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Friday, June 03, 2005

Thinking Outside the Barrel

A few weeks ago, Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, co-authored an excellent editorial in the Washington Post with Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute. The piece was entitled "The Courage to Develop Clean Energy." I encourage you to read it here.

Essentially what the article said was that America has the brainpower to develop new solar and wind technology and that the commercial marketplace is now moving "green technologies ... into black," but what is missing is political leadership. The authors went on to say "our failure to close the deal on clean power is as puzzling as it is nonpartisan."

They are absolutely right! America can -- and must -- do better. It is the proverbial win-win situation. By promoting clean, sustainable alternative energies not only will America reduce carbon dioxide emission and thus help alleviate one of the main causes of global climate change, we will also benefit economically.

If we fail to act, we will cede leadership to Germany, China and other countries. Today, Germany employs over 40,000 workers manufacturing wind turbines. There is no reason why Minnesota -- which is one of the richest wind resource region in the country -- couldn't employ a similar number of people. (I encourage you to take a look at this "wind resource" map.) But we need leaders with the vision to see -- and then realize -- this potential.

Solar technology is another wonderful opportunity. Solar cells are continuing to become more efficient and lighter. In fact, a few companies are promising flexible solar cells (which can be laid over a home's roof) by 2007. It is not difficult for me to imagine an America in which every home and business has such solar cells installed on their roofs and we radically reduce our need for both coal and nuclear energy!

What we need, however, is vision and the political will to follow through to achieve such a vision.

One of the reasons I am running for the U.S. Senate is provide that vision -- and the political will. The bottom-line is this: we need more leaders who can "think outside the barrel."

P.S. I will be addressing the opportunities of fuel cell technologies in a separate post.