Originally posted at The Real Ewbank.
Archive for January, 2010
A major report released last week by the National Science Board concludes that U.S. global leadership in science and technology is declining as foreign nations – especially China and other Asian countries – rapidly develop their national innovation systems.
“U.S. dominance has eroded significantly… The data begin to tell a worrisome story,” stated Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development in President Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Director of the National Science Foundation, Arden Bement, noted that “China is achieving a dramatic amount of synergy by increasing its investment in science and engineering education, in research, and in infrastructure, which is attracting scientists from all over the world.”
The report, “Science and Engineering Trends 2010,” is published every two years by the National Science Board, a 25-member expert council that advises the National Science Foundation, President, and Congress on science and technology policy, education, and research. Koizumi called it a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
This “state of the union” for science and technology comes amidst growing concern that Asia is out-competing the U.S. in the burgeoning global clean-tech sector. According to the “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant” report I recently co-authored with the Breakthrough Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, China, Japan, and South Korea have already surpassed the U.S. in the production of nearly all clean energy technologies, and these governments are expected to out-invest the U.S. three-to-one in this industry over the next five years. As U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu recently said, “The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race.”
“Asia’s rapid ascent as a major world science and technology (S&T) center—beyond Japan—is driven by developments in China and several other Asian economies,” states the introduction to the report. “Governments [in Asia] have implemented a host of policies to boost S&T capabilities as a means to ensuring their economies’ competitive edge… the United States continues to maintain a position of leadership but has experienced a gradual erosion of its position in many specific areas.” According to Jose-Marie Griffiths, a member of the National Science Board, “While the US is the largest R&D performing nation — representing one-third of total world investment — Asia has narrowed the gap due to the sustained annual increases by China.”
Yet again, Thomas Friedman nails the clean energy race and fails on the policy strategy. His op-ed today, “Who’s Sleeping Now?” (similar to our recent report, “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant“) claims that carbon pricing is the solution to secure U.S. competitiveness in the global clean-tech industry:
“We are either going to put in place a price on carbon and the right regulatory incentives to ensure that America is China’s main competitor/partner in the E.T. revolution, or we are going to gradually cede this industry to Beijing and the good jobs and energy security that would go with it… It is clear that if we, America, care about our energy security, economic strength and environmental quality we need to put in place a long-term carbon price that stimulates and rewards clean power innovation.”
By calling for the passage of the American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACESA) — without mentioning a single area for improvement — Friedman implies it is strong enough to compete with Asia and drive the U.S. transition to clean energy, when in fact the bill would (1) establish a very modest price on carbon due to numerous cost-containment mechanisms like international offsets; (2) invest an order of magnitude less in clean energy technology development than a large and ever-growing number of experts say is necessary — including dozens of Nobel Laureates, America’s top research universities, Google, Brookings Institution, Breakthrough Institute, Third Way, military veterans, and others; and (3) establish a renewable electricity standard that would not ensure any increase in U.S. renewable energy deployment beyond already conservative business-as-usual projections (see here for comprehensive analysis of ACESA).
That may be acceptable to Thomas Friedman, but it is no way for the United States to lead the clean energy industry. For more on this ongoing debate, see my recent response to Friedman, “Earth to Thomas Friedman: Winning the ‘Earth Race’ Requires Federal Investment.”
The editorial board of The Stanford Daily published a very good editorial today on energy and climate policy, discussing the need to focus on federal investments in clean energy technology to win the clean energy race and confront climate change:
“If the American people will not make economic sacrifices to hedge against global warming, they must be convinced that they will not have to, or better yet, that actions will reap benefits… [the climate bill] could be converted to a major economic boost through one change to the proposed policies: robust federal investment. President Obama’s original request for $15 billion in annual investment for clean-energy development, recommended by a group of 34 Nobel Laureate scientists, has been considerably weakened. It must be reinstated. Yes, the federal budget is strained, but these investments are vital for American competitiveness and would pay back many times over…
Renewable energy also holds massive potential for economic growth. With a global population that will hit nine billion by 2050 and standards of living rising around the world, demand for energy will skyrocket past its current supply, global warming or not.
If the United States does not rise up to fill this market, other countries will. China plans to invest $660 billion in clean energy over the next 10 years and is already beginning to dominate the industry. American inaction would mean continued reliance on imported energy, millions of lost jobs and another blow to a frail economic foundation. Federal investment in research and development, as Fareed Zakaria notes in Newsweek, has brought us the Internet, lasers, MRIs and DNA sequencing. It can bring us renewable energy, too.
The Cleantech Group just released a ranking of the top 10 clean-tech universities in the United States for 2010, with MIT, Berkeley, UT Austin, Stanford, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor occupying the top five slots.
Universities and colleges have a critical role to play in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and reclaiming U.S. competitiveness in the global clean-tech race. Universities perform 54 percent of the nation’s basic research, a fundamental building block of the technological innovation we need to spark the clean energy revolution. Universities and college are the training ground for the next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, and leaders in government and industry. And universities are the launching ground for numerous entrepreneurial ventures to bring those innovations to the marketplace. Indeed, it’s common knowledge that universities like Stanford played a defining role in the information technology revolution, birthing companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems.
However, as President Obama reminded us in a speech today at the White House, “despite the importance of education in these subjects, we have to admit we are right now being outpaced by our competitors… To continue to cede our leadership in education is to cede our position in the world.” As we found in our recent report, “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” Asian nations like China, South Korea, and Japan are launching massive government investment projects to dominate the clean-tech sector, which promises to be one of the largest new growth sectors of the next few decades.
In order to catch up, American students should work with their university and college administrators to secure greater educational resources related to clean energy technology and policy, including better curriculum, professors, classroom and laboratory resources, career development opportunities, support for student entrepreneurship, and research. Every significant institution of higher education in the country should have an energy-related institute that incubates cutting-edge education, research, and innovation. Students are flocking to schools with the best clean-tech programs, and university administrations are increasingly paying attention.
And at the federal level, the United States will need a national clean-tech education strategy on par with the National Defense Education Act of 1958, similar to the National Energy Education Act we proposed back in 2008. The Obama administration’s RE-ENERGYSE proposal was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it was rejected by Congress last year. Will the administration and Congress work together on a new proposal in 2010 on the scale we need to win the clean energy race? Stay tuned.
Here’s the full university ranking, cross-posted from Cleantech Group:
President Obama gave a speech today on the “Educate to Innovate” Campaign and the Science Teaching and Mentoring Awards, emphasizing the importance of STEM education for maintaining American leadership and successfully competing with the rapidly growing economies of Asia. As we found in our recent report, “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” Asian nations like China, South Korea, and Japan are launching massive government investment projects to dominate the clean-tech sector, which promises to be one of the largest new growth sectors of the next few decades.
In order to catch up, the United States will need a national clean-tech education strategy on par with the National Defense Education Act of 1958, as my colleague and I wrote back in 2008. The Obama administration’s RE-ENERGYSE proposal was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately it was rejected by Congress last year. Will the administration and Congress work together on a new proposal in 2010 on the scale we need to win the clean energy race? Stay tuned.
Here are some of Obama’s remarks: