Innovation is the engine of American prosperity. Economists now recognize that up to 80 percent of modern economic growth arises from technological innovation – the process of developing new knowledge and harnessing those discoveries to create better commercial products, more competitive industries, and well-paying jobs.
Today, energy innovation is a national imperative. The United States must rapidly develop cleaner, cheaper, and more scalable forms of power to compete in the global clean energy race which is predicted to grow to $2.3 trillion by 2020. The nations that develop, deploy, and export these technologies stand to make large economic gains.
However, the private sector cannot meet these challenges alone. As we have in the past with paradigm-shifting discoveries such as the Internet, space exploration and biotechnology, public sector investment is necessary and instrumental to meet new challenges. The U.S. federal government must play an essential role in creating emerging energy technologies to help reduce the nation’s vulnerability to volatile oil markets and expand high-tech manufacturing.
Global energy demand is expected to grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 25 years, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. If the power needs of the next generation are met with existing fossil fuel technologies, the consequences will be grave: More expensive and volatile energy markets, greater risk of foreign military entanglements, rising damages to public health, and costly environmental instability. Through a renewed national commitment to clean energy innovation, however, the United States is positioned to reap enormous benefits – and minimize serious dangers.
Today, countries like China and Germany are moving quickly to capture this market opportunity. Fortunately, the United States still possesses unrivaled innovation capacity, from world-renowned research universities to deep venture capital markets. With a focused effort, the nation can unleash its scientific and technological leadership to drive down the cost of clean energy, manufacture and deploy these products domestically, and export them abroad—all while enhancing our security, health, and environment.
To help seize this opportunity, Americans for Energy Innovation, a project of the Pew Clean Energy Program, will build support for federal policies that drive innovation in clean energy technologies to strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness. This initiative seeks to expand federal investments in research, development and demonstration of new energy discoveries, with the long-term goal of tripling the federal budget to $15 billion annually.