Blogs, Solar

Political Debate, Media Coverage Masks Truth About Clean Energy

Public debate about America’s clean energy policies will heat up even more after Thursday.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify to Congress about the current administration’s solar energy subsidy program, particularly in regards to bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra.

Chu will face a lot of tough questions from Republicans, who are demanding reform in the wake of Solyndra’s bankruptcy and subsequent loss of taxpayer money, to the tune of nearly $400 million.

According to the media coverage surrounding renewable energy in the U.S., the wedge has never been greater between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, the left and right, in regards to America’s energy future.

Except it’s not true.

Last month, an independent poll showed that 9 out of 10 Americans (89 percent) support clean energy, specifically solar. Furthermore, Americans believe that solar should be awarded the same federal tax credits and grants that traditional energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal receive. To be exact, 71 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats feel this way. That doesn’t sound like a crisis of political divide in public opinion if you ask me.

The fact is that clean energy is not about politics, as much as the media likes to focus on bickering on Capital Hill. The clean energy industry is about meeting consumer demand and, increasingly, job creation. The solar industry alone grew nearly 7 percent in from August 2010 to August 2011, 10 times faster than the economy in general. Solar energy now employs over 100,000 Americans across the country; it is expected to add an additional 24,000 jobs in the coming year.

Renewable energy, unlike other aspects of the U.S. economy,  isn’t waiting for politicians to settle their differences before moving forward. An Ernst & Young LLP analysis shows that venture capital investments in U.S. clean tech companies jumped 73 percent to $1.1 billion in the third quarter of 2011 (compared to the same time last year).

It will be interesting to see the result of Energy Secretary Chu’s congressional testimony about Solyndra’s loan guarantee, but more telling will be the public’s reaction, or lack thereof as the case may be.