Publications / Policy Brief

Jumpstarting U.S. Clean Energy Manufacturing in Economic Stimulus and Infrastructure Legislation

By / 5.14.2020

AMERICA’S NEW CLEAN ENERGY MANUFACTURING OPPORTUNITY

In his 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump famously promised to revitalize American manufacturing and to pass major legislation to rebuild crumbling U.S. infrastructure. So far, in more than three years as President, he has done neither.

But in the face of the unprecedented COVID crisis, economic downturn and the worst unemployment since the Great Depression, many Democrats and some Republicans have begun to urge enactment of ambitious economic stimulus and recovery legislation, including a major infrastructure bill with a job-creating focus.

Properly structured stimulus and infrastructure legislation could help jumpstart U.S. manufacturing, which was already slumping badly under Trump throughout 2019, long before the COVID-crisis. In particular, the U.S. has an opportunity to create high-paying jobs and production in the fast-growing clean energy manufacturing sector, an industry that has been dominated by our global competitors, especially China, for the last decade.

Clean energy manufacturing represents perhaps the biggest single new growth opening for American industry in the coming years, as the transition to zero-carbon global and domestic economies creates unprecedented demand for dozens of clean energy technologies to address climate change. The U.S. is especially well-positioned to capture these markets as our national and corporate laboratories have created far more clean energy innovation breakthroughs than any other nation.

But we have not had a concerted national policy of turning those lab breakthroughs into American-made products to help our manufacturing job growth. Instead, our competitors have used U.S. innovations to bolster their own clean technology manufacturing in areas like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles.

Remarkably, in the last three years, the Trump Administration has gone out of its way to directly kill the creation of tens of thousands of clean energy manufacturing jobs, seemingly due to President Trump’s own ideological obsession with doing nothing that may have ancillary climate change benefits. Sectors including electric vehicles production and energy efficient refrigeration and air conditioning manufacturing where already tens of thousands of jobs are at stake have suffered from Trump’s animus toward clean manufacturing, while China continues to walk away with contracts, production and jobs.

The current economic crisis provides yet another opportunity to invest in domestic manufacturing in the crucial clean energy sector, creating good jobs in our industrial heartland. Democrats in Congress should include robust clean energy manufacturing incentives as they prepare major stimulus and infrastructure legislation. If Republicans in Congress will not support this agenda, as recent statements by their leader’s suggest, then Democrats, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, will make these issues a centerpiece of the 2020 election debate.

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