Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was in town this week to address the Clinton Global Initiative hosted by former President Bill Clinton, where hundreds of business leaders, politicians and nonprofit leaders were brainstorming on job creation.
The two-day session was at the Sheraton-Chicago.
Joined by Laura Lightbody, who is manager of the Clean Energy Program for the PEW Charitable Trust, Granholm talked to the Sun-Times Editorial Board about the "absolute need for government to play a role" if the United States is to be a leader in clean energy. Granholm is senior adviser to the PEW Clean Energy Program.
Granholm, who was preparing to pick up her new Cherolvet Volt, made these points:
- Private sector spending on green energy has risen 634 percent since 2004. Just last year, that came to $234 billion in the G-20 countries.
- Unfortunately, the United States is getting a smaller and smaller cut of that spending. Three years ago, the United States was No. 1 in clean energy spending. Two years ago, it dropped to No. 2 behind China. Last year, it dropped to No. 3 behind China and Germany.
That doesn't bode well for America because as manufacturing jobs in the clean energy field leave, the research and development jobs won't be far behind, Granholm said.
Granholm and PEW are pushing four proposals they offer as scaled-down efforts that politicians of all stripes should be able to get behind.
The first is to get more fuel efficiency and and an expanded grid to recharge electric vehicles. A House bill supporting that concept - HR 1685 - is sponsored by Illinois Republican Judy Biggert.
The second is to offer a 30 percent tax credit to install systems to recapture wasted heat energy in factories and other large energy users. If all the wasted heat energy in the United States was recaptured, Granholm said, it would be enough to supply the power needs of Japan.
Third is to create a national clean energy or renewable energy standard that sends a signal to job providers in the sector that the United States has a market for them.
Fourth is to boost investment in research and development associated with clean energy from the current $3.8 billion or so a year to $15 billion or $16 billion.
"We are not talking about cap and trade, we are not talking about global warming, we are not talking about carbon footprints or anything like that," Granholm said. "We're talking about jobs and gas prices."
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