U.S. Shouldn’t Wave The White Flag On Solar : Chu

U.S Energy Secretary Steven Chu has continued to support government funding for renewable energy projects, saying America cannot afford to "wave the white flag" in the face of an ever-growing global market for clean energy.
   
In a speech to the Washington Post Live Smart Energy Conference last week, Secretary Chu defended a $535 million Department of Energy (DOE) federal loan guarantee to failed solar manufacturing company Solyndra; pointing out that risks were necessary in the race to promote technological innovation in the solar industry.
   
"The global competition is fierce, and support for innovative technologies comes with inherent risk," Chu said. "Not every company or every product will succeed, but that is no reason to sit on the sidelines and concede leadership in clean energy."
   
With the worldwide renewable energy industry worth around $240 billion and a rapidly expanding solar PV sector worth $80 billion, Chu said the U.S government had a responsibility to finance clean energy technologies and rejected claims that free market forces would provide an environment in which America could compete against countries like China, Korea and Germany. 
   
Chu pointed out that China – now the dominant force global solar PV export market – has learned to support emerging industries from studying U.S policy, and now spends roughly $30 billion per year on subsidies for solar companies, including seven billion alone to Suntech Corp
  
A coalition of seven American solar businesses are currently seeking a 100 percent increase of trade taxes on imports of Chinese solar panels, which the companies claim are undercutting U.S prices and jeopardising the sector.
   
Making a comparison with the U.S automobile industry, which expanded output by 35 percent last year on the back of a government bail-out after almost going belly-up during the global financial crisis in 2008-09, Chu said technological manufacturing and innovation was America’s trade “sweet spot.”
  
"America faces a choice today: Are we going to recognize the opportunity and compete in the clean energy race or will we wave the white flag and watch all of these jobs go to other countries?"
  
Another aspect often missing in the coverage in the wake of Solyndra is the loss is a drop in the bucket compared to money spent on other failed projects, usually related to defence. For example, the recent failure of a $320 million public investment in a new glider hardly caused a ripple. Even that failure pales in comparison to the US Navy’s $30+ billion "Littoral Combat Ship" program, for which "what could be delivered for the sums available, have proven nearly irreconcilable."