For Immediate Release
Over 100 Groups Urge Congress to Support Obama's Energy Education Initiative
WASHINGTON - A group of over 100 universities, professional associations, and
student groups joined the Breakthrough Institute yesterday in
submitting a letter
urging the U.S. Senate to fully support the Obama administration's
national energy education initiative. The initiative, named
"RE-ENERGYSE" (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge),
would produce thousands of highly-skilled U.S. energy workers and
develop new energy education programs at American universities and K-12
The Senate is poised to reject the proposal in its FY2010 Energy and
Water Development Appropriations bill by cutting the RE-ENERGYSE
program's funding to $0 from the $115 million requested in President
Obama's FY2010 budget. Mr. Obama announced the initiative in a speech
to the National Academy of Sciences in April, stating, "The nation that
leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that
leads in the 21st century global economy... [RE-ENERGYSE] will prepare
a generation of Americans to meet this generational challenge."
According to the Department of Energy, the program would develop
between 5,000 and 8,500 highly educated scientists, engineers, and
other professionals to enter the clean energy field by 2015, which
would rise to 10,000 -17,000 professionals by 2020. The Technical
Training and K-12 Education subprogram would create between 200 to 300
community college and other training programs to prepare thousands of
technically skilled workers for clean energy jobs.
The letter, which was distributed to every Senate office on Tuesday,
urged lawmakers to fund RE-ENERGYSE at the full $115 million request.
"America is in danger of losing its global competitiveness and the
[global] clean energy race without substantial new investments in STEM
education," wrote the signatories, which included 53 colleges and
universities and dozens of student and youth groups. "RE-ENERGYSE...
will train America's future energy workforce, accelerate our transition
to a prosperous clean energy economy, and ensure that we lead the
world's burgeoning clean technology industries."
"The issues of energy and climate change are inspiring the interest
of students on university campuses across the country," said Robert
Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities.
"RE-ENERGYSE is the kind of program we need to capture that
enthusiasm... Just as NASA inspired students to take an interest in
science and space, the Department of Energy should develop and support
new education programs aimed at encouraging and supporting students in
"Young people across America need Congress to act today and help
prepare our generation to confront the nation's energy challenges,"
said Jessy Tolkan, Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition, a
coalition of 50 youth organizations.
Teryn Norris, Director of Breakthrough Generation and a Junior at
Stanford University stated: "If the U.S. had responded to the Soviet
launch of Sputnik the way Congress is responding to today's national
energy challenge America would not only have lost the space race, we
would have been left behind in the technologies and industries that
fueled a half-century of economic progress."
"Students across the nation are passionate about studying and
confronting our energy challenge, but the educational resources are
nonexistent or critically underfunded," said Marc Perkins, President of
the Johns Hopkins University student government.
Nineteen year old Kelsea Norris, a student at the University of
Georgia and Chair of the Sierra Student Coalition, echoed that
sentiment: "So many young people like me are willing to devote their
time and energy to solving this energy crisis. What we need is the
education and training to do it, but our high schools, colleges, and
universities aren't offering that to us."
The letter supporting RE-ENERGYSE comes on the 40th anniversary week
of the Apollo 11 moon landing and as Asian competitors are launching
major investment projects in clean energy. Last summer, Norris and his
student colleagues at Breakthrough Generation proposed an initiative
similar to RE-ENERGYSE, a National Energy Education Act, modeled after
the National Defense Education Act of 1958 that helped train young
scientists and engineers to win the space race.
"The question our Congress faces today," said Teryn Norris, "is
this: will they invest in a new generation of American innovators to
win the global clean energy race, or will they allow Asia to take the
The Breakthrough Institute is a small think tank with big ideas. Breakthrough is committed to creating a new progressive politics, one that is large, aspirational, and asset-based. We believe that any effective politics must speak to core needs and values, not issues and interests, and we thus situate ourselves at the intersection of politics, policy, philosophy, and the social sciences.