Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was host to former Michigan Governor Granholm who spoke at MIT’s reception on clean-energy innovation. During her speech, she set out a plan that she said would get support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Former Governor Granholm spoke of four priorities that the nation needed to follow. First, she advocated setting “a national renewable energy standard”. Under this new standard the United States would commit to increasing the amount of energy from renewable resources to 20 percent by 2020.
Increasing the energy generated from renewable resources to 20 percent by 2020 has been a goal of the European Union since 2007 when the European Commission published “ a Renewable Energy Roadmap”. This led to the adoption by the European Union of “a new Renewables Directive in April 2009, which set individual targets for each member state.”
Second, she proposed increasing the energy efficiency of our industrial plants. Currently, most power plants in the U.S. lose 50 percent of their energy in wasted heat. If that heat was captured and used as an additional source of power, Granholm claimed it would be enough to power Japan. She used a French company named Veolia Energy as an example of what could be accomplished. The company makes a heat/power system that is 90 percent efficient.
Her third priority was to have 25 percent of the automobile market be electric vehicles by 2020. This would mean increasing the necessary infrastructure to support electric vehicles. This initiative would promote job growth in related industries like battery manufacturers.
In order to accomplish her plan a fourth priority would be necessary and that would be increased funding for ARPA-E, “the U.S. Department of Energy’s agency for investment in innovative energy technology.” She proposed raising the budget for the agency from $3.8 billion per year to $16 billion a year.
This one could be more difficult to achieve. Last week Congress approved a budget that would cut $6 billion from the $29.5 billion requested for the entire Department of Energy. How much of that was to be apportioned to ARPA-E is not clear.
Granholm quoted a national survey that:
“Eighty-four percent of Americans want to see a national energy policy that encourages renewable energy and efficiency,” a number that includes 74 percent of Republicans, and even a majority of Tea Party members.
That’s good news because the United States has fallen from the number one producer of clean technology to number three last year behind China and Germany.
According to Xinhua and Spiegel Online, Germany has a booming economy while the U.S. is on the edge of a double dip recession. How did Germany accomplish this? In part by overtaking the U.S. as a major producer of clean technology that it exports around the world. Investment in Germany is also seen in the industrial and construction sector, not just exports. Rather than a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, Germany’s is only 6.9 percent which is expected to drop to 6.5 percent next year.
The Guardian asserts that the reduction in unemployment and increase in its economy is based on the fact that Germany actually manufactures products and unlike England and the United States doesn’t rely primarily on the financial sector
The New York Times reported that Germany has agreed to close it’s nuclear plants by 2022 and will rely on renewable energy instead. According to Seeking Alpha, Germany already produces 17 percent of its energy from renewable resources which it intends to increase to 35 percent by 2020 while shutting down it’s nuclear power plants. Germany already leads the world in solar energy and is expecting to increase it’s percentage of energy produced by wind turbines significantly to reach it’s 35 percent by 2020.
Former Governor Granholm’s plan to increase the percentage of renewable energy use in the United States to 20 percent by 2020 is not unattainable. On the contrary, according to researchers Mark Delucchi and Mark Jacobson, the world could actually achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, but massive changes in environmental policies world wide.
The European Union has begun that shift and on it’s way to reaching its 20 percent by 2020 goal and Germany with one of the best economies in the world is set to surpass that goal. Further policies need to be implemented to reach 100 percent but at least some of the world has set definite goals and not just guidelines.
What America needs is to get back into actually manufacturing items here at home. The United States has outsourced most of its manufacturing to other countries. We have the ingenuity and the manpower to produce innovative green technologies for the rest of the world. And while we are doing that, we will be improving our economy, reducing unemployment and increasing our ability to remain a leading nation in science and industry.
Photo: Justin Knight/MIT