Barack Obama is the new Genie for the greentech industry.
The guy won't become president until Jan. 20, but he has already received plenty of wish lists from folks in the renewable energy, biofuel and auto industries.
It's normal for businesses to vie for Obama's attention before he starts working in the West Wing. It's particularly critical to get a head start when the economy is sinking and cash and loans to develop technologies and build factories are hard to find.
The wish lists have come with a tinge of desperation, though. Many in the greentech business see Obama as their advocate, and now they expect him to deliver money and policies that will get them through tough times.
Obama, however, appears to be listening. In his weekly address to the nation over the weekend, he said that a centerpiece of his campaign will be to create three million new jobs, with 80 percent of those jobs in the private sector. Many of those jobs will likely revolve around renovating public buildings for energy efficiency, which he said is another goal of his Presidency.
Obama also added that he wants to double the production of renewable energy, although he didn't put a time frame on it.
Obama will have to pull some nifty tricks to grant those wishes quickly. He might represent hope and a better time to come, but he's no magician. He has assembled some helpers with pro-green leanings, however (see Obama Names Energy and Environmental Leaders).
Here is a look at what greentech folks want from the new administration:
Solar: The Solar Energy Industries Association, along with its brethrens in the wind, geothermal and hydropower industries, want cash instead of tax credits. They asked for the goodies less than two months after they won a hard-fought battle to get Congress to extend tax credits for building renewable energy power plants or producing cleaner energy (see Industry Groups Call for Changes to Federal Incentives).
The groups also want another $30 billion worth of incentives in 2009 for developing and building renewable energy projects. Expect to see a push on loan programs too. Although venture capitalists and other investors have poured millions into solar projects, building factories and solar farms requires millions in capital, which has become scarce.
Smart Grid: The Demand Response Smart Grid Coalition has 21 policy recommendations, including tax credits for companies that use so-called smart meters or devices and software to reduce power use (see Smart Grid Coalition Seeks Tax Breaks for Negawatts).
The coalition also wants a fund set up to finance the manufacturing and installing of advanced meters and other technologies for making it easier to manage the supply and demand of power over the grid.
Batteries: The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture wants $1 to $2 billion over five years to accelerate the development of lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and all-electric cars (see Green Light post). The group, which includes 14 battery and chemical companies such as 3M, ActaCell and EnerSys, says government help is necessary to ensure the American car industry won't have to rely on the growing number and prowess of Asian battery makers.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen Japanese car and battery makers have banded together to work on setting international standards for lithium-ion batteries (see Japan, U.S. Strive to Set Car-Battery Standards).
Automakers: The cry for help from the auto industry before the November election, and you can bet it will continue after Obama takes office.
Back in September, Congress approved a $25 billion program to help carmakers retool their plants to make more fuel-efficient cars. But that loan program wouldn't take place soon enough to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy. So President Bush agreed to use part of the $700 billion set aside for bailing out the financial industry for rescuing GM and Chrysler (see U.S. Automakers Get Federal Bailout). But there's no guarantee that the $17.4 billion worth of loans will be sufficient to prop up GM and Chrysler.
Biofuel: The Renewable Fuels Association is lobbying to include several ethanol-friendly provisions in legislation to boost the economy. The suggestions include setting up a $1 billion loan program for existing ethanol producers to stay in business. It also wants a $50 billion loan guarantee program for building refineries and related infrastructure.
To make sure demand for ethanol will grow substantially, the association wants a federal mandate that all carmakers receiving federal aid would make only cars that can run on a blend of up to 85 percent ethanol, starting with the 2010 models.
Biofuel makers, however, have had trouble even meeting the production requirements set under outgoing President George Bush. The United States will not be able to meet the mandate to use 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration in December.
A recent survey by investment firm ThinkEquity shows that cellulosic ethanol makers will likely miss federal targets by a weighty margin, at least in the near future. Instead of meeting the goals to produce 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in the United States by 2010, the survey indicated that only 28.5 million gallons will be available in 2010.
The problem? Biofuel plants require inordinate amounts of capital, which is in short supply.
Fuel Cells: The US Fuel Cell Council wants $1.2 billion for research and production of fuel cell technologies, and for investing in fuel cell-powered vehicles and fueling stations. The group has offered a break down of how Obama and Congress should spend that $1.2 billion on its Website.