We Have Met the Enemy & It is Us! U.S. is Giving CleanTech/Renewables Away

22 Apr

“China’s leaders are investing $12.6 million every hour to green their economy… China is spending twice as much as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spends to lay the foundations for a green energy economy, despite the U.S. economy being 1.5 times as large as China’s.”

In a hard hitting, between the eyes article, author Ben Furnas of the Center for American Progress laid it all on the line. http://bit.ly/2vHSbC.  Despite the most recent efforts laid out in the ARRA, The United States is starting to look like a laggard in taking the initiative in diversifying itself in a new energy economy.  And while China is no beauty when it comes to pollution control (what with the number of coal plants coming on line every week there), it at least recognizes a profitable market when it sees it.  Same goes for European markets as well.  Chinas own economic stimulus plan will spend over 3 percent of China’s 2008 gross domestic product annually in 2009 and 2010 on green investments—more than six times America’s green stimulus spending as a percentage of our respective economies.

energy_graph1

So where has America cut itself short?  The report advocates for a cohesive national energy strategy, significant upgrading of the nation’s energy infrastructure (smart grid), massive investments in technology research and development, and increased accountability in the form of a carbon tax for the most polluting industries (not tax subsidies).

Through the past eight years of the Bush Administration, efforts to advance the types of critical investments in alternative energy and policy- making slowed to a snail’s pace, while nations across the world invested in what now seems so obvious- that we all live in a finite world with finite resources. Japan, China, and European countries marched right past the United States through the passage of progressive emissions control regulations, massive public investments, and private market incentives.

But all is not lost, because many companies in the U.S. have gotten the message and are moving forward on their own.

In a recent article in Industry Week (http://bit.ly/dvoIU) author Eric Shlumpf states (and I would agree) that “Shifts in product design, raw material usage, facility location, supply chain network design and many other areas of corporate decision-making will move in new and challenging directions as the impact of high energy prices and GHG emissions trickle throughout the entire value chain”.  These pressures are driving service and contract manufacturers to the brink, and forcing new ways to rethink and retool operations to meet global market pressures.  Many large companies like Dow Chemical, US Steel, 3M, Caterpillar, Home Depot, and Pfizer are, among other process related changes, developing active energy and greenhouse gas management programs designed to manage and contain production costs, reduce energy and environmental footprints and address stakeholder and supply chain requirements.  The savings are significant.  A multitude of smaller companies are making similar investments in managing greenhouse gas footprints as an active way to contain costs, leverage competitive position in the global marketplace, and manage customer expectations or requirements.  In other words “they get it”.

This month, on the table in Washington D.C. is EPA regulation of carbon dioxide and the Waxman-Markey Climate bill (an ambitious and likely to be altered) carbon cap-and-trade legislative template for greenhouse gas containment and control.  In addition to this and regional greenhouse gas initiatives, efforts to advance a national renewable portfolio standard would spur technological development in green sectors and help drive innovation across the economy.

300px-pogo_-_earth_day_1971_posterThirty-nine years ago on this Earth Day, I was chucking green, brown and clear glass and newspapers into huge dumpsters in northern Illinois with my Dad.  Even then (thanks to my “Greatest Generation” Dad), I “got it”.  My dad (who passed away two years ago), also said “remember these words- If it is to be, then it is up to me”.  We have the opportunity to be the “Greater Generation”, if we can just lay down our rhetoric and “git ‘er done”!  There is nothing quite as disheartening as watching the world go rushing by while we had the chance to ride the crest of the wave.

Update: After a year of tweeting and reporting on this issue, the U.S. has shown only slight gains in retaining cleantech development.  Federal stimulus money, poor or inconsistent policy or legislation and sporadic incentives have left many in the clean and green-tech industry gasping for breath.  Still, we have a historical habit of “fumbling the lead” historically in this area.  While the U.S. has been stellar in creating many of the new technologies that can drive the economy, we have failed to embrace them.  Michael Kanellos has some suggestions as to why? http://bit.ly/bwv1w2

 

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