In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama stressed the necessity of innovation as the key to unlocking our economic future. More pointedly, he stated that now is "our generation's Sputnik moment." Just as the United States responded to national security threats posed by a cold war Russia, today we must respond to threats to our economy and our environment, as well as to our national security, posed by an oil addiction that we have not been able to break for over half a century. The intertwined needs to provide sufficient energy, environmental protection, and a vibrant economy in a more secure world will depend, to a significant extent, on technological innovations in the clean energy sector of our economy. That sector has been neglected by government for too long, dominated by a fossil fuel policy that has outlived its useful life, and offers great promise on a number of alternative fronts. The promise of a clean energy future, however, will only be effectively realized through a smart and systemic innovation policy that goes beyond traditional research and development (R&D), and aims at changing systems and at radically transforming the energy economy. Additionally, an innovation policy that targets commercialization has the power to attract private investment, thus creating new clean energy markets. An energy innovation policy, of course, is not itself sufficient and must complement anti-trust, competition, intellectual property, and technology transfer policies among others.
This Article will discuss the reasons for public investment in energy innovation, by describing some of the existing barriers to adequate investment, and will' then explain existing and proposed strategies for a more fully invested innovation policy.
Joseph P. Tomain, Our Generation's Sputnik Moment: Regulating Energy Innovation, 31 Utah Envtl. L. Rev. 389 (2011).