Despite the widely criticized government loans given out to clean energy firms like Solyndra, the U.S. still has a chance to take the lead in the green sector, Jesse Jenkins reported on Forbes.com.
Jenkins is the director of energy and climate policy at the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank dedicated to achieving ecological equality. The clean energy sector is hugely subsidized in the U.S., and in order for the country to get to a point where it is less dependent on fossil fuels, there needs to be much more technological innovation, Jenkins said.
American business and policymakers must now unite to craft a coordinated new set of limited but direct federal strategies optimized to drive innovation, advanced manufacturing, and competitiveness, Jenkins said.
Because of the huge government subsidies, companies simply build as much as they can to sell in those markets instead of coming up with new ideas and technologies. In this stifling environment, Jenkins argues, there is an opportunity for U.S.-based companies to take the lead in creating a new clean energy strategy that is more in line with what U.S. companies are good at. While some subsidies are needed, relying on them too much will make clean energy less likely to take over for fossil fuels or even make it too expensive to produce in the first place.
That message hit the Bay area particularly hard in September when news that Fremont, Calif. based Solyndra, makers of thin-film solar cells had filed for bankruptcy and laid off all its workers. This was a company that had gotten a $535 million loan from the government and had even given President Obama a personal tour of the manufacturing facility.
Furthermore, another company that had gotten a loan guarantee from the government announced they were going bankrupt Nov. 1. Massachusetts-based Beacon Power received a $43 million loan to produce an energy storage facility in upstate New York to store electricity from the power grid.
Tell us in the comments if you thing clean energy still has a future.