New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a $1 billion “N.Y. Green Bank,” a funding vehicle to support eco-friendly energy research and projects that might struggle to attract capital on the private market, according to the Pew Center on the States.
The fund, which would combine public and private capital, would be designed to provide several mechanisms to spur investment in new renewable technologies, and encourage private investment in the sector. The idea comes along as federal funding for clean energy is evaporating.
Since the bankruptcy of solar energy start-up Solyndra became a GOP talking point during last year's election, climate change has not been a captivating issue for Democrats in national politics. It failed to get even one mention in the three presidential debates.
Deployed correctly, the Green Bank wouldn’t even necessarily cost more than existing supports for renewable energy, as Pew reports:
The idea represents a shift away from one-time subsidies, which are still the most common means of state support for renewables and efficiency projects. New York, for instance, currently spends $1.4 billion each year on renewables and energy efficiency, putting about $1.15 billion toward subsidies, as it pursues an ambitious goal of deriving 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. “In spite of this level of spending," Cuomo said, “the State is far from realizing its clean energy goals.”
New York isn’t the only state pushing this kind of financing, but the proposal does signal a vote of confidence in green energy’s potential to create jobs and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Connecticut, for example, has a green bank but it’s a comparably paltry $30 million.
Cuomo, who’s on everyone’s shortlist of possible Democratic presidential candidates in 2016, has a reputation for policy caution but he appears to be staking out a position as a champion of progressive causes.
This week he further endeared himself to liberals by advocating for the toughest gun regulation in the country. If it passes, which looks likely, it would be the first state-level response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Is he sensing that liberal policies are more palatable to Americans than the conventional wisdom suggests?
Another possibility is that the never-ending, and wildly unproductive, cliffhangers in Washington enable governors to flex their muscles as executives who can Get Stuff Done. And (Who knew?) Stuff now includes supporting some progressive policies.