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Should the U.S. government play a role in American energy use?

Josh Freed's picture
Third way

Joshua Freed directs the Clean Energy Program at Third Way. He focuses on the policies and strategies needed to bring about clean energy reform and to address climate change. Prior to joining...

  • Member since 2018
  • 11 items added with 5,707 views
  • Feb 9, 2012

One of the big questions on the campaign trail today is whether there should be a government role in America’s use of energy. The reality is that energy is one of the most regulated sectors of our economy—the government already plays a huge role driving innovation and investment. The question we should be asking is: since the government has a significant role within energy, in what direction should the government move?

We believe it’s clear: Government needs to move clean energy to the center—of the country and the conversation. This means responsible development of clean, domestic energy sources, ensuring that every region takes advantage of local resources, and that the technology is available to meet the needs of every part of the country.

Like a road trip in a Muppets movie, the U.S. has no clear direction for the country’s energy sector. As such, we are dramatically losing our edge on innovation and finance, and there is uncertainty in the natural gas markets due to low prices and a lack of guidance on how to develop shale gas responsibly.

There’s still hope. We’ve seen strong results when government provides market certainty—an increase in CAFÉ standards will decrease pollution and our reliance on foreign oil, incentives for clean energy sources have brought down costs, the dirtiest coal plants are planning retirement, and the first nuclear reactor in 30 years is being built.

So what should we do, as a nation, to move clean energy to the center?

· We need a long term plan for incentives. Instead of having to renew programs for clean energy every year or two, let’s keep them on the books for 10 years, have a clear sunset date, and give investors, lenders, and businesses some certainty.

· We need to expand the options for clean energy companies to organize themselves. Let’s open Master Limited Partnerships to mature clean energy technologies.

· We need to send a signal for the energy sector to let it know that we’d like to develop clean, domestic energy sources. Let’s implement a clean energy standard and let the market decide which technologies are most cost effective.

By setting long term goals, the U.S. can prioritize innovation, increase exports, decrease costs to consumers, create jobs, boost the economy, and decrease pollution—whether that’s black soot, mercury or carbon pollution. These policies have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, and can move clean energy to the center—of the country, of the political spectrum, and of the conversation.

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