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With well-placed technology investment, it’s possible to imagine a future in which we export not only the fuels the world wants, but also the pollution control technology the world needs. That is energy super power.

Some say reducing emissions is clash of environment vs. economy. Third Way has one policy idea that breaks that mold: Placing a small fee on exported fossil fuels to be used to finance the development of pollution control technologies. 

The fee could raise $20 billion or more over ten years that would go directly toward R&D for clean tech for fossils (like carbon capture and storage). This could be a game-changing amount, since the combined federal and private R&D spending in those areas currently is measured in the millions. Moreover, this work could generate another lucrative export—clean technology. 

Learn more. 

Learning from Germany’s Clean Energy Missteps

By Ingrid Akerlind

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American clean energy advocates like to tout the latest European energy accomplishments as proof that the United States is falling behind. Clean energy provides 25 percent of Germany’s energy demand! Germany has the greatest share of wind and solar among the G20 countries!

These are important accomplishments, to be sure. But this rapid growth has come at a cost: the highest energy prices in Europe. Are there ways we can achieve the milestones that Germany has reached while avoiding the economic downside of high costs? A new report by the respected German newspaper Der Spiegel provides some hard truths, and a look at three important lessons for us in the United States:

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Introducing The PowerBook

We’re sick of hearing the cliché that “Washington is broken” so we’re providing the policy community with a new set of tools: The PowerBook, a toolbox designed to help Washington build practical clean energy policies.

Along with our original proposals, this resource includes some of the best policy ideas that are making an impact at the state and local level and in the private sector. 

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Using the PowerBook, policymakers can compare ideas and choose the ones that best meet their goals. These policies can move on their own or in packages that they assemble. Each of the more than two dozen sets of policies in the PowerBook provides vital information for legislators and regulators, including:

  • Analysis of the problem and why it’s relevant;
  • Policy ideas that have already been vetted by private sector, government, and environmental experts;
  • Metrics on how these policies will impact pollution, jobs, clean energy production or consumption, and climate change.

We’ll be adding more ideas on a regular basis, so stay tuned. Check out powerbook.thirdway.org to learn more.

Be sure to follow our Clean Energy Initiative: @ThirdWayEnergy

Creating a Clean Energy Century

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The United States has fallen far from its position as the leader in clean energy in the 1970s. Today, China, Japan, South Korea and Germany have committed to policies and investments that put them in the lead. Whichever country or countries emerge as the leaders of clean energy will get the greatest economic benefits. If the U.S. doesn’t act, it will find itself as permanent consumer, rather than producer of these new clean energy technologies.

In Creating a Clean Energy Century Third Way examines clean energy innovation policy and investment in the U.S. and abroad and offers a policy roadmap to jump start America’s private sector economic growth, transforming how the country produces and consumes energy. 

READ: Creating a Clean Energy Century

What’s on the Ballot? (UPDATED with Results)

President Obama’s re-election was not the only important issue on the November 2012 ballot. Several states’ voters faced important initiatives with possible national implications, and the results of those votes are listed below.

Here’s a Quick Overview:

  • Of the 4 marriage votes, 3 supported marriage (ME and MD legalizing, MN not banning) and in 1 it is too soon to tell (WA).
  • Of the 2 abortion votes, 1 restriction passed (MT) and 1 restriction failed (FL).
  • Of the 2 immigration votes, 1 went in favor of immigrants (MD DREAM Act) and 1 went against immigrants (MT proof of citizenship).
  • In the 1 affirmative action vote, the practice was banned (OK).
  • In the 1 dying with dignity vote, it is too soon to tell (MA).
  • Of the 6 marijuana votes, 3 passed (MA, CO, WA), 2 failed (AR, OR), and in 1 it is too soon to tell (MT).

(More details after the jump)

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China Laughs, New England Cries, Over Attacks on Clean Energy

by Josh Freed

Last week, two next-generation battery manufacturers in the Boston area announced major investments from Chinese firms.

Good news?

Yes, if your goal is to grow the Chinese economy. The deals for A123 Systems and Boston-Power will result in major technology transfers to China and likely lost American jobs. The deals are the result of a campaign by Tea Party Republicans to kill the U.S. clean energy industry in its cradle. That’s because the GOP Congressional leadership appears more interested in turning clean energy into a wedge issue than in having America win what energy market analysts see as a $2.3 trillion dollar global market within the next decade.

Don’t take our word for it.

In late 2011, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), chairman of a powerful House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, said the U.S. “can’t compete with China” on clean energy. Rep. Stearns was eventually forced to walk back this statement. But actions speak louder than words. His proposed “No More Solyndras Act” would not only end government support of emerging energy technologies, it is having a chilling effect on domestic private capital. That makes it difficult for promising American clean energy companies to secure funding. That’s a problem American workers and entrepreneurs are experiencing first hand.

Stearns and fellow Republicans moved quickly to bolster their attack on clean energy with a self-contradicting condemnation of A123’s announcement. Even at a time when politics is not known for having much regard for facts, the new salvos are stunningly illogical. In separate statements, the Republican National Committee and Stearns derided the government’s $249 million investment in A123 and called the company a failure in one breath, and then bemoaned the government’s failure to block the Chinese from gaining access to strategic American technology in the next.

Republicans can’t have it both ways. Either the company was a bad investment or it created valuable technological advances. The Chinese obviously think it was the latter, and think those technologies are worth $450 million.

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Infographic: How Master Limited Partnerships Work

At a time when the United States needs to increase domestic energy production and leaders of both political parties say they support an “all of the above” energy strategy, Congress should level the playing field and give all sources of domestic energy — renewable and non-renewable alike — a fair shot at success in the marketplace.

The federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the energy market, but for nearly 30 years, that’s exactly what it has been doing with a provision in the tax code that authorizes the formation of master limited partnerships (MLPs). An MLP is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests are traded like corporate stock on a market.

By statute, MLPs have only been available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects. These projects get access to capital at a lower cost and are more liquid than traditional financing approaches to energy projects, making them highly effective at attracting private investment. Investors in renewable energy projects, however, have been explicitly prevented from forming MLPs, starving a growing portion of America’s domestic energy sector of the capital it needs to build and grow.

The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act is a straightforward, powerful tweak to the federal tax code that could unleash significant private capital into the energy market.

The legislation, which is just over 200 words long, would level the playing field between traditional and new energy businesses by helping energy-generation and transmission companies form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships.

By allowing additional forms of energy development to access this market tool, we can go beyond political rhetoric and start delivering an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

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Senators say tweak to tax code would boost renewable energy

By Ben Geman

Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) say a small change to the U.S. tax code would provide a big boost to renewable energy projects.

The duo is floating legislation that would allow investors in green-power projects to use the “master limited partnership” tax structure, which is already available to investors in fossil fuel projects.

The lawmakers call it a “powerful tweak” to the tax code that would help steer capital into solar, wind, biofuels and other projects.

Coons, in a statement, said their “MLP Parity Act” will help “level the playing field by giving investors in renewables and non-renewables access to the same highly attractive master limited partnership business structure.”

MLPs are limited partnerships that are also traded on U.S. exchanges — a structure that the lawmakers call well-suited to getting capital into the energy space.

“In order to grow our economy and increase our energy security, sound economic tools like the MLP should be expanded to include additional domestic energy sources,” Moran said.

A summary, from the lawmakers’ offices:

By statute, MLPs have only been available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects. These projects get access to capital at a lower cost and are more liquid than traditional financing approaches to energy projects, making them highly effective at attracting private investment. Investors in renewable energy projects, however, have been explicitly prevented from forming MLPs, starving a growing portion of America’s domestic energy sector of the capital it needs to build and grow.

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In Writing CleanTech’s Obituary, is Washington Writing Our Country’s?

Whether it’s major Capitol Hill media Web sites or Congressional hearings, many in Washington seem consumed these days by the question of whether the clean technology sector is viable. The real issue is not whether solar, wind, biofuels or other cleantech will succeed. They will not only succeed; globally, these new technologies will come to dominate the power sector on a long-term basis. The issue is whether the U.S. will lead or follow and whether the jobs and economic growth represented by these industries will be here or elsewhere.

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