Daniel Gabis is an associate consultant in APCO’s Energy & Clean Tech and Corporate Responsibility & Sustainable Growth practices and is based in our Seattle office.
Clean energy has gotten a lot of attention in both Washingtons this year. Not only did President Barack Obama prominently address climate change in his inaugural address, but Washington state’s newly elected governor, Jay Inslee, made clean technology a major focus of his own inaugural remarks.
And, less than a week after Inslee’s swearing-in, Washington state’s leading clean tech trade association, the Washington Clean Technology Alliance (WCTA) gathered clean tech leaders from around the state to discuss the future of the industry in the wake of 2012’s elections.
WCTA’s day-long conference featured a keynote address from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and commentary from clean energy experts and policymakers, including U.S. Representative Adam Smith and Governor Inslee. All of us at APCO are proud to have been involved.
One theme resonated throughout the conference: the U.S. needs a sustained commitment to innovation in clean technology to remain competitive in the global economy and to meet the rising challenge of climate change.
In his keynote, Dr. Gates framed the clean energy issue as a part of the U.S.’s larger need for innovation, tying advancements in clean tech to broader issues like science education, funding for basic research and global competitiveness. In Dr. Gates’ words, it will take a commitment to clean tech research and innovation on the scale of the Manhattan Project in order to meet the country’s clean energy needs.
From a business perspective, this means continued investment in clean energy technologies. From a policy perspective, it means government support for research, education programs and targeted investments in clean tech companies.
This level of commitment can make clean tech a significant driver of economic growth – something we have already begun to see with the proliferation of domestic sources of natural gas.
My colleague, Jessyca Sheehan, recently blogged on global energy trends and game changers. Jessyca reported that the U.S. could reach energy independence in as little as 10 to 20 years, thanks mostly to our large natural gas resources. But while alternative energy will continue to grow, these sources are not expected to make up more than a quarter of the global energy portfolio until 2050.
This further underscores the consensus coming out of the WCTA’s conference: the U.S. must make innovations in clean technology a key part of its economic and scientific plans. It’s not only an environmental issue, but is critical for the U.S. to regain and maintain its competitive edge in the global energy marketplace.
Is the U.S. ready for this kind of sustained movement in clean tech? We’re curious to hear your thoughts.