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Unformatted text preview: The Energy Research Imperative AS SOMEONE NOW WORKING FULL TIME IN GLOBAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT, I SEE FIRSTHAND how the U.S. government’s support for scientifi c research has improved people’s lives. That support is vital in another area—affordable, clean energy. I believe it is imperative that the government commit to clean energy innovation at a level similar to its research investments in health and defense. In a time of economic crisis, asking policy-makers in Washington, DC, to spend more money might not be the most popular position. But it’s essential to protect America's national interests and ensure that the United States plays a leading role in the fast-growing global clean energy industry. There is really no other choice. Carbon-based fuels are prone to wild price gyrations and are causing the planet to overheat. The United States spends close to $1 billion a day on foreign oil, while countries such as China, Germany, Japan, and Korea are making huge investments in clean energy technologies. The creation of new energy products, services, and jobs is a good thing wherever it occurs, but it would be a serious miscalculation if America missed out on this singular opportunity. The United States is uniquely positioned to lead in energy inno- vation, with great universities and national laboratories and an abun- dance of entrepreneurial talent. But the government must lend a hand. Market incentives, alone, will not create enough affordable, clean energy to get the nation to near-zero CO 2 emissions, the level of emissions that developed countries must achieve if we are going to keep Earth from getting even hotter.* Moreover, developing major new technologies, where the time frames necessary for true innova- tion stretch past the normal horizons of patent protection, requires up-front investments that are too large for venture capital and tradi- tional energy companies. History has repeatedly proven that federal investments in research return huge payoffs, with incredible associated benefi ts for U.S. industries and the economy. Yet over the past three decades, U.S. government investment in energy innovation has dropped by more than 75%. In 2008, the United States spent less on energy R&D as a percentage of gross domestic product than China, France, Japan, or Canada. Last year, I joined with other business leaders in a call to increase federal investment in energy R&D from $5 billion to $16 billion a year. † (Others, including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, have also recommended substantial increases. ‡ ) Recently, our group, the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), issued a second report outlining ways to ensure that government research dollars are targeted wisely to achieve optimal returns. The report also suggests ways to pay for the increased investment: reducing or eliminating current subsidies to well-established energy industries, diverting a portion of royalties from domestic energy production, collecting a small fee on...
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- Fall '11
- Energy development, Electricity generation, Energy storage