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A Train Ride Tour of Energy Innovation Across America

Matthew Stepp's picture
Center for Clean Energy Innovation

Matthew Stepp is the Executive Director for the Center for Clean Energy Innovation specializing in climate change and clean energy policy. His research interests include clean energy technology...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Sep 19, 2013

American Energy Innovation

In August, I took part in the Millennial Trains Project, a cross-country train tour of seven cities in ten days. The brain child of Georgetown grad Patrick Dowd, the trip brought together 24 millennial age (18-34) thinkers to facilitate their own unique, entrepreneurial projects via 1950’s era trains. My project, Energy Innovation Across America, aimed to bring the stories and perspectives of energy innovators from across the country back to Washington. With energy policy gridlock at an all-time high, I wanted to break out of the D.C. bubble and interact with those that are actually developing next-generation energy technologies.

If there is one immediate takeaway from trip: America is hard at work on clean energy innovations, big, small, and across a full range of low-carbon technologies. The level of creativity and idealism in the scientists and engineers working on new technologies was astounding to witness. Even so, it was clear how important public policy is to these innovators and their projects potential progress. Research budgets, commercialization financing gaps, regulations, and policy reform were common areas of discussion in every city I visited. I could take the energy innovation analyst out of Washington, but I couldn’t take the Washington out of energy innovation.

Over a series of four articles for The Capitol Energy Report, I’ll highlight some of energy innovations and innovators I interacted with along the way. The high-level goals of my project are two-fold: (1) to provide a concise narrative of some of the unique energy innovations advancing across the country; and (2) connect those innovations to policy. Sounds relatively simple, but the connection between America’s energy innovators and Washington policymakers is often seen as (and often is) weak at a time when innovators need more support, not less.

Enjoy at least this condensed, written version of my journey and please visit my Tumblr page for a visual snapshot of my trip.

Pt. 1: Burgeoning Energy Innovation Ecosystem in Utah

Pt. 2: The Mad Scientists at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories

Pt. 3: Mid-west Building World Class Tools to Spur Energy Innovation

Pt. 4: Pittsburgh, From Rust Belt Loser to Clean Energy Leader

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