This is a special guest post by Daniel Fielding, an editor at Everything Left who also does freelance design and writing in the green technology blogosphere.
By Daniel E. Fielding
A common phrase uttered all-too-often these days is, “In today’s economy.” Our nation’s leaders and industry leaders cringe every time these words are spoken. While some throw up their hands and give up hope, it is important to highlight the few outspoken advocates who are fighting to create an economic revolution. Hopefully as a result, “Today’s economy” will soon have a positive connotation. Here is an excerpt from a speech President Obama delivered at ZBB Energy in Wisconsin this past August:
We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012. And that’s not just creating work in the short term, that’s going to help lay the foundation for lasting economic growth… Just a few years ago, American businesses could only make 2% of the world’s advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles – 2%. In just a few years, we’ll have up to 40% of the world’s capacity.
Those batteries are also used to store energy from renewable sources like solar cells and wind turbines. The U.S. isn’t the only country interested in renewable technologies. As a result, these components are exported all over the world. There is no way to make the transition to clean energy without first addressing the need for revamped energy storage and transfer (read: batteries and smart grids). While these advances in technology and policy will ultimately benefit the environment, first effects will be seen in the nation’s economy.
GBI Research recently released a report which illustrates the current and projected demand for high efficiency batteries and hybrid/electric vehicles. It is expected that the electric vehicle market will increase exponentially in the next 5 years. In July, President Obama released a statement underlining the steps he plans to take in order to boost our economy. Specifically, he is looking at the way the United States handles their exports as one of the largest tools to potentially reduce the nation’s debt. President Obama underlined a series of strategic points in a report on the National Export Initiative (NEI). He feels that this initiative will set us on the path to economic recovery – by means of a manufacturing renaissance in America. If this plan is effectively enacted, it will serve a two-fold purpose: It will help the nation’s economy rebound back into prosperity, while at the same time addressing global environmental/pollution concerns.
Also in July (not coincidentally), the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, was appointed to Obama’s Export Council. Liveris published an editorial on usatoday.com, How U.S. can launch a manufacturing renaissance. In the article, he succinctly highlights what is necessary to improve domestic manufacturing, and how as a result, the economy will follow suit. After reading this piece, it isn’t hard to see why Liveris was selected for such a position. Some of the key suggestions in his editorial are ones that–if followed–will lay the foundation for a boom in manufacturing of green tech components in the U.S.
- New infrastructure that leverages private investment in plant and equipment, and modernizes our nation’s communication networks, electric grids and air, sea and land transportation systems. This will extend the lifespan of the nation’s infrastructure, boost domestic manufacturing and improve the quality of life of every American.
- R&D that’s cutting edge. The experiences of competing countries demonstrate that R&D investment leads to greater economic growth, worker productivity and higher standards of living. We have begun to make progress. At Dow, for example, we are stepping up our partnership with the government in this call to action.
With Vice President Biden on Monday, I am laying the cornerstone on a breakthrough lithium ion battery factory — Dow Kokam — supported by recent federal grants. To increase advanced manufacturing, the U.S. needs to reinforce R&D spending.
- An alternative energy strategy that will secure the abundant energy that industry needs to stay competitive. Energy is the lifeblood of U.S. manufacturing, but we have no comprehensive policy to support it. We should become far more efficient in its use, seek lower carbon alternatives and, with proper safeguards, expand traditional supply.
- Regulatory reform is required for U.S. manufacturing, especially as concerns the environment. Regulation is necessary, but smart regulation isn’t always practiced. All too often, we see rules that bog down product innovation or that lack a solid scientific basis.
Dow Kokam is a great example of how these ideas can be applied in real-world applications. Their newest plant, located in Michigan, is estimated to create 2,720 jobs by the time it is completed, with 800 full-time positions once the plant is operational. At full production, the plant will supply enough lithium-ion batteries to power 60,000 hybrid or electric vehicles annually. There is a large demand for these types of batteries in the medical, defense, industrial, and transportation industries; both domestically, and abroad. Andrew Liveris is in good company on the President’s Export Council. Other members of the include W. James McNerney, Jr., CEO of Boeing; Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company; as well as other leading authorities on international transportation and trade. This council is responsible for advising Obama on setting the pace for our nation’s newest and greatest industry: green technology.
If you are interested in finding out more about our past, current, and future trade activity, the United States International Trade Commission (usitc.gov) does a pretty fantastic job serving up the information they’ve collected and published over the years.
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