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June 10, 2011

U.S. Falling Behind In Green Technology Manufacturing



So which nations of the world are leaders in green technology? Once upon a time it would have been fair to include the United States in this group, but increasingly, that's not the case.

The New York Times reports that many European countries, along with Asian nations such as China, Japan and South Korea, are raising the stakes – and the volume – of commercial development of green technologies with a “recipe” that seems to work: firm government policy, direct government investment, tax breaks, loans, and regulation and laws that cap or tax carbon emissions. The kinds of incentives being handed out in these nations have encouraged rapid entrepreneurial growth in areas such as solar and wind power, as well as in traditional fields like home building and food processing, with a focus on energy efficiency, said the Times.

This is not the case in the U.S., however, with Congress still heatedly debating whether climate change is real. The push to trim the federal budget has also eviscerated many green programs, as well. The result, says the NY Times, is that the U.S. is now ceding job growth and profits to companies overseas that are now profitably exporting their goods and expertise to the U.S.

In other words, we're not making the technologies, though we are buying them.

A Pew (News - Alert) Charitable Trusts study noted that while the clean energy market is expected to be worth $2.3 trillion worldwide, the U.S. is taking home a shrinking slice of that pie. The report concludes that the U.S.'s competitive position is “at risk” because of “uncertainties surrounding key policies and incentives.”

Hal Harvey, an engineer at Stanford University and a former policy adviser to both the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, told the NY Times, “This is a $5 trillion business and if we fail to be serious players in the new energy economy, the costs will be staggering to this country.” Harvey is now the chief executive of a San Francisco-based energy and environment nonprofit organization called Climate Works. While a 2009 federal stimulus bill provided about $45 billion in incentives and funding for green technologies, those funds have largely dried up and have not been renewed.

“We’ve let energy policy succumb to partisan politics,” Harvey told the Times.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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