United States Is an Embarrassing 17th in Clean Tech Production United States Is an Embarrassing 17th in Clean Tech Production
Social Innovation

United States Is an Embarrassing 17th in Clean Tech Production

by Ben Jervey

May 14, 2011

Want to know how serious a country is about clean energy? Look at the percentage of its Gross Domestic Product that the industry represents. Turns out: the windmill-savvy Danes are the world's most ambitious country in clean tech development, with a full 3.1 percent of their GDP coming from renewable energy technology and energy efficiency.

In second place: China, an impressive feat considering how massive their GDP is compared to most of the world's nations. The United States lags at an embarrassing 17th place, with a mere 0.3 percent of GDP coming from the clean, renewable sector.

The most vivid story told by the numbers, which come from a new WWF report commissioned by the journal Nature, is of China's incredible and rapid ascent to clean energy dominance. It hasn't happened by chance.

“The Chinese have made, on the political level, a conscious decision to capture this market and to develop this market aggressively,” said Donald Pols, an economist with the WWF.

Their production has grown an astounding 77 percent per year for the past three years, according to the report. The United States, by comparison, has been growing the sector by about 28 percent per year.

If you talk to anyone—seriously anyone—in any sector of the energy industry, they will tell you that 50 years from now renewable (or clean) energy technologies will dominate the industry, and thus the global economy. Even the CEOs of oil and gas companies well understand this reality. So if you're of the opinion that we should "drill here, drill now" and suck every ounce of fossil fuel out of this Earth, you still have to recognize the benefit of being on the forefront of the industry that will drive the economy through the mid-21st Century economy. It's becoming old news that the United States is falling far behind China, India, and many European countries in clean tech. But with every passing year that we get lapped by China, Denmark, Germany or anyone else, the chance of ever catching up shrinks smaller and smaller.

Photo (cc) by FaceMePLS on Flickr

Ben Jervey More Info

Ben is a writer and editor covering climate change, energy, and environment, and is currently the Climate and Energy Media Fellow at Vermont Law School. He was the original Environment Editor at GOOD Magazine and his work has appeared regularly in National Geographic News, Grist, DeSmogBlog, and OnEarth. He recently worked with the non-profit Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer. When living in New York City, he wrote a book, The Big Green Apple, on how to live a lower impact life in the city. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
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United States Is an Embarrassing 17th in Clean Tech Production