Steven Chu, the nation’s new secretary of energy, told the Western Governor’s Association yesterday that solar, wind and geothermal energy sources were all high on President Obama’s wish list…but so was nuclear energy. Agricultural Secretary and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack told the crowd that specialized training would be needed to equip construction workers for the task and that university engineering programs would also need to ramp up to alleviate the skills shortage.
This is all perfectly reasonable, but the timeline raises some questions. Assuming everybody agrees on the training issue and money is allocated, it would take two to three years to develop a curriculum, find the teachers, classrooms and work out the rest of the details before the tech schools would be ready to teach. Another two years would be required to train these construction workers. To train the engineers would take four to six years. Apprenticeships, ect., would take a few more years.
So the question is how committed is the political class to a program that’s almost a decade away from any significant start up? Washington D.C. doesn’t do the long game very well, accomplishments being mostly limited to what can be bragged about in the next election cycle. The national Interstate highway program stretched out over three decades–and the groundwork for it in Washington took almost two full presidential terms. Does the governing class have that kind of forsight and stamina in the age of cable news and Twitter?