The big themes in government in this post-election environment revolve around curbing expenditures and cutting deficits. The chatter is loud and the emerging green industry must figure out a way to be heard.
Energy conservation saves money in the long run, but businesses, homeowners and local governments have to find ways to finance the initial costs. The Center for American Progress says it has found at least a partial solution.
Create an Energy Independence Trust.
The Trust would be able to borrow from the U.S. Treasury and help businesses and the rest of the private sector finance clean-energy ventures. That could be combined with regulatory reform to help create jobs and markets, and transmission infrastructure to accelerate development of a green development strategy.
"By encouraging private investment and reforming the energy marketplace, Congress can immediately take action to drive down the cost of clean-energy innovation for consumers, while improving American manufacturing competitiveness and technology leadership," according to the report called, "Cutting The Cost of Clean Energy 1.0."
The study concludes that this approach does not add strain to the federal budget because there are no direct appropriations. As proposed, the Trust would would contain enough reserves to protect the Treasury from loan losses and would offer a variety of financing options, loan guarantees and tax credits that would draw private equity into green energy.
"linking a low-cost financing vehicle with efforts to rationalize and simplify federal and state energy regulations and increase demand through bold clean energy standards could help to organize the broader energy market...," the report states.
The authors don't say this approach should supplant climate legislation, but is a way to help jump-start a new industry that could move the economy into a new direction.
The Center acknowledges the skeptics who will argue that any kind of energy legislation is unlikely with the new Congress, but said that precedent shows otherwise. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law two years after the Republicans gained a strong foothold during the Clinton Administration.
The emerging clean power and energy efficiency industry could benefit us in the San Joaquin Valley in a big way. We have high power bills, low incomes, double-digit unemployment, and huge swaths of former farmland that can become sites for solar and other forms of green power in one of the nation's dirtiest air regions.
Studies show that minimal investment could yield maximum returns, especially in cutting power bills. The Valley also is ripe for an explosion of green-energy jobs, according to this report from a University of California, Merced, professor.
Saving money, conserving energy and creating jobs. What a combination.