US Snoozes, Loses In WWF Cleantech Rankings

The United States isn’t an utter disaster when it comes to cleanteach manufacturing, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s new “Clean Economy, Living Planet” report [PDF]. But it lags behind China in absolute terms and when adjusted to reflect the size of the U.S. economy, other countries — Denmark, Germany and Brazil — slide in front of the Americans.

To understand why this is the case, one need look no further than Atlanta, where a big wind power conference began on Monday with a call from the Republican governor of Kansas for an extension of the production tax credit (PTC).

global wind capacity

image via Shutterstock

Sam Brownback wants the PTC extended because wind power has boosted employment in his state. And he might indeed end up getting an extension of a year or two past the PTC’s January 1, 2013, expiration. But even that best-case scenario — a last minute, lame-duck session, short-term extension – is no way to make renewable energy policy. Not if you want companies to invest in building the kinds of supply chains that lead to hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs (not to mention a lot of clean energy).

“Other countries are moving on clean technology opportunities and making big investments in the industry, while U.S. policymakers in Washington seems to be content to let all the recent growth in the U.S. wither on the vine by not providing policy certainty and not going after growth opportunities,” Marty Spitzer, director of U.S. climate policy for WWF, said in a statement. “It’s stable, visionary policy that’s driving the market leaders to the top.”

That’s China he’s talking about. According to the WWF report, “China is successful not only because of its lower labor and capital costs, but also because of its stable government policies, strong applied R&D and well-developed supply chain. As a result, China overtook the EU as the number one cleantech manufacturing region in absolute terms. Other major cleantech regions have not been able to capture these opportunities in the same way as China did.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.