Gen. Clark told delegates at PV America West in San Jose yesterday that the solar industry could play a pivotal role in kick-starting the US economy.
“We can’t do it by relying on consumption as the engine of the economy. But we can grow and we can grow quickly.
“Solar is right at the centre of this growth. Why? Jobs, finance structuring, everything about the modern economy comes to a sharp focus when you look at solar energy. You’re the center of entrepreneurship in this modern economy right now. You’re the most rapidly growing industry in this economy right now.
“You’re at the leading edge of financial innovation on how to finance large and residential and rooftop and you’re at the leading point of how to work in global supply chain.”
General Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the US-European Command from Kosovo War 1997-2000 and is now a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The retired general last month joined the ranks of serving senior military figures, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Major General Anthony Jackson, when he described clean energy investments “mission critical” for US national security.
Solar Power Fueling American Economy and Spirit
“Last year, [the solar industry] grew 67% and employed more than 100,000 Americans – ranging from engineering, finance and legal positions to good construction and installer jobs that are revitalizing our working-class. That’s more than the number of Americans working in coal mining,” he wrote on the Forbes website.
At PV America West yesterday, Gen Clark said that after the US won the cold war, the country lost its focus, resulting in a “lost decade” post-9/11 and a reversal of the economic growth of the 1990s, which saw 22 million jobs created in the US.
“We won the cold war and we lost our strategy. You can’t do guns and butter in the economy at the same time.
“We did the research that yielded transistors, lasers and all of modern technology. All of that started with military research. We built the space programme we had the interstate highway system. We did all of that in the second half of the 21st century.
A “Lost Decade”
“Somehow we couldn’t find what to invest in other than real estate in this last decade. In the 1970s it was about cable TV; 1980s going from mainframe to personal computers and the 1990s were about the internet.
“What was this decade about other than mortgage backed securities?”
The former Democratic presidential candidate also cautioned against harmful attitudes to the impact of government currently prevailing among Congressional Republicans. The interstate system, the space programme, land grant colleges and the transcontinental railroad were all acts of government that had had positive long-term impacts, he said.
The Solar Industry Still Needs Help
We had 30 years of rhetoric which said don’t look to government for the answer to our problems. Government is our problem.
“What was this decade about other than mortgage backed securities?” – Clark
“We’ve got to reverse the idea that government is somehow the enemy. I served [in the US government] for 38 years - the army that America seems to like, that’s the government. We need that government because the [solar industry] is not quite ready yet. We still need some help. We need help on net metering. We need help from government to help us work with utilities and the electric power industry. This industry is the future of electric power and electric utilities in America.
“We’re faced with a climate challenge that dwarfs in magnitude anything we’ve ever had before. This industry is the key to that solution.”
Since retiring in 2000 after 38 years in the army, General Clark has held board positions on several energy companies including BNK Petroleum, a California-based shale gas company with assets in the US and Europe; Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group; Bankers Petroleum, a Canadian-based oil and gas exploration and production company; Juhl Wind, a North American wind developer; and Rentech, a biomass gasification company in California.