The coming decade is expected to attract $245 billion in new clean energy investments, but unless more aggressive policies are adopted, the US could leave nearly another $100 billion on the table. So says a report released last week from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Aptly titled Global Clean Power: A $2.3 Trillion Opportunity (pdf), the study examines the market potential for clean energy over the coming decade. Focusing on G20 countries, the report indicates a huge opportunity will be lost by pursuing a “business as usual approach.” In that scenario, the G20 stands to gain an estimated $1.7 trillion dollars in clean energy investment by 2020.
If a more aggressive push for clean energy policies are adopted, the report says, that figure could rise by as much as another $600 billion, to $2.3 trillion worth of investment in G20 countries over the next 10 years. According to the study, the United States, India, and the United Kingdom have most to gain from adopting a more aggressive clean energy policies. In the U.S. clean power investment could range from $245 billion to $342 billion, depending on the level of policy support. In all scenarios, says the report, much of the clean energy investments “shift to Asia, led by dramatic increases in China and India.” India is a big winner, in terms of projected clean energy expansion. Even with current policies, India’s clean power market is forecast to grow by 369 percent. With the adoption of more aggressive policies, that rate balloons to 763 percent, the report says.
If China takes an even more bold stance, they could see another $620 billion in clean energy investment. And it is with China that the report reflects recent warnings to U.S. policymakers about China’s growing dominance in clean energy investment. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently cautioned that the United States has come upon a “Sputnik moment” on clean energy, and risks losing a “clean energy race” with China unless more stable, aggressive, and forward-looking policies are adopted.
“America still has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution and secure our future prosperity”, said Chu at the National Press Club in Washington, “but time is running out. Federal support of scientific R&D is critical to our economic competitiveness.”
Senator Inhofe doesn’t buy it – pushes for more of the same
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, renowned for his dogged denial of climate change, released his own report as ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, asserting the Obama administration and “environmentalist” claims of China’s push for clean energy at the expense of the U.S. are “concocted” in an attempt to promote cap-and-trade, clean energy mandates, and “greater government control of the economy.”
Inhofe sees a world of “business as usual” as the solution for the United States’ energy future, and for, if anything, a less aggressive approach toward clean energy and a renewed dependence on fossil and nuclear energy.
“China is winning the global economic race by embracing the reality that fossil fuels, along with nuclear power, will remain the dominant energy sources for the foreseeable future. They will be the engines of growth, and those that possess them, and use them responsibly, will lead the world in technological innovation and economic might,” Inhofe says in his report.
And so we find ourselves at at crossroads, whether it is time to embrace the future or cling to the past.