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Sunday, July 05, 2009

"The Next Great Global Industry"

Thomas Friedman says the race to develop clean-power technologies is on, and if we lose it we won't be able to afford health care reform:

Can I Clean Your Clock?, by Thomas Friedman, Commentary, NY Times: Over the past decade, whenever I went to China and engaged Chinese on their pollution and energy problems, inevitably some young Chinese would say: “Hey, you Americans got to grow dirty for 150 years, using cheap coal and oil. Now it is our turn.”

It’s a hard argument to refute. Eventually, I decided that the only way to respond was...: “You’re right. It’s your turn. Grow as dirty as you want. Take your time. Because I think America just needs five years to invent all the  you Chinese are going to need as you choke to death on pollution. Then we’re going to come over here and sell them all to you, and we are going to clean your clock ... in the next great global industry: clean power technologies...”

Whenever you frame it that way, Chinese are quizzical at first, and then they totally get it:... E.T. — energy technologies that produce clean power and energy efficiency — is going to be the next great global industry, and China needs to be on board. Well, China has gotten on board — big-time. Now I am worried that China will, dare I say, “clean our clock” in E.T.

Yes, you might think that China is only interested in polluting its way to prosperity. That was once true, but it isn’t anymore. China is increasingly finding that it has to go green out of necessity because in too many places, its people can’t breathe, fish, swim, drive or even see because of pollution and climate change. Well, there is one thing we know about necessity: it is the mother of invention.

And that is what China is doing, innovating more and more energy efficiency and clean power systems. And when China starts to do that in a big way — when it starts to develop solar, wind, batteries, nuclear and energy efficiency technologies on its low-cost platform — watch out. ...

“China is moving,” says Hal Harvey, the chief executive of ClimateWorks, which shares clean energy ideas around the world. “...Sustainable technologies in solar, wind, electric vehicles, nuclear and other innovations will drive the future global economy. We can either invest in policies to build U.S. leadership in these new industries and jobs today, or we can continue with business as usual and buy windmills from Europe, batteries from Japan and solar panels from Asia.” ...

This is a major reason I favor the climate/energy bill passed by the House. If we do not impose on ourselves the necessity to drive innovation in clean-technology ... we will be laggards in the next great global industry.

And this is why I disagree with President Obama when he signals that he has to focus on extending health care and put the energy/climate bill — now in the Senate — on the backburner.

Health care and the energy/climate bill go together. We need both now. Imagine how poor we would be today if U.S. firms did not dominate the top 10 Internet companies. Well, if we don’t dominate the top 10 E.T. rankings, there is no way we are going to be able to afford decent health care for every American. No way.

I don't want to underplay the necessity of developing technology that will help to reduce greenhouse gases, and competition between countries and between firms ought to help with that development, but is that true? Is domination of the E.T industry the only way we can afford "decent health care for every American"? Other countries manage to provide decent health care for every one of their citizens, and they don't seem to need to dominate the major industries in the world to do it.

    Posted by on Sunday, July 5, 2009 at 01:56 AM in Economics, Environment, Health Care | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (46)

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