China has taken enormous strides in developing its renewable energy sector, recognizing in ways the U.S. has so far failed to do, that renewable energy is of strategic importance. As one piece of evidence, China passed the U.S. this year as the world’s largest market for wind energy, despite the massive imbalance in per capita energy utilization. China has already achieved the status of having the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing industry. All of this comes with massive government support for the renewable energy industry. China, unlike the U.S., is protecting their domestic industries, thereby laying the foundation to be the dominant market forces when they’re mature.
Contrast that with the insane approach we’re taking in the U.S. up until this year: force the nascent renewable energy industry to fight uphill battles against mature, dirty energy industries. Renewables in the U.S. have been purposefully kept immature for as long as possible so that the established industries can continue to enjoy their record profits. There was a way those dirty industries got there though: through government interference! Decades of subsidies and tax breaks and incentives helped grow those industries – the same kinds of activities that have been denied renewable energy industries in the U.S., but not in China.
Here’s what’s going to happen without a fundamental change in the way we fund research in the U.S.: the dirty energy industry is going to get its wish and remain the dominant player for a long time to come. In the meantime, the Chinese renewable energy industry will become more adept and mature. Once it is, it will be able to compete for projects here in the U.S. as it become more and more obvious that renewables are the way to power our country. Since their industries will have more efficient economies of scale to work with, Chinese industries will win contracts in the U.S. U.S. companies will not be able to compete either in China (due to their protectionist policies) or here in the U.S. We’ll send billions of more U.S. dollars overseas, growing the Chinese economy instead of the U.S. economy. All because the U.S. looks at energy as a monthly profit engine, not strategically important. Yay for us.