Gap in green energy

As China leads the way in clean energy, the U.S. is at a crossroads.

Green, clean, alternative or sustainable âÄî call it what you will, the U.S. is missing the boat in the race to develop new energy industries. Here at the University of Minnesota, we are fortunate to have a robust focus on clean energy research, though ratings released by the Cleantech research group earlier this year placed us outside the top 10 U.S. universities doing this kind of work. The UniversityâÄôs Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, however, boasts that it has provided tens of millions of dollars of support of some 430 Minnesota researchers in clean energy. As research and demand ramp up in this sector, we are entering a crucial phase when innovators step up to define the new markets to come. A Pew Charitable Trusts study released last week reports that âÄúChina is emerging as the worldâÄôs clean energy powerhouse. For the first time, China took the top spot for overall clean energy finance and investment in 2009.âÄù Their spending is already nearly double our own. Clean energy and other growing sectors of the âÄúgreen economyâÄù cannot be allowed to become a luxury or an ideological battleground. They have enormous untapped potential to create jobs and grow our ailing economy. âÄúGreenâÄù has come a long way from the tender-hearted environmentalism of the âÄô60s and âÄô70s; it has now undeniably become a major market opportunity. As a country, as a state, as a university and as students looking ahead to future careers, we can choose to take that opportunity or leave it. Meanwhile, China and other nations are showing us that if we donâÄôt join the bandwagon, it will keep on rolling along.