Financing Clean Energy Technologies

July 15, 2008
11:40 AM
“This is a hearing on two proposals to support financing for deployment of new clean energy technologies. We’ve had a number of hearings in the Committee on the energy challenges we face in the coming decades, and we’ve developed a number of good ideas so far.  I believe both of these bills and this hearing provide a solid basis for discussing next steps.
“I have heard people say we need a new Apollo Project or Manhattan Project to produce the clean energy technologies we need.  These are useful analogies, as both projects achieved their goal.  But I believe this analogy is incomplete.  As I believe I’ve heard Mr. Denniston’s colleague John Doerr say, this challenge requires not only speed but scale.  We can’t simply develop one or a few technological breakthroughs, we’ll have to develop multiple technologies across many sectors of the economy and then deploy them at a pace that is nearly unprecedented in history.  It’s like undertaking 9 or 10 simultaneous Apollo projects or, perhaps more apt, mobilizing the entire country like we did for World War II.
“It’s going to take significant and sustained investment to bring these technologies to a point where they can be deployed on the scale necessary to meet our needs.  That doesn’t have to mean that the government picks the winners and losers – there are ways to be technology neutral in our approach – but it does mean we will have to commit to support and be willing to take some risk that some technologies won’t pan out.  The failure of a technology or two to live up to expectations will inevitably be far less costly than the failure of imagination in declining to try.
“Promising technologies exist that can address our oil security needs, both in reducing our demand for fuel through efficient or electric drive vehicles, and in replacing gasoline with sustainable biofuels.  These two bills we’ll be talking about today are an attempt to accelerate the timetable of moving these technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace. 
“Finally, I believe this investment can’t wait.  Our commitment must be more than a promise to find revenues in the future when a CO2 emissions reduction program is up and running.  We
certainly would not address any national security concern that way.  The needs are immediate and our response must be correspondingly urgent.   
“If we fail to make the investments necessary to meet this challenge, I believe we risk passing on to our children a fundamentally more dangerous, less prosperous, inhospitable, and ecologically diminished world than the one we inherited from our forebears -- the very antithesis of the American dream.   It is a significant challenge; and one we have shied away from for too long. If we meet the challenge, however, our grandchildren may look back on us, and this time, with the same pride we feel in our ‘greatest generation.’”
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