A Bipartisan Opportunity in Advanced Energy Manufacturing

March 27th, 2013

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Our nation’s history is proof that manufacturing jobs lead to middle-class growth. At roughly the same time manufacturing’s share of the total workforce dropped from 20% to 9%, the middle class has shrunk from 61% of the U.S. population to 51%. While the U.S. manufacturing sector has recovered 500,000 jobs since early 2010, a major opportunity is surfacing in the clean energy sector. A $7 trillion clean energy market is developing around the world, and clean energy manufacturing provides an opportunity to renew and modernize our manufacturing sector.

The Obama Administration is already moving to help companies seize the clean energy opportunities. The Department of Energy is launching a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI), focused on growing American manufacturing of clean energy products. Led by Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the initiative includes modern analysis of the global clean energy manufacturing supply chain to inform the Department’s future funding decisions. This is a program that will empower companies to use our nation’s competitive advantages for their and America’s gain. It is ensuring our government is the most-well-informed government in the world and can help American companies out-compete the likes of China, South Korea, or Germany.

Foreign governments are moving quickly to get ahead of the U.S. by adopting policies to encourage development of their own clean energy manufacturing sectors. China is implementing a carbon market and Germany has a feed-in tariff to promote domestic markets that buy from domestic manufacturers. The French government actively promotes nuclear exports to compete in the global market against nations like South Korea and Russia. The U.S. should act to get a piece of the action.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, that there is a huge market developing around clean products. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global investment in the clean energy sector has grown nearly 500% since 2004 to over $260 billion, and trillions more will be invested in the years to come. Today the U.S. accounts for about 20% of all manufactured goods made in the world. If we captured that same percentage of the new clean energy market, we could grow our GDP by roughly 4-6%, adding jobs and accelerating our recovery from the Great Recession.

At its core, DOE’s CEMI is about increasing taxpayers’ economic return on their investments in clean energy, and ensuring our clean energy manufacturing sector is built smartly. The CEMI is an important tool government will provide the private sector to compete in the global economy.