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Energy Business Leaders Getting Antsy, but Is the US Already Out of the Clean Energy Race?

At the Wall Street Journal‘s recent ECO:nomics conference, the “only CEO-level event focused on the relationship between the environment and the bottom line,” the CEOs of some major energy companies expressed their impatience at the US’ slow and unclear movement to take action on climate change and clean energy.

Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser said that the industry needs “certainty on the carbon price, certainty on legislation.” Shell is a member of the US Climate Action Partnership.


American Electric Power chairman Michael Morris, regarding climate change and clean energy legislation, said, “We need this done. America needs to lead the world [in clean technologies].”

And FPL Group chief executive Lew Hay reiterated, “We need some certainty about the economics.”

These top CEOs are getting impatient, and there is no question why. The bottom line is, if the US is going to lead the global economy (or even be a significant player in it), it needs to get cracking on clean energy legislation.

In a similar manner, the question the Center for American Progress (CAP) recently decided to pose is this: “Is the US already out of the clean energy race?”. They have just released a report on this topic.

In a wonderful & quick video and an introduction to their report, VP for Energy Policy Kate Gordon and others get into the details of the matter. They show us where the US stands today and what it needs to do to stay or get into the global clean energy revolution.

The CAP states that the US is 2nd worldwide in clean energy sales, but that when you compare our total sales to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) we are only about 19th. Germany, Spain and China, other large clean energy leaders, on the other hand, are 3rd, 4th and 6th, respectively.

The Center for American Progress reiterates what we’ve seen and have said many times by now: “clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion” by 2020.

Other countries (i.e. Spain and China) have made huge strides forward in the last year and are continuing to do so in order to capitalize on that, whereas the US is essentially sitting on the sidelines.

As the CAP puts it, the US has this simple choice: “come to the table and feast on the enormous economic opportunity that comes with reducing global warming pollution or be an item on the menu as our economic competitors forge ahead to build prosperity.”

The US is currently far below other world leaders on installed renewable energy per capita (see Figure 1 of the CAP article) and clean tech inventions or patents (see Figure 2).

The CAP chronicles how some successful US start-ups have moved to more proactive countries like China to continue their development and how the US could lose many more of the businesses and economic benefits of the future if it doesn’t get its head in the game (or get into the game).

The bottom line is, as much as clean energy and clean tech may be about preventing catastrophic climate change, they are also about economic growth and the economic future of the world.

As the CAP writes, “China, Germany, and Spain are early winners in the next great technological and industrial revolution. Many other countries such as Denmark, Japan, and South Korea that we do not discuss in this report are also forging ahead with ambitious clean energy economic strategies. The United States, which has yet to fully embrace a truly sustainable growth strategy for the low-carbon future, is not.”

The CAP and others say that the prime things we need in order to compete with these world leaders is a cap and a price on carbon.

The energy giants of the US are asking for these things as well.

Will the US get into the game before it is too late?

Image Credit: ….Tim via flickr

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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