Let’s put our faith in a new American economy

This piece ran in the Birmingham News, the Montgomery Advertiser, and the Opelika-Auburn News.

While some say we can only have the future we can afford, the problem is hard-working Alabamians cannot even afford the present we have, much less a future based on business-as-usual.

The same is true across the country. The American economy is losing 600,000 jobs a month, and citizens are clamoring for something new.

By this point, we should all be able to agree that the status quo is not working. But new jobs will require developing new industries. In fact, the promise of millions of new good-paying jobs lies within our reach. But it will require moving in a new direction. In short, it will require a new energy policy – one that will make America a global leader in clean energy.

The national energy policy that has guided us for the past 30 years has been an absolute failure: we’ve nearly doubled our dependence on foreign oil, been left vulnerable to price spikes, and failed to invest in promising new technologies. As a result, we have an economy that is exporting jobs and importing ideas and products, which hurts the hard-working families of Alabama the most.

Jobs have exited Alabama at a rapid pace, leaving our state with an unemployment rate of nine percent in April, and some Black Belt counties such as Wilcox at more than 20 percent unemployment. Alabamians can no longer afford business as usual – we need innovation and leadership that will result in a new energy economy in Alabama.

Right now, only about one of every four clean energy companies is based in the United States. Germany’s second largest export, after cars, is wind turbines, and they also deploy nearly half of the world’s solar panels. Even though the U.S. wind industry is booming in the Great Plains and West, more than 70 percent of the turbines popping up across the country were actually built overseas.

This is not the American way.

Investing in clean energy sectors in the United States will not only give us the opportunity to catch up on the skills that many other countries already possess, but it also will allow us to transfer the solid skills that we already have to growing industries.

Right now, the auto industry crisis means that many skilled manufacturers in Alabama are hurting, but an energy plan that includes the development of plug-in electric vehicles will require those same manufacturing skills to make better cars. The same skills that were needed to build homes before the housing collapse will be in demand to retrofit those homes so they don’t waste energy.

Making advancements in clean energy isn’t about the old industries fighting with the new; it’s about adapting our methods to fit our needs. Right now, we need the smart solutions in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) to help us develop better ways of using energy and open up new prospects for our workers.

The American Clean Energy & Security Act would boost production of alternative energy, increase the efficiency of our buildings and homes, and stimulate trillions of dollars of private investment in new technologies and industries. The bill also invests $10 billion in advanced coal technology – putting the U.S. into the game of developing technologies to capture and store pollution from coal, which Southern Company and the U.S. Department of Energy will be studying at a facility in Shelby County.

The bill is set to go before the U.S. House of Representatives this month. Alabamians need our members of Congress to take leadership on finding ways to make this legislation work for strengthening Alabama’s economy, instead of defending the status quo on energy.

Our business-as-usual approach in Alabama has gotten us into an economic mess. Only innovation, and leadership from our Congressional delegation, can set us on a new path that will put people back to work in a clean energy economy, improve national security by keeping jobs and energy sources at home, and reduce environmentally damaging carbon emissions.

Alabama cannot afford business as usual. And we cannot afford to miss the clean energy opportunity and the millions of new jobs it will create. Contact your member of Congress today and let him know you want Alabama, and America, to follow a new clean energy path.

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