The new year is a fresh start — a time to finally throw out that last pack of Parliaments or swear off Big Macs for good. Everyone has a plan for change, but unfortunately even some of the best resolutions can fall by the wayside. There should be a simpler approach to the resolution business. Instead of resolving for a change, try continuing something done well in the past year.

Since killing Osama bin Laden again is out of the realm of possibility, let’s examine what was done in the field of renewable energy with the benefit of the 2009 stimulus package. A continuation of the tax breaks for clean energy could be the perfect achievable resolution for the new year.

The tax break for clean energy wasn’t just a ruse to appease environmentalists across the country; it actually created jobs and increased clean energy outputs. According to a Dec. 13 article in Time magazine, the tax break offered to companies pursuing renewable energy endeavors has contributed to nearly a 37-percent annual growth in wind power in the past four years. Production tax credits — which pay 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour of clean energy produced — have always increased the total amount of renewable energy output to 43 gigawatts.

The increase in renewable energy output serves not only the environment but also provides thousands of jobs for American workers. Even with successful implementation of a government-spending program, the funding provided to renewable energy projects could come to a halt at the end of 2012.

The article points out that some would contend that spending money on a field too weak to sustain itself without financial backing is irresponsible and the government should instead be focusing funding on uncovering new locations of fossil fuels — energy sources understood to be both reliable and lucrative. But this is exactly the mindset that the U.S. needs to avoid if it wishes to create a country that can sustain itself in the future.

Opponents of the renewable energy subsidies may cite the recent expiration of the ethanol tax credit as a reason to let the current green energy subsides run out as well. Even without a government tax credit, the ethanol industry isn’t expected to see a downturn in production. In fact, Matt A. Hartwig, Director of Communications of the Renewable Fuels Association, has gone as far as saying “the tax incentive is less necessary now than it was just two years ago” and they expect to “produce the same amount of ethanol in 2012 as in 2011, or more.”

The same can’t be said for solar panels and wind farms. If the same train of thought is used in the case of these renewable energy sources, the U.S. is likely to see a downturn in production of both solar and wind power. According to Time, the wind industry alone would suffer nearly a $10.1 billion drop in investment — costing nearly 37,000 American jobs — after the 2009 stimulus runs out at the end of the year. This will devastate the industry, and without a renewal of the production tax credits for wind farms, it could spell the end of the trade altogether.

This is why — even with the upcoming election — the public can’t forget that there’s still work to be done. It’s an issue that must be addressed, not in a presidential debate, but by Congress — and soon. Renewable energy shouldn’t be viewed as a superfluous expense, but rather as an investment in America’s future.

At the moment it seems like renewable energy might be a poor investment. But daily research to increase the efficiency of wind turbines and solar panels has the potential to make these alternative energy resources viable options in the future. Though that future may seem a long way off, it would be foolish not to believe that it can be achieved. Denying the U.S. the opportunity of realizing the full potential of solar and wind power would be a mistake.

Sticking to a new year resolution can be tough, but this isn’t a cold turkey request. All I ask is that we continue down a path that has proven to be environmentally and economically sound.

Joe Sugiyama can be reached at jmsugi@umich.edu or on Twitter @JoeSugiyama.

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