Elusive Green Economy
James Fallows of Atlantic Monthly at the Aspen Ideas Conference right now, from his blog a snippet on the US not leading at any of the green technology fields.
On energy, a disturbing factlet. (And obviously not the only disturbing observation on the energy-and-climate front.) I heard three people separately observe that when it comes to future sources of “clean” energy, there is not a single field in which U.S. companies are the technical or market leaders. One person gave an informal ranking of the leaders this way:
Solar-powered electricity (ie, photo-voltaic systems): Norway, Japan, China
Solar-thermal systems (for heating water or buildings) Spain the leader in getting systems deployed
Wind power: Holland, Denmark, China
Geothermal power: nobody
Nuclear power (“clean” in the carbon-footprint sense): France, Japan
CCS, “Carbon capture and sequestration” (stripping out CO2 and burying it): Norway, Australia, Canada.
This person said that his list was rough and ready, and that US firms were in a close second place in some fields. But the main point, he said, is that “American firms are acting as if there is not going to be a vital, profitable, globalized clean-tech industry a decade from now, and as if they don’t care about competing in it.” He had some other more hopeful things to say about how sustained investment could help close the gap. But the list itself was news to me.
And from their latest piece here, excellent read on the elusive green economy. Clean energy, like other utilities, will be succeed or fall with consistent government support/inaction. China is now one of the largest players in clean technology because of government support. So is Germany’s solar play. Unlike Internet start-ups with lower funding costs, energy plays require much larger funds to starup that most VCs cannot afford. Government grants are needed, but that would mean choosing winners. Technology, policy and finance will intertwine, who knows when the breakthrough green tech will emerge from this interplay?