- Legislative Issues
- Reports & Resources
- TSC News & Events
- University Science Today
- University Research:
Celebrating America's Competitive Edge
Guest Perspective: Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) - Renewable Energy is our New Apollo Mission
Just over fifty years ago, our nation was stunned by the news that the Soviet Union had successfully launched Sputnik, the world’s first man-made satellite. Our awe quickly gave way to action. We realized the importance of American technological leadership, and were galvanized into making an unprecedented commitment to science and math education and research. The most visible aspect of this commitment were the Apollo missions, inspiring an entire generation of young Americans with the possibilities of science and ushering in an era of American leadership in innovation and technology. The American spirit of scientific discovery vaulted us to the forefront of the space race and led to unparalleled economic growth.
Today, our nation’s commitment to science has waned and our technological leadership is at risk. To maintain America’s position at the forefront of global innovation, we need to re-energize excitement about science and math. Recognizing that our new generation of youth is increasingly concerned about the environment and motivated to develop clean, renewable sources of energy, I believe renewable energy should be our nation’s new Apollo Mission.
We must tackle the clean energy challenge in several ways. The first mission is to create an unwavering commitment to cutting edge research. Last December, Congress took a step in this direction by passing the Energy Independence and Security Act, which authorized increases in federal R&D for renewable energy technologies. As an Arizonan, I was particularly pleased that the bill contained numerous provisions to promote solar energy by bolstering existing Department of Energy investments in public and private solar studies. The aim is to make this abundant power source cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2015. This type of public investment must continue, and increase, in the coming years.
But investment in R&D is not enough. We must assure stable markets for clean, renewable, secure energy technologies in order to ensure that technology makes it out of the lab and into people’s lives. Toward this end, Congress is working to extend critical renewable energy tax credits. On May 21, the House of Representatives passed the Energy and Tax Extenders Act, H.R. 6049, which would extend tax credits for renewable energy technologies slated to expire at the end of this year, including a six year extension of the 30% investment tax credit for solar infrastructure. The bill will now move to the Senate for further consideration.
These tax credits are essential to ensuring the viability of renewable energy projects. While they target commercial deployment, they are equally critical for researchers. Market incentives to deploy new technologies provide a huge boost to research efforts dedicated to improving those technologies, and ensure that new discoveries will move swiftly into the marketplace.
As with the original Apollo missions fifty years ago, the United States stands to gain enormously from committing to the mission of renewable energy. The benefits from embracing this mission will be both direct (e.g. new sources of clean energy, new markets, and enhanced energy security) and indirect (e.g. inspiring new scientists and engineers to carry forward America’s mantle of technological leadership).
Creating a new generation of explorers and a new age of American innovation and prosperity while also finding solutions to one of our greatest global problems, is a daunting and yet also a noble goal. It is my great privilege as a Member of Congress to help our nation rise to meet this critical 21st Century challenge.
-- Rep. Giffords is on the House Science and Technology Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Ms. Giffords promotes an agenda of energy independence and solar initiatives in an effort to make Southern Arizona the “Solar-con Valley" of the nation.