How is the U.S. promoting clean energy research?

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In June 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama cited clean energy as the catalyst of economic recovery in the United States. "As we recover from this recession," said the president, "the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs -- but only if we accelerate that transition" [source: The White House]. And in his January 2011 State of the Union address, he set the goal of generating 80 percent of the nation's electricity from clean energy by 2035 [source: Union of Concerned Scientists].

When President Obama talks about clean energy, he is referring to electricity and automotive fuel derived from largely renewable sources like solar, wind and fuel cells. The White House believes that investment in clean energy research and development is not only critical to America's economic competitiveness, but our national security. Dependence on foreign energy sources, particularly oil, means that our energy and fuel reserves are under constant threat from politically unstable regions and regimes. And over-reliance on fossil fuels only increases the economic, health and security issues associated with global climate change.

For the White House to achieve its vision of an America powered by clean energy, it is working closely with the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund private and public research initiatives that support the DOE's core clean energy programs:

The government agency that most directly promotes and invests in clean energy research is the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) within the DOE. One of the main roles of the EERE is to create public/private partnerships that bring "clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace" [source: EERE]. For example, the office recently allocated $112.5 million in research grants to reduce the total cost of solar energy production by 75 percent, thereby making it competitive with cheaper sources of electricity like coal [source: EERE].

At $35 billion in clean energy investments in 2010, the United States government outpaced all but two countries (China and Germany) in the race to create the greenest economy [source: Pew Charitable Trusts]. Learn more about government funding for clean energy research on the next page.