|December 02, 2009|
Why Europe Wants U.S. Cleantech Leadership
From the war in
Afghanistan to economic recovery, the world often looks to
Washington for guidance.
Bingaman, sponsor of the American
Clean Energy Leadership Act (S. 1462), was the first of several
speakers who asserted that greenhouse gases and other noxious
emissions do serious damage to the U.S. economy, and that the
market is not yet factoring the environmental, economic, and
health-related costs of carbon-intensive energy generation.
In a letter on November 16, Bingaman
told President Obama that through a Clean Energy Deployment
Administration (CEDA), his energy bill could create 350,000-500,000
jobs in R&D and implementation over the next decade.
"No technological revolution in the last 200 years happened based on an international treaty. Not one!" Encouraging action over reaction, Scheer refused to shed crocodile tears for energy industries that will be phased out during clean power implementation. "Nobody said ten or fifteen years ago that we should slow the introduction of laptops because we should protect the typewriter industry!"
So why would this firebrand from
southern Germany travel to D.C. to prod a national renewable energy
boom that will compete with his own country?
I've personally spoken with many
policymakers and businesspeople over the years about the
segmentation of the American market along state lines and differing
regional priorities. The overall feeling I get from them is genuine
confusion as to why Washington hasn't taken the reins.
That's where many good ideas die because money simply costs too much from private sources. The government is in a position to help long enough to usher startups through the danger zone and into market viability. Morgan Stanley's Jeff Holzschuh had already told the ACORE gathering that capital markets simply aren't big or deep enough to provide stage-1 financing like government can.
"Our job is to create a Darwinian, paranoia-inducing marketplace."Ed Markey, a Massachusetts liberal Democrat, didn't sound like a bleeding heart at the ACORE conference. He sounded like a rabid capitalist: "Our job is to create a Darwinian, paranoia-inducing marketplace." Past the initial incubation period, Markey said, he would like nothing more than for the government to "get out of the way."
It's happened before in telecommunications. Markey was involved back then, too. The end result of D.C. loosening its grip on the frequency spectrum while encouraging innovation is that today's high-speed, wireless data flow would be completely unrecognizable to Alexander Graham Bell.
Sadly, much of the energy world looks pretty much the same as it did in Bell's day.
Markey's calls were echoed all day by people like BP Wind Energy's John Graham, who wants policymakers to establish a value chain based on clear carbon pricing. In telecoms, policy moves helped make American companies like Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Nextel (NYSE: S) leaders worldwide. Their domestic success brought prices down, enabling poorer countries like Kenya to leapfrog fixed-line infrastructure and achieve maximal efficiency as their markets develop.
When it comes to a decision between products from the U.S., Germany, Denmark, or even China, consumers from those countries won't even be the main people entrepreneurs need to impress.
Kevin Parker of Deutsche Bank Asset Management said that by 70% of clean energy technology demand growth by 2030 would come from companies outside the 30-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, or "rich country club"). That means that a sizable portion of the people we want to sell energy products to in the future probably have no stable household energy supply today.
That's a promise for market-based growth that the United States should be happy to take the lead on.
In the coming days, you'll learn about an unlikely cooperative effort between America's top technology minds and some of the world's most entrenched petroleum partisans. Stay tuned.