Some choice pieces from an opinion piece by Carl Pope.
At the moment, America lacks any real plan for bringing smart energy solutions into the mainstream, and it's missing out on major job opportunities as a result. Consider the manufacturing of wind turbines as just one telling example. Iron ore mined in northern Minnesota gets shipped abroad to make steel. Danish, German, and Spanish companies then use that steel to make wind turbines. These turbines are then shipped back to the United States on boats through the Great Lakes to Duluth, where they are placed on trucks and hauled to Iowa and other states with great wind resources. America provides the raw material and pays for the finished product but gets almost none of the economic benefit, foregoing increasingly dear manufacturing jobs. As if that isn't enough, NASA invented the technology itself.
Hmm, strange how capitalism can come back and bite you in the ass, eh? Free markets can indeed strip the championing nation of its wealth. But if we were to embrace the future of energy rather than hide behind the slick curtain that will prevent us from maintaining our leadership in the world, then we are only to blame.
America does not have a national plan that requires utilities to produce any power with renewable energy, but it could. And there's no reason why the United States couldn't decide to power 10 million homes with solar roofing. To be most effective, such policies ought to be matched with incentives and publicly assisted financing to get domestic manufacturers on their feet. In fact, there are many, many things this country could be doing to create a home-grown, renewable energy economy. It's been too busy giving subsidies to oil companies to do most of them.
I would second the call placed by Carl to generally plan for our nation's energy future. Do so, and invest the money here, in research and development, manufacturing, sales, and maintenance, and you will create a hybrid industry from the energy/engineering/environmental sectors which will have a market niche and room to grow. There are some states that have already started playing this game.
It's no coincidence that California has set a goal of producing 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has an ambitious initiative aimed at putting solar power on a million roofs in the Golden State in the next 10 years. The state also makes a point of investing its state pension funds in companies that push the green envelope. Earlier this year, Nanosolar, which has seed money from Google executives, announced that it would build the world's largest solar manufacturing facility near San Francisco, creating several hundred new jobs in the process.
If only the rest of the nation could be on board. As a whole, the federal government could wield a huge power, should they chose to, and spark this green revolution off in a positive direction. Here's hoping the tide turns soon.