An Integrated Agenda for a New Apollo Project

The mosaic of policies we need is not a simple matter. The original Apollo Project's Saturn V rocket was constructed of over a million pieces. The new Apollo energy project may not be far behind. There is truly no silver bullet. The solution will take a mix of appropriate regulation—like requirements to plan for energy efficiency and bring renewable electricity on line, as well as capping carbon and auctioning the permits to produce revenue to fund the transition. Building a rapid clean-energy transition will also take large-scale public investment in commercializing new technology, retrofitting buildings, and retooling our nation's infrastructure.

The national Apollo Alliance has put forward a plan to invest $313 billion in the productive base of our economy over ten years. This investment would dramatically cut our reliance on oil and slash carbon impacts, but it would also generate over $1.3 trillion in GDP gains, produce over 3.3 million jobs, and create nearly a trillion dollars in new personal income.6

Such an investment program, as the Alliance lays it out, would invest $49 billion in low-carbon and renewable energy sources and $75 billion in incentives for retooling manufacturing industries to build the cars of the future and energy-efficient appliances in more efficient factories. It would invest $90 billion in incentives and investment to build the market for green and high-performance buildings and retrofit our cities to save energy. And it would direct $99 billion toward new infrastructure for everything from smart-growth, high-speed rail and other alternatives to cars, to a modernized electrical grid that would allow real-time pricing and dramatically improved energy efficiency and the use of distributed renewable energy.

The New Apollo Energy Act, HR 2809, now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls for a similar suite of investments but with a greater emphasis on leveraging private funds. The public investment will amount to at least $18 billion per year over ten years—the same amount Kennedy spent on the Apollo space program. Along with the private investment, the bill aims to mobilize even greater capital than the Apollo Alliance plan. Yet current federal investments in clean energy fall far short of the mark of what is needed.

This sort of large-scale public-private investment will be an engine to power not only a greener but also a more prosperous economy with a higher quality of life and improved public services. It will have to be focused on five key national policy priorities for confronting the challenges to our climate and energy security while building industries, strengthening communities, creating jobs, and reducing the threat of global warming.

Those five key policy priorities are (1) meeting energy demand through energy efficiency, (2) getting off oil, (3) rewarding renewables and carbon-free electricity, (4) building cities as if energy matters, and (5) capping carbon emissions. Together these approaches start to spell out a comprehensive strategy for the nation to break our addiction to oil, roll back the threat of climate change, and remake our economy, while building on existing policies and accelerating efforts in the private sector and the states.

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