Running for First in the Clean-Energy Race

By Daniel J. Weiss and Susan Lyon in the Center for American Progress, January 28 2010

President Barack Obama reiterated in his State of the Union address last night his vision to get America running on clean energy. “Providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future,” he said, “because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”

He used the annual address to advocate for a clean-energy investment agenda that would create jobs and reduce carbon pollution. The Obama administration’s efforts began on January 20, 2009, and it has already produced benefits. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which became law on February 17, 2009, includes $70 billion for clean-energy investments and will create nearly 900,000 new clean-energy jobs. One million low-income homes will be weatherized because of ARRA, and wind, solar, and other renewable electricity generation will double by 2012. ARRA also included $20 billion in clean-energy tax cuts for wind and solar power investments and the purchase of ultraefficient cars.

President Obama made it clear that more is needed for short-term recovery and long-term economic growth. He proposed to “put more Americans to work building clean-energy facilities—and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean-energy jobs.” The latter program would promptly create jobs in retail sales and construction. And it could be a down payment for a program to retrofit 50 million buildings—40 percent of all buildings—by 2020. Accomplishing this larger goal would create 625,000 jobs and save the typical family $300 to $1200 in lower electricity bills.

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