is a winning strategy both economically and politically. If only someone would provide the narrative.