November 18, 2009
E&E NEWS: Report warns of ‘Asian Tigers’ surging ahead
Excerpted from an E&E News report by Saqib Rahim, (November 19, 2009) (Subscription reqd)
It may be early in the global race to develop low-carbon technology, but a new report warns that East Asian governments are investing at a feverish pace -- and that if the United States doesn't follow suit, it will be left behind in an accumulating cloud of emissions.
The study, released yesterday by the Breakthrough Institute and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, is an early effort to size up efforts by three "Asian Tigers" -- China, South Korea and Japan -- to take a global lead on clean energy.
While the United States remains the world's most innovative nation, the authors said, that lead is closing as these countries plunge $500 billion into clean technologies over the next three years. That's nearly triple the U.S. figure, assuming it passes the House climate bill giving a fraction of expected cap-and-trade revenues to research and development.
"We are and will be the world's leading consumer of clean energy technology. The problem is that demand will ultimately create supply, and supply doesn't necessarily have to be in the U.S.," Rob Atkinson, president of the ITIF and a co-author of the report, said at a release event yesterday on Capitol Hill.
"Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant" makes it clear that the U.S. could use a roadmap to technological success similar to those that Asian nations have developed. It recommends a framework for channeling R&D funds to specific technologies that are the most promising, and also establishing domestic development programs funded by public investment to keep the innovation process moving ahead of the standard private investment model, which relies more on proven successes -- a Catch-22 for technologies on the breaking edge of innovation.
While this might smack of "picking winners and losers" to some energy lobbyists, Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, thinks that's the point. Without government stewardship of certain technologies, he said, President Lincoln might not have built the railroads, food wouldn't be cheap, and the Internet might not exist.
"This calcified ideology that the government should not be procuring cutting-edge technologies, the government should not be picking technological winners and losers, that is the ideology of American decline," he said at the Capitol Hill event.
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