While there’s a big focus on the giant stimulus package and the EPA’s rulings, there are smaller more incremental steps the Obama adminstration could take to help clean technology.
We spoke with David Prend, managing general partner at Rockport Capital about what some of those steps could be. Prend has over 30 years of experience in the field of alternative energy working for Amoco, Shearson Lehman, and Salomon Brothers, before starting his own venture firm, Rockport.
We asked him for three ways the government could help out cleantech, aside from the stimulus bill. He went beyond our request, offering five ideas, which we’ve paraphrased:
1. Sticks don’t work, carrots do. How did Germany, become the leader in solar installation in the world? There was a concerted government effort that worked and worked well. Utilities had to buy solar power at marked up rates, which encouraged solar panel production. Rather than say ‘don’t produce dirty energy,’ the effect is to say, ‘do create clean energy.’
2. The investor tax credit is fabulous. This is way beyond our expectations. The Senate approved $31 billion in tax credits, which in the face of tightening credit markets is key.
3. Something should be done with state Public Utility Commissions. Right now the different states all have different rules, so it’s hard to enact a national renewable portfolio standard. It’s an archaic system.
4. A gas tax would be good. Gasoline is a big problem in the country. That’s not to say cap and trade or carbon taxing aren’t priorities. Transportation is an area with fewer policy options, so a tax here is logical.
5. Increase the research spending. The NIH gets $30 billion, while energy only gets $1 billion. This is a long term problem. It’s hard to find new energy solutions without extensive reseach.
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