Another form of clean energy use is barely on the market but poised to make a good showing -- the new breed of electric car. In fact, Michael Grabell, author of the book "Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History," argues that the electric car owes its current revival to the Obama administration stimulus.
Nissan has the Leaf, Chevrolet has the Volt and Ford is producing an electric Focus. Several other companies are working on electric vehicles, including Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive.
In an article that was adapted from his book and published on the Propublica website under the title "How the Stimulus Revived the Electric Car," Mr. Grabell writes: "If it wasn't for the stimulus, the companies say, they would have built these plants overseas."
One major reason for the resurgence of electric car manufacturing was that the stimulus allowed manufacturers to improve work on the lithium and lithium-ion batteries that power the electric cars. "More than $1 billion of stimulus money was spent to open and expand battery factories," Mr. Grabell wrote.
Though production of the new breed of electric cars has been under way for more than a year, sales have yet to reach the point where there would be 1 million on the road by 2015. Several factors might blunt this goal -- sluggish consumer purchases because of the higher price and the lack of charging stations.
Mr. Grabell quoted Annette Herrera, who works at A123 Systems, a battery manufacturer in Michigan, on the slow sales of electric cars:
"When the flat-screen TVs first came out, they were way expensive, and now they're reasonably priced," she said. "I think that's going to be the same thing with electric automobiles. This is a new product. It's going to take time."
Good and Bad
Another area of Mr. Obama's energy policy that has seen some progress is in reducing this nation's dependence on foreign oil. In his Jan. 26 State of the Union speech, he said that last year this nation "relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years." Unfortunately, achieved caused much consternation, especially among his supporters.
"Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration," Mr. Obama touted in his State of the Union address, "and toŽnight, I'm directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our poŽtential offshore oil and gas resources."
That effort was precisely what former Vice President Al Gore criticized in the June 22, 2011, issue of Rolling Stone magaŽzine: "Senate advocates -- including one Republican -- felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive exŽpansion of oil drilling in the United States."
Mr. Gore also criticized the president for doing little to make passage of the cap-and-trade initiative a priority in the Senate. However, new rules issued last summer allow 27 states to reduce power plant emissions by setting a cap on how much pollution a plant can produce and allowing companies that exceed the limŽits to buy credits from plants in other states that pollute less.
The Bottom Line
Increased solar energy and wind power to produce electricity, the stimulus plan helping revitalize the electric car industry, even reducing the nation's dependence on oil, all show Mr. Obama's energy program has made some, albeit sluggish progress. Yet, efforts on clean energy continue.
Feb. 23, the Energy Department anŽnounced that 142 small businesses across the nation were starting work on 180 research projects that ranged from designing better wind turbines to develŽoping instruments to improve nanomaŽterials (extraordinarily small-scale mateŽrials) to make new coatings to improve the efficiency of gas turbines. According to a news release from the Energy DeŽpartment, the grants totaled $26.4 milŽlion and the projects under way would help develop new energy technologies.
One thing is clear: All accounts sugŽgest the clean energy sector will gain moŽmentum. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on Feb. 16 that "trillions of dollars will be invested in clean energy in the coming decades." And the articles that follow in this issue show that private inŽvestors are watching clean energy trends closely and those businesses already in the clean energy sector are growing.
A very large pie is up for grabs -- one that can give Hispanic entrepreneurs the opportunity to found and grow busiŽnesses, and one that can create tremenŽdous employment opportunities for the growing Hispanic workforce. Not only is this good for the economy, it's good for the environment, which makes it a very tasty pie in the offering.
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