In 1908, the automobile was considered nothing more than a rich man's plaything. The technology existed but could not yet be applied on a large scale or made affordable. Soon, Henry Ford supplied those missing parts and, with some outside help, transformed the 20th Century.
In 2010, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and the rest of Ohio’s congressional delegation have a rare chance to vault us into a position of global economic leadership by passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill.
The parallels between clean energy now and the fledgling automobile industry then shed important light on our current situation.
Last century, the rise of the automobile was our national economy’s driving force but not just because it was technologically feasible or because Ford brought down the production costs. There was a partnership between business and government investment at all levels, which transformed dirt roads, built the interstate highway system, and solidified Washington’s relationship with oil-rich countries.
Every president since Richard Nixon has promised energy independence but all have fallen short. This goal is not unreachable, and with prolonged instability likely in places like Iraq and Venezuela, it’s high time we get there.
Now, 102 years after Ford’s revolution, will Americans transform the 21st Century or sit idly by while other nations take the lead? We already have the technology. We need only smart incentives that encourage entrepreneurs and small businessespeople to bring renewable energy technology into the American mainstream.
Cincinnati has set an admirable example by jump-starting projects that have made it a national leader in building efficiency. The transition to a clean energy future is not only possible (with already-existing renewable energy, efficiency retrofits, and short-term bridge fuels), but will create over 60,000 jobs in Ohio alone, according to a recent study by the Political Economy Research Institute and Center for American Progress.
With unemployment at 9.7 percent, we can’t afford to squander this opportunity.
Imagine if government had not gotten involved in 1908 — we would have dusty two-lane roads, stratospheric gas prices and cars would be rich men’s playthings.
The U.S. House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last summer with the help of our representative, Steve Driehaus. Will the U.S. Senate recognize this historical pivot point and help America compete with China and others by investing in clean energy technology? Cincinnatians are saying they should: 120 people gathered at the Laborer’s Hall in Evanston on March 23 for a clean energy rally with Operation Free’s nationwide veterans tour.
We thank U.S. Rep. Driehaus (D-Price Hill) for being a champion on this issue, and urge U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) to lead the Senate in decisively passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill this spring. This will free us of our dependence on foreign oil, create American jobs that cannot be outsourced, and make us the world leader in a clean energy future.
As you drive around town this week digesting your Easter candy, think for a second about what cars did for America, and consider the potential of a clean energy future.
(GERRY WOLTER of East Price Hill is President of Precision Temp Inc., a business that develops and manufactures energy-efficient water-heating for mobile and restaurant applications. PATRICK FOLEY of East Walnut Hills is a local attorney. BILL CAHALAN of East Price Hill is a local foods advocate and works as a clinical psychologist.)