We should have two energy goals as a country: to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and to become the world leader in clean energy technology and services. These goals are important to our national security, to our economy, and to our environment. We can no longer afford to be dragged down by the economic and political impact of dependency on foreign oil, and we can no longer continue to risk surrendering a leadership position in clean energy innovation and manufacturing. This must be among our highest priorities.
Key to these goals is a comprehensive, national energy policy. This is required before we can begin to realize the promise and potential of clean energy and energy independence.
We currently have multiple energy sources -- oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy. The costs, benefits, and efficiencies of these sources of energy are very different and are not appropriately measured and evaluated. We need to consider carefully why we need a new energy policy, understand the most effective way to achieve that policy, and provide incentives to encourage the creation of that vision. Our first priority should be adopting a national approach to this problem. In the development of that approach, a few important themes need to be considered:
*Why Energy Policy?
We need a national energy policy for several reasons: creating jobs, bolstering national security, and improving the quality of our lives. Every decision we make with respect to energy policy should be based on a larger vision and strategy. The lack of a comprehensive national energy policy leaves us dependent on foreign oil -- which comes with a heavy economic and moral cost -- and it represents a missed opportunity on the job creation front. In addition, a national policy will form a blueprint for policies and regulations that create assurance and guidance for companies and entrepreneurs to invest in a clean energy economy.
*Policies that Encourage Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Policies and financial incentives that encourage the United States to use energy efficiently will create a massive industry. We have already seen the benefits of this with the Production Tax Credit in clean energy. Due in part to the PTC, the wind industry has enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 35% in the past five years. This tax credit should be expanded. We should also bring back the Manufacturing Tax Credit, which will facilitate the transformation of American factories. We can create millions of jobs by making residential and commercial properties energy efficient through retrofitting, developing technologies that store and distribute energy more effectively, and transforming renewable energy sources for new uses.
Policies that encourage the energy-efficient economy will have an enormous payback in jobs, savings, productivity, and reduced military burdens. This is the easiest investment for us to make because it does not involve our picking the winner on the production side. No matter what the source -- oil, gas, coal, nuclear, solar, or wind -- energy efficiency means jobs and savings.
*Understanding the True Costs and Real Benefits of Energy Sources
Rarely do we fairly and honestly show the true costs of energy. Do we count health care costs associated with energy sources that pollute? What are the long term financial benefits to Americans of advanced energy investments now? Until we understand all of these costs and impacts, we are not able to decide how best to price and prioritize our various energy sources. We have to change this approach.
*Create a National Energy Agenda and Dialogue
Transforming the United States into a country that is energy-competitive, has safe and secure forms of energy, and uses energy efficiently will fundamentally improve the lives of all Americans. This should be framed as a national imperative and a call to action for the creation and implementation of a comprehensive national energy policy. We need to have a national dialogue that will incorporate all aspects of energy policies and opportunities, while securing a real commitment to solar and wind energies, the electric car, and other solutions.