Despite the ongoing tragedy in the Gulf, there is still a glimmer of hope to be found amid the devastating oil spill: real attention is finally being paid to the need for a clean energy transition, and at the highest levels of government no less. In a speech delivered at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh last Wednesday, President Obama reiterated his appeal to Congress to pass a climate change bill this year. While he recognizes that the votes may not be there right now, he “intends to find them in the coming months,” which is exactly the kind of assertiveness the renewable energy movement has been lacking of late. A story in the Washington Post last week referred to his remarks as a “clear step up from his rhetoric in recent months,” an encouraging sign indeed. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), one of the co-authors of the American Power Act that was unveiled last month, noted that when “the president throws down the gauntlet, and puts his prestige on the line and puts the full weight of the White House behind it, we can do big things." We hope he’s right.
As Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess this week, it is important that the Administration does not let up on its insistence to pass energy reform this year. America’s addiction to fossil fuels is hardly sustainable from an energy perspective, and our potential for renewables in this country is huge. The southwestern United States, for example, is one of the world’s best regions for sunlight, which has nearly two thousand hours of peak sunlight each year. In addition, the wind industry is expected to add 165 GW of new capacity through 2025, according to a new report from IHS Emerging Energy Research. So clearly our transition to a clean energy economy has not been held up by a lack of renewable energy supply. Rather, it’s been an inability on the part of our leaders to focus on the policies that will drive that transition: sustained public sector investment in clean energy technology; incentives and infrastructure for the private sector to invest and bring scale to this market; a renewable electricity standard with teeth; a financing mechanism to encourage major energy technology projects; and, finally, a price on carbon that reflects the true costs of fossil fuels, including the environmental costs we’re seeing first-hand in the Gulf region.
We at Applied Materials stand behind the President’s “embrace of a clean energy future” and look forward to a productive collaboration between the Administration and Congress in the coming weeks. It was encouraging to hear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid state his intention to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the Senate floor in July and we will be working hard to continue to make the case to those Senators still on the fence. As President Obama mentioned more than once in his speech, the time has come.
Click here to read the full version of President Obama’s speech