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U.S. losing advantage in Clean Technology.

On January 8, President Barack Obama announced the allocation of $2.3 billion in tax credits for clean energy projects. The aim of the credits, which are part of the Recovery Act, is twofold: to create jobs by fostering a robust clean-energy manufacturing sector and to meet Obama's stated goal of doubling the nation's use of renewable energy in the next three years. According to President Obama, the Recovery Act awards "will help close the clean energy gap that has grown between America and other nations while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security." "By investing in innovative clean energy manufacturing projects like these," Vice President Joseph Biden argues, "we are not only creating good jobs now, but helping lay a new foundation to keep America competitive in the 21st century."

But, according to a report recently released by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Breakthrough Institute, Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant, that foundation is shaky at best. The report, released in November 2009, finds that China, Japan, and South Korea, countries identified as "Asia's rising 'clean tech tigers,'" already spend far more than the United States on clean-technology manufacturing. This advantage is being consolidated by large, sustained public investments designed to attract private-sector spending that once went to the United States. In future years, as private dollars follow public ones, the gap will widen and become even more difficult to close. As a result, the United States could find itself once again relying on imports to meet its energy needs--in this case, importing clean energy technology to replace imported oil.

In fact, the stage is already set for such a shift. As Rob Atkinson, director of ITIF, noted in a February 3 article for Business Week (available at http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/jan2010/id20100122_369263.htm), "Asia's clean-tech tigers are already on the cusp of establishing a 'first-mover advantage.'" The first wind turbines to be used on an America wind farm will come from China. And the United States lags in a host of other indicators, from production of solar cells to low-emission-vehicle manufacturing.

However, it is not too late to shift the momentum. The United States has fallen behind, the report argues, due to a focus on stimulating domestic demand without providing adequate support for the manufacturing side and a reliance on small, uncoordinated market incentives. Stimulating demand without supporting manufacturing means consumers will be forced to import clean energy technology. And indirect market incentives and tax credits do not sufficiently reduce risk or address the large infrastructure barriers to clean technology adoption.

Asia's advantage, the report points out, is due not to any inherent quality of these nations but to concerted public planning with clear objectives. If it is to catch up, the United States must invest much more and much more directly in clean energy R&D, manufacturing, and infrastructure. Clear, forceful policies; coherent, long-term programs; and ample funding must replace the current uncoordinated program of modest, indirect market-based incentives.

MaryAnne M. Gobble, Editor

The full report is available at http:// www.itif.org/publications/rising-tigers -sleeping-giant-asian-nations-set-dominate-clean-energy-race-outinvesting.
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Title Annotation:PERSPECTIVES: Views and News of the current Research-Technology Management Scene
Comment:U.S. losing advantage in Clean Technology.(PERSPECTIVES: Views and News of the current Research-Technology Management Scene)
Author:Gobble, MaryAnne M.
Publication:Research-Technology Management
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:519
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