Clean Energy Is Key to Our Prosperity

Thursday, 07 Feb 2013 03:37 PM

By Bradley A. Blakeman

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The president will deliver his State of the Union address on February 12. There is no doubt that the State of our Union is weak. Our national growth is stagnant, unemployment is high, consumer confidence is low, our national debt and entitlements are unsustainable, and a vast majority of Americans are fearful of their futures.
 
There is no doubt that the president in his State of the Union will attempt to champion clean energy as his own initiative. He is right to champion clean energy the problem lies in his efforts to achieve it. He seeks to force solutions and pick winners and losers instead of creating incentive and cooperation in the marketplace.
 
Obama uses “clean energy” as a partisan wedge issue. Republicans need to seize the day on clean energy and realize that clean energy is the very key to economic recovery and future prosperity because innovation, ingenuity, and invention is what built America and it is what will sustain us.
 
Now is the time for Republicans to champion common-sense approaches to solving our dependence on fossil fuels.
 
In the 1800s with the invention of the internal combustion engine, (one that runs on fossil fuel) and the adaptation of that engine to people moving, the world was forever changed.
 
By 1896, an American inventor and automobile pioneer named Henry Ford had built his first horseless carriage. Thereafter in 1903 Henry Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company. He saw that this new invention of moving people by engine had the potential to revolutionize America and the world.
 
He knew that an affordable people mover that most Americans could afford and was able to be powered by cheap and abundant fuel would create a new and vast market almost overnight.
 
Henry Ford’s application of the assembly line process of car building was as revolutionary as the invention of the internal combustion engine itself. By 1914, the assembly of a Model T was so effective that it took a mere 93 minutes to build a car.
 
The irony is that if Henry Ford were alive today and went to any local Ford dealer or any other car maker for that matter and popped the hood of any gasoline-powered car he would be shocked, amazed, and disappointed.
 
He would be shocked and amazed at the computerized advancements to the gizmos and gadgets to the enhancement of the driving experience and he would be disappointed that little has changed in the 170 years or so since the invention of the internal combustion engine he manufactured.
 
Why is it that no revolutionary change has come to automobiles operation and efficiency in over 100 years?
 
Well if you like conspiracy theories you would blame the oil companies. You would argue that they did not want to see the demise of the internal combustion engine because of the loss of the market used to fuel them.
 
On the other hand, it can be argued that we got dumb, fat, and lazy. We were content with what we had and were satisfied with incidental improvements to our automobiles that were more geared to our comfort than efficiency. And the abundance of fuel at a relatively affordable price did not make replacement a priority.
 
Now is the time to end subsidies to oil companies and invest that money in new and sensible technologies that will help us make that next great leap in innovation.
 
The great inventions in our lifetime have come in computers. But, where are our other great inventors? How many gas crises must we endure? How much more beholden to foreign sources of fossil fuel must we be? We should want to be clean and more efficient not because it's fashionable but because it makes economic and civic sense.
 
I submit that America needs a “big think” on energy. We need to put government and private resources and incentives toward making the internal combustion energy a thing of the past as soon as possible.
 
When President Kennedy in 1961 challenged America to get to the moon by the close of the decade, we did not have the technology to make that challenge a reality. Many scoffed; however, many more were inspired. Our nation was put to the test.
 
Government incentivized and business delivered. Look at how many of the products we use today were developed out of that effort. Even though President Kennedy was not alive to see his vision become reality, he still gets the credit for having achieved it.
 
Today our government loans tens of billions of dollars to automobile companies for failure. What if our government were to offer billions of dollars for performance?
 
I suggest our government offer a $25 billion tax-free prize to the American car company that can build a car that is clean, (no pollution footprint in design, production, and use), can achieve a range of at least 350+ miles per powering, achieve 60 mph in 7 seconds or less, could be built in numerous marketable configurations, and was affordable to the average American. This prize would sunset in 7 years from the date of its announcement.
 
If America were able to invent the next major innovation to the operation of the automobile, the advancement would be as great if not greater than Henry Ford’s success in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Scraping the internal combustion engine makes sense and should be a national priority.
 
The $25 billion prize that America would award would come back to our treasury many, many times over in revenue produced by this giant leap in technology.
 
In the 1960s many skeptics bitterly critized America’s investment in the race to the moon. They argued that it was not a sure thing and therefore any public monies spent were being gambled and squandered. In retrospect, any government investment was returned through the great leaps made to computers, plastics, electronics, communications, and medicine that still today benefit every inhabitant to this planet in one way or another.
 
I believe that the next great advancement in the operation of the automobile is long overdue.
 
The country that can develop the next generation of clean and affordable people moving will not only change the world but will prosper like no other.
 
The greatness of America has always been our ingenuity and our ability to invent not just for ourselves but for everyone else as well.
 
America must continue to lead and today the need is to lead in the development and production of clean and affordable energy and products.
 
The goal of clean and affordable energy is not partisan; it is American.
 
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

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