Federal Versus State in the Energy Renaissance

Article | North American Builders (2014)

As Americans have long enjoyed cheap energy in this country, they have paid little regard to conservation measures over the years, buying energy-guzzling homes, cars and other luxury items. All that changed in the early years of the new millennium when the economic bubble in America finally burst. Along with the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression came a new awareness of energy consumption; a Renaissance of sorts, led in part by a new focus on renewable energy. In the aftermath of the new Great Recession, the federal government responded with the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as “the stimulus.” This new pot of federal money was intended to inject new life into the U.S. economy by creating jobs, in part through the creation of a cleaner, renewable energy infrastructure.

While the goal of the stimulus was to create jobs, it sometimes did so without regard for long-term implications. For example, the stimulus helped create the solar revolution of the last four years. Unfortunately, one of the most memorable outcomes of this revolution was the untimely bankruptcy of several large solar companies shortly after they received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government without producing viable products.

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