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Archive for May, 2012

In Writing Cleantech’s Obituary, is Washington Writing Our Country’s?

May 30th, 2012

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By Stephan Dolezalek and Josh Freed

Whether it’s major Capitol Hill media Web sites or Congressional hearings, many in Washington seem consumed these days by the question of whether the clean technology sector is viable. The real issue is not whether solar, wind, biofuels or other cleantech will succeed. They will not only succeed; globally, these new technologies will come to dominate the power sector on a long-term basis. The issue is whether the U.S. will lead or follow and whether the jobs and economic growth represented by these industries will be here or elsewhere.

Renewables Dominate New Generation

Renewables already represent roughly half of the annual new additions to power generation globally. The difference between seeing renewables as a tiny percentage of current total electricity production and realizing that these newer, clean technologies already represent 50% of everything being added to the grid is huge. Technologies that reach more than half of net new deployments do not decline, they tend to accelerate.  So for the “some of everything, including a little bit of renewables” crowd, the reality is that the simple passage of time will lead to “some of everything and a lot of renewables.” Read the rest of this entry »

How to Get Safe New Drugs Quickly

May 24th, 2012

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In a rare moment of bipartisanship on a health care issue, the Senate is poised to pass the Food & Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187). This bill would continue the very successful practice of collecting user fees from drug and device companies so that the FDA has enough money to swiftly approve new products. Leaders in both parties have worked closely together to bring this bill to the floor despite a highly charged atmosphere on Capitol Hill. We are glad to see that the bill will continue to ensure the economic and health benefits of a robust FDA approval process for years to come.

The only remaining obstacle in the Senate is a handful of highly controversial floor amendments that go beyond the scope of the legislation. They address issues like the reimportation of drugs from Canada and other countries, legal battles over brand name drugs turning generic, and changes to penalties for violations of the FDA Act. Adoption of any of these amendments in this legislation would threaten the future of the bill. The House, which has yet to act, would have every reason to include its own set of controversial amendments, making final passage of the legislation difficult, if not impossible, before the September 30, 2012 deadline. Delay as a result of controversial riders would therefore force the FDA to lay off thousands of employees involved in medical drug approvals, causing lengthy delays as well as widespread economic uncertainty.

The Senate can start reversing the country’s record low regard of government by passing the Food & Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. Third Way urges Congress to pass this legislation without poison pill amendments.

Who’s the Boss?

May 23rd, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

Will Mitt Romney or the Republicans in Congress define the Republican message this year? That’s a big problem for the Romney campaign. It’s beginning to look like congressional Republicans want to put Romney in office so he can sign off on the Tea Party agenda–their agenda, not his.

“We’re not a cheerleading squad,” a freshman House Republican told The New York Times. “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.”

No, they’re not. The party’s presidential candidate is supposed to drive the train. He’s the leader. Congressional Republicans are supposed to be the followers. And, yes, the cheerleading squad. If Romney can’t establish pre-eminence over his own party, how can he lead the country? Or the world? Read the rest of this entry »

Cut Medical Mistakes in Half by 2017 to Save Lives and Money

May 23rd, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on the Atlantic.

Medical mistakes are dangerous, costly, and often hidden until it’s too late. Patients do their best not to think about them, because of their need to trust in their doctors. Who wants to study a surgeon’s error rates right before going under the knife? For their part, doctors don’t like to admit they erred, especially when they might get sued. But a culture that avoids confronting mistakes will only perpetuate them.

Medical leaders and patient groups have made some progress reducing one type of error: infections contracted in hospitals. Organizations like the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and medical schools like Johns Hopkins University have engaged and educated doctors and nurses about preventing these infections. Consumers Union and other patient groups have won enactment of legislation in 30 states to require hospitals to report how often their patients contract a preventable infection. Congress has provided funds for additional infection reporting in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result of all of this effort, infection rates are declining. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found declines of as much as 58 percent for various hospital infections over the last several years. Read the rest of this entry »

Improving capability, protecting budget

May 21st, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on National Journal.

As Third Way explains in a digest being released this week by our National Security Program, the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce energy demand and find alternative energy sources could keep rising fuel costs from encroaching on the budgets of other important defense programs. And the payoff could be massive. The Air Force has already been able to implement behavioral and technology changes that will reduce its fuel costs by $500 million over the next five years. The Army has invested in better energy distribution systems at several bases in Afghanistan, which will save roughly $100 million each year. And, using less than 10% of its energy improvement funds, the Department has begun testing advanced biofuels for ships and planes. This relatively small investment could eventually provide the services with a cost-effective alternative to the increasingly expensive and volatile oil markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting Mitt Romney in a world of Bain

May 18th, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on Politico.

‘More to come.’

That’s what a source close to the Obama campaign told POLITICO about the ad attacking Mitt Romney’s record as chief executive officer of Bain Capital. This is not a one-week story. It’s going to be the central narrative of the Obama campaign.

Why are Democrats so confident they can win on the anti-Bain issue? Because it hits Romney on the defining theme of his campaign: Romney’s claim that he’s a turnaround artist.

His business experience is supposed to prove that he knows how to turn the U.S. economy around. Didn’t Bain Capital turn around failing businesses? Didn’t Romney turn around the nearly bankrupt Winter Olympic Games in 2002?

Bain Capital is a private investment firm. The purpose of a private investment firm is not to create jobs. It’s to create wealth. For whom? For its investors. Sometimes creating wealth means creating jobs. But often it means eliminating jobs — closing companies, sending jobs overseas. The Democrats are rushing to get that argument out first.

Read the rest of this entry »