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Keeping America Competitive: Innovation and Clean Energy

Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, outlines the President's plans to win the future by building a clean energy economy here at home.
President Barack Obama Tours Orion Energy Systems, Inc

President Barack Obama watches as an operator demonstrates the final stage of light fixture assembly during a tour of Orion Energy Systems, Inc in Manitowoc, Wisc., Jan. 26, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

One of the key challenges we face today is ensuring that America stays economically competitive with countries across the globe, so that the jobs and industries of the future are created here in the United States. Fortunately, we know how to win this race; we know what this moment requires. And in his State of the Union address last week, the President laid out his vision for winning the future – a vision that emphasized the role of innovation.

For generations, American creativity, imagination, and hard work has fostered broad prosperity and made our nation’s economy the largest in the world. Now, we must summon that same spirit of ingenuity, not only to create new jobs and industries, but to strengthen our security and to protect public health and our environment. That is why President Obama is committed to building a new clean energy economy here at home – because the nation that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century.

Already, the Administration has taken historic action to promote a clean energy economy. The Recovery Act included a $90 billion investment in clean energy, which has already created nearly 225,000 clean energy jobs and is putting the United States on pace to double renewable energy generation by 2012. Over the last year alone, the Department of Interior green-lighted the first nine commercial-scale solar energy projects for construction on public lands, including the largest solar power plants in the world. We have also helped break our dependence on oil by investing in biofuels and developing aggressive new fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, which will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

To build on this progress, the President introduced a number of ambitious but achievable proposals his State of the Union address – proposals that will transform America’s energy future through innovation:  

  • Doubling the share of clean electricity in 25 years: Achieving this goal of generating 80% of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 will position the United States as a global leader in developing and manufacturing cutting-edge clean energy technologies. To give utilities the flexibility to generate clean energy in a way that makes the most sense, all clean sources – including renewables, nuclear power, efficient natural gas, and coal with carbon capture and sequestration – would count toward the goal. This will ensure continued growth in the renewable energy sector, building on the progress made in recent years. And it will spur innovation and investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure, catalyzing economic growth and creating American jobs.
  • Put 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015: To reach this ambitious goal, which would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save 750 million barrels of oil through 2030, the President is proposing new efforts to support electric vehicle manufacturing and deployment in the United States. Rebates will make existing electric vehicles more affordable for American consumers, competitive grant programs will encourage communities across the U.S. to develop infrastructure needed to support advanced vehicles, and new investments in research and development will ensure that the world’s most reliable and affordable advanced technology vehicles are made in America.
  • Establishing the United States as the leader in clean energy innovation: The President’s Budget will propose over $8 billion for research, development, and deployment investments in clean energy technology programs. This represents a one-third increase in funding, which will be paid for in part with resources that we now spend on subsidizing fossil fuels. Our clean energy R&D priorities will focus on developing cutting-edge technologies with real-world applications to advance a clean energy economy, increasing industrial and manufacturing efficiency, reducing energy demand in buildings, and reaching our goal of having 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015.

We’re at a critical juncture in our history – it’s something that the President has described as our Sputnik moment. It’s a moment to work together to do what Americans do best: using the skills, talents, and energies of our people to meet the challenges of our time and build a better future for ourselves and for the next generation. In the coming week, you’ll hear more from President Obama on this topic as he spotlights innovators across America who are developing advanced technologies to create jobs and opportunities in new industries of the future.