RE-ENERGYSE letter spells out energy education to Congress again

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Last week, more than 100 presidents of university and college student government associations, representing over 1 million American students, signed a letter urging Congress to fund RE-ENERGYSE, a program aimed at ‘REgaining our Energy Science and Engineering Edge’. This letter (PDF download) is a remix of a last summer’s letter, which was also co-signed and submitted by 100 groups.

With RE-ENERGYSE redux, will the kids get to eat their energy Wheaties? Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution! The 100+ signatories and Americans for Energy Leadership, the group spearheading the effort, certainly hope so. “The United States is rapidly falling behind in the burgeoning clean energy industry – especially in comparison to China – and our educational system and workforce is not prepared to compete,” declared the 107 presidents, including dozens of the country’s top universities.

Why does this letter have better chances of success?

The letter itself comes with new and improved support. It represents a strong demonstration of support from the country’s top young leaders representing more than one million American students. These students are stakeholders in the program, which Congress hasn’t heard from in relation to this program (and rarely hears from in this kind of manner). Finally, timing is everything, and the letter was delivered before subcommittees proceeded with their mark-up.

More broadly, there are other reasons to have high(er) hopes. The proposal was streamlined and is therefore more feasible. As well, the DOE put more focus on developing and explaining the details of the proposal to Congress. While most of energy workforce development creates lower-earning technician jobs, RE-ENERGYSE addresses a new area: energy science and engineering education to get the high-tech energy jobs.

After first proposing RE-ENERGYSE in April 2009, the Obama administration is backing it once again, so it will be harder for Congress to zero the budget request a second time. And meanwhile, policymakers are viewing threats to American competitiveness in clean tech industry from other countries, especially Asia, and are increasingly compelled to act.

This time, let’s hope Congress understands that “the time is now.”

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