The Case for a Federal 'Green Bank'

Conventional wisdom says that it will be exceedingly difficult for the United States Congress to pass energy legislation in its next session. For those who are waiting on signals that demonstrate our government's willingness to incentivize investments in clean energy, this has been a depressing period. But while I understand the frustration expressed from nearly every faction of the energy sector, I am optimistic about the potential to capitalize on this seemingly-lost opportunity in the next Congress. In the past several weeks there has been a notable shift in media coverage of the politics of energy reform. What began as a message of shock and despair, has now turned to one of acceptance and genuine desire to start with a clean slate, and try once more for an improved, cleaner, and more efficient energy economy.

The recent coverage of the Coalition for Green Capital (CGC), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, exemplifies this shift. As a member of its Board of Directors I appreciate the media coverage of the CGC's positive efforts to produce a road map for the clean energy future of the United States.

The New York Times article, "A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap and Trade", by David Leonhardt, describes the view of a prominent environmental economist who "should be despondent over Washington's failure to pass a climate bill." However, according to Leonhardt, MIT Professor Michael Greenstone, is not despondent. Rather, "he thinks the benefits of the bills that died in the Senate -- which would have raised the cost of carbon emissions, through a system known as cap and trade -- were sometimes exaggerated." Leonhardt notes that after all the necessary compromises had been made the bills would not have raised the price of carbon enough to have any meaningful impact, and would also have done little to address the increasing emissions from the developing world. Leonhardt goes on to recognize Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, and the Coalition's efforts over the past two years to create a federal financing entity that would make clean energy cost competitive with carbon intensive energy.

The New York Times is not alone in recognizing the value in creating such an entity. A recent article by HuffPost's Dan Froomkin titled "A Convenient Truth: Gearing up for Climate Change Could Supercharge the Job Market", also focuses on a silver lining in the dark cloud over the clean energy sector and reinforces the need for a clean energy economy as envisioned by the Coalition for Green Capital. Froomkin writes:

Could one major crisis be solved by solving another? If we're talking about the nation's desperately poor job market on the one hand, and the dire threat of climate change on the other, then the answer is: Quite possibly, yes.

The solution to both would be an enormous investment in green technology and green jobs - creating a "clean energy economy" while reducing carbon emissions; putting millions of Americans back to work while increasing our energy independence; rebuilding our manufacturing base while saving consumers money on their energy bills; and saving the planet. It certainly sounds a heck of a lot cheerier than the alternative.

These media outlets have called attention to the fact that reflecting the true cost of clean energy is, and will continue to be, unpopular -- a completely logical fact given the current state of our economy. This means that the time is now for the creation of a federal clean energy financing institution (a "Green Bank") which would lower the cost of clean energy. We do not need to take the unpopular route of making carbon-intensive energy more expensive. Instead we can make clean energy sources more affordable. The energy sector has huge potential for new investment and widespread expansion, and this potential can only be realized if this sector is provided with the proper incentives.

On November 16th, the Coalition for Green Capital will be holding a public conference in Washington, DC entitled "The Future of Energy Reform." We will lay out our Coalition's road map for a clean energy future in the US. I encourage anyone interested to visit our website for further information:, or to reach out via email to