Dan Seligman is the National Campaign Director for the Apollo Alliance , a coalition of labor unions, environmentalists, civil rights groups and business promoting a moon-shot program for energy independence that will create clean energy and good jobs, and Satya Rhodes-Conway is an outreach specialist for the Center on Wisconsin Strategy , home of the Apollo Strategy Center, which produced the report, New Energy for States.
President George W. Bush's visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., raises more questions than it answers about his commitment to ending our nation’s oil addiction.
Over the weekend, the Bush administration came up with $5 million to save the jobs of 32 NREL staff, including eight researchers. The last-minute rescue was poignant, if politically calculated. However, the rest of America is still waiting for the president to outline an actual plan to accomplish the giant goal of reducing dependence on Mideast oil.
To get started, the president might check out what governors and state legislatures are cooking up in state governments—the proverbial laboratories of American democracy.
Taken together, innovations from the states provide the foundation of a national program that rapidly reduces our dependence on foreign oil while creating good jobs for America’s workers. Such a program will also create the cutting-edge technology necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions and restore the environment. If the president really wants to end our addiction to oil, all he needs to do is turn the states’ leadership into a national commitment—by creating a federal program that amplifies the best of those practices.
He has many examples to choose from. Almost half of the states have enacted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources over time. The majority of state RPS laws have been codified through the raditional legislative process. Colorado, however, made history by becoming the first state to establish an RPS through a ballot measure. Colorado’s RPS requires that 10 percent of the state’s retail electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. The law also strongly supports solar markets by requiring 4 percent of the RPS to be met with solar technology.
Arizona, Vermont, North Carolina and 21 other states have adopted creative public-private funding mechanisms that make investments in clean energy initiatives without straining budgets or raising taxes. New York, Missouri and Hawaii are just of the few of the states with aggressive programs to replace oil imports with homegrown fuels.
In 2002, Minnesota enacted the nation’s first biodiesel mandate, requiring that nearly all diesel fuel sold in the state contain at least 2 percent biodiesel by 2005. Minnesota also recently adopted a mandate requiring all gasoline to contain 20 percent ethanol by 2013.
These are just a few of the examples that are documented in a new report issued by the Apollo Alliance. The report, called “New Energy for States ,” outlines the best state-based clean energy solutions the president can adopt nationally. We offer it to the president, along with our 10-point plan, as blueprint for ending our addiction to foreign oil.
Even if the president decides not to accept this offer, he has real policy alternatives already available in Congress. A bill offered by Sens. Lieberman, Brownback and Bayh would set us on a path toward reducing our oil imports by 10 million barrels per day. At the same time, the bill would preserve and create good jobs in the automotive and biofuels industries, thereby taking steps towards solving America’s fossil fuel addiction and creating new opportunities for working people. Last summer, Sen. Barack Obama offered another strategy. Obama introduced a bill that would achieve better fuel economy in vehicles while helping to relieve staggering legacy costs on American automakers, again attacking our oil problems while growing and industry that has been an engine of middle-class lives in America.
The concept of making a national commitment to energy independence is wildly popular to the American public. But a commitment implies investment, and marshalling all of the resources available to us to support a program that can achieve that goal. The president has recognized the problem. Will he do what it takes to fix it?
You can read the full report "New Energy for States" here.