fourth, fifth or tenth” product, she said. “But who is going to commercialize the first one?”
Other countries will make such investments, she said. “They will offer to build the plant and to give you the financing,” Sen. Stabenow said. “We ought to have a way.” She noted that bills in the House and Senate have proposed setting up a Clean Energy Development Administration that would help fund early-stage commercialization of new technologies. “We are very hopeful that we are going to be able to get this going,” she said.
Sen. Stabenow explained that she and Sen. Graham of South Carolina chair a bipartisan effort on U.S. manufacturing. “I do believe we are seeing a real change in terms of how we focus not only on clean energy and batteries and technology, but also on manufacturing,” she said. “I don’t want to see us going through with batteries and electrification of vehicles what we did with the technology that created the iPod, where we have the President going to England, visiting the Queen, and giving her a great product of American ingenuity--an iPod made in China. Shame on us if we let that happen in batteries, or wind, or solar, or anything else in clean energy. Shame on us.”
The U.S. still has a chance to succeed in the electric-vehicle and battery industries, Sen. Stabenow said. “They haven’t left us yet. We are in a fierce race, but this is ours to capture,” she said. “And my focus is to make sure that when those batteries and vehicles come off the line and the new technologies are being produced, they all say ‘Made in America’ again. That’s when we win.”
Sen. Stabenow asked those in the room to help generate “a sense of urgency about this.” She said she has “talked to too many businesses who have a great idea, a great technology, or a great innovation who can’t get the financing right now.” Others are held back by factors such as certainty about tax policy. “I talk to venture capitalists all the time who are sitting on the sidelines saying they are waiting to see where energy strategy is going to be before they know where to invest,” she said.
Help from those attending the symposium is needed “to kick this into gear,” Sen. Stabenow said. “You folks are on the front lines. You know the facts. You know the reality of what is happening.” Every single member of Congress must be told to stop thinking in terms of who is a Republic and who is a Democrat. “We can’t afford that,” she said.
Sen. Stabenow recalled that she was in a meeting with President Obama and backers of a bipartisan energy bill. “We were saying, ‘Well, we don’t know if we can get enough Republican votes or if we can get over the filibuster,’” she said. “I said, ‘You know, while we are talking about this, China is cleaning our clock.’”
“This should be about the United States versus China,” Sen. Stabenow said. “Not whatever else is going on in Washington. We need the help of the Academies and from businesses. Let’s talk about getting the policies right. We can have differences on policy, but we are all on the same side here in this country.”