The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved legislation that could help build a cleaner-energy economy for the United States, writes U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island. The New Apollo Energy Project, if enacted, will spur technological innovation that will reduce dependency on foreign oil and help meet the climate change challenge.
AS the space-shuttle program ends, some people question whether America still has the guts for bold new projects, in space or elsewhere. The House Energy and Commerce Committee answered that question affirmatively last week, when we launched an adventurous new national project to build a clean-energy economy for the United States and the world.
My colleagues may not have recalled the first Apollo project as they set a cap on carbon and set national goals for clean-electricity production. But having called for a New Apollo Energy Project seven years ago, I saw the similarities between the two innovation revolutions. Last time, we went to the moon. This time, our technological genius and entrepreneurial zeal will turn to the task of saving this planet.
This action came just in time. The immediate need for job creation is self-evident. Our dependency on oil continually creates security risks. Most threatening of all is the specter of uncontrolled climate change.
The committee responded. We adopted a comprehensive plan to kick-start the growth of new companies in this field and give rise to millions of clean-energy jobs.
First, we adopted a national goal of providing Americans 15 percent of their electricity from clean sources. This built on the success of Washington’s energy initiative I-937, which led the way for the country.
Second, we placed a binding cap on national carbon emissions and required polluting industries to obtain pollution permits. We know this system works. Twenty years ago, we put a cap on sulphur-dioxide emissions and required pollution permits to rein in the problems of acid rain. Acid rain decreased by 45 percent at half the predicted cost and a new industry began to help solve acid-rain problems worldwide.
The cap will bring economic rationality and growth by fairly charging polluters for emissions, leveling the playing field between dirty and clean sources of energy. Clean energy will then be competitive with dirty sources, and investment flows to clean-tech companies. The cap will bring economic growth because the investment spurs the new technologies that we then sell to a world hungry for ways to stop global warming and ensure a renewable energy future.
Third, we adopted measures to assure that new businesses get off the ground, using several amendments I sponsored. My clean-energy bank will help new businesses across the financial valley of death between venture-capital financing and construction funds needed for the first commercial plants. The Washington State University Energy Program will manage the Pacific region office of the National Bioenergy Partnership, created by my amendment to coordinate regional bioenergy research efforts. Highly efficient transmission technology, which enables the smart grid to grow, benefits from my loan-guarantee amendment.
Jobs will sprout here in Washington as a result of this bill. The Infinia Corporation in Kennewick, the AltaRock engineered geothermal company by Green Lake, REC Silicon in Moses Lake and Boeing all have a chance to grow their businesses as a result of this bill. The list goes on.
How do we know this will work? We know because Americans are the most creative, innovative and entrepreneurial people in world history. Because we have the tools to harness this creativity and provide the investment it needs, we will be as successful as the original Apollo Project was.
This does not mean our bill is perfect, but it is a good start. The bill insulates trade-sensitive companies from harm by shielding energy-intensive industries like aluminum and paper products from job losses. Funds from the auction of pollution permits recycle back to low-income Americans to pay utility bills. This plan was built for the real world.
The original Apollo Project was launched by President John F. Kennedy in a speech to the U.S. Congress, with fanfare. Its progeny, the New Apollo Energy Project, was launched quietly in a nondescript committee room by largely unknown members of Congress. But the result will be the same — American technological revolution.
U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District.