In recent weeks, particularly after the President’s State of the Union Address, there’s been a lot of ink spilled on the topic of China’s ascendancy in the cleantech space. Essentially, most arguments boil down to the danger of forfeiting the cleantech marketplace to China at the expense of American jobs and innovation. Dire stuff, but is it accurate?
In her piece for Yale Environment 360, “America’s Unfounded Fears of a Green-Tech Race with China,” journalist Christina Larson offers another picture, one that’s a touch more sober. Take, for instance, one hot-button topic that closely orbits just about every discussion on the topic: jobs. She writes:
Most of the green manufacturing jobs that the U.S. stands to “lose” haven’t in fact been created yet; China will gain thousands of new jobs, but not necessarily at America’s expense. Moreover, the United States will still gain many new green-collar jobs, in installation and maintenance, which can only be locally based, as well as sales teams, conference planners, and other positions already arising to support the growing green-tech field.
As for the risk of falling behind in the technology race, it’s best to take a deep breath and approach matters with a bit more objectively.
At present, America still has significant advantages — including the world’s leading university system and the entrepreneurial culture and venture-capital spigots of technology hubs, particularly Silicon Valley. “Intellectual property rights have done a lot to hamper China’s development of green technology,” says Linden Ellis, U.S. director of nonprofit China Dialogue. “People would rather come to Silicon Valley and develop a technology where they know it will be protected by the law, right down to every line, than go to China and try to develop a technology there where maybe the components will be cheaper and there is a lot of interest, but people do not trust that their findings will be protected.”
My take? If you look at the near-daily funding news posted my colleagues at Earth2Tech, the majority dealing with US-based companies — you’ll see that there’s no lack of cleantech activity and technologival advances sprouting up on our shores. A little friendly competition between countries, like companies, is a good thing and not something to stress yourself into ulcers about. When it comes to improving the world — and profiting from it — a little home-grown innovation can go a long way.