China is emerging as the clear leader in the race for global dominance in the clean tech sector according to a report from the World Watch Institute (WWI). Not only has Beijing pulled ahead of the United States in renewable capacity and investment, this week's midterm election results will only make it harder for the U.S. to catch up.
“Governments and industries around the world are now struggling to keep pace with China,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. “China is succeeding precisely where the United States is failing – in implementing the ambitious policies and making the sustained investment that is needed to spur growth in clean energy. If China keeps on its current pace, it will be the undisputed global leader in clean energy within the next two years.”
In the last State of the Union address, President Obama was clear about the importance of positioning America as a clean tech powerhouse:
“China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations, they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place… They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs… The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
It is beoming increasingly clear that America is not that nation.
According to WWI:
In 2009, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest market for wind power, housing nearly one-third of the total installed capacity.
China’s newly added wind power capacity has doubled every year for the past four years. The country added 13.8 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2009.
In 2009, China’s solar photovoltaic (PV) companies held 40 percent of the global market, with most production being exported to Europe. More than 20 Chinese solar PV companies have successfully engaged in initial public offerings (IPOs), and five of these rank in the world’s top 10 in solar PV production.
While the Beijing is full steam ahead, Washington may have just gone into reverse. Obama’s climate bill has been stalled for months even before losing control of Congress in this week’s midterm elections. The new batch of lawmakers descending on D.C. have made no bones about their intent to undo Obama’s agenda.
Observers worry that important Congressional positions such as the chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee may soon be occupied by the likes of Joe Barton of Texas or Fred Upton of Michigan – both of who voted against clean energy legislation.
Barton embarrassed even some of his Republican colleagues when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony to Congress after the Gulf oil spill. Upton committed that he would eliminate the House select committee on climate change, calling it a “wasteful committee.’’
This looming partisan gridlock is music to the ears of the leadership in Beijing. Given their impressive advantages of cheap labor, an educated workforce and an artificially low currency, China was already pulling ahead. After this week’s election results, the U.S. may be in danger of dropping out of the clean tech race altogether.
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