Start with the problem. America's electric grid is aging and not keeping up with demand. Electricity demand has increased by 25% since 1990 while construction of transmission facilities decreased by about 30 percent. The results are higher costs and more blackouts. Carol Browner, the president's top adviser on energy and climate change, called the grid "outdated" and "dilapidated."
In the end, we want it all. Wind farms, solar panels and a smart grid to bring the energy from point A to point B. That's our clean energy future.
But we want something else with consequences we don't always recognize. We want to be self-sufficient. We don't want to replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on foreign manufacturing. And we want those clean energy jobs to be located at home. Especially if we're funding them with our own tax dollars. As Campaign for America's Future co-director Robert Borosage puts it:
"Not simply a timid buy America policy satisfied with the final assembly of parts and technologies made elsewhere, but moving entire supply chains so that our workers and engineers and entrepreneurs are familiar with cutting edge technologies that our inventors can soon surpass."
This isn't about protectionism or neanderthal rejection of global trade. It's about thriving in a competitive global economy. America needs to think strategically. Move away from asset bubbles and debt-driven consumer spending. Rebuild our real economy of production and manufacture.
Public investment in infrastructure is a crucial step in that direction. It creates jobs now and increases our competitiveness in the future. A new smart grid is part of it -- and it's even smarter if the transformers aren't imported from China.
If you're near DC, please come to our conference Thursday October 29, building the new economy. It's free, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will share his ideas over lunch. It's time to pop the bubble economy.