The following post replies to a question from National Journal to its "energy experts" list. The question was as follows:
Is America Losing the Clean Energy Race?
Is the United States losing to countries like China in the global race to develop clean-energy technologies?
One top House Republican, Cliff Stearns of Florida, suggested that America has already lost. He told NPR earlier this month, “We can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines.” Last week, a coalition of U.S.-based solar manufacturers filed official complaints with the Obama administration and the International Trade Commission alleging that China is illegally subsidizing renewable-energy products and effectively gutting America’s solar-energy industry.
The downfall of Solyndra, the federally backed solar manufacturer that is now at the heart of an FBI investigation and a congressional probe led by Stearns, has thrust to the forefront a debate over America’s place in the global clean-energy race. Energy analysts say Solyndra’s photovoltaic solar panels, which did not use silicon, could not compete with cheap silicon panels from China.
Is Stearns right when he says the United States can’t compete with China on wind and solar technologies? What can Congress and the Obama administration do to spur development of domestic clean energies? What should the private sector do? How have things changed since we last asked this question in August 2010?
The U.S. is very emphatically NOT losing to China in wind power. However, we are rapidly approaching a fork in the road, where decisions Congress makes will determine whether the enormous progress America has made in building a domestic industry continues or is rolled back.