Posted by Big Gav
The SMH has an article on the potential for a clean energy revolution in the US - In the wind: America's drive towards clean technology.
ROOSEVELT transformed the US during the Great Depression by introducing Social Security, building dams, roads and an electricity network; Eisenhower gave the US its interstate highway system, transforming the economy and cementing the car in the fabric of American life. Microsoft, Apple, Netscape and Google turned the US of the late 20th century into the leader in the information economy.
Now Barack Obama, facing the steepest downturn since FDR's time, wants to transform America into a green machine, a nation that leads the world in technology and manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars, technologies to make the electricity grid more efficient and long-life batteries.
Can the US, the land of the internal combustion engine and the McMansion, where bigger is always better, really become a green economy? Can it catch up to Germany, Denmark, Spain and even China, which have been fostering green technology for years? And can the US achieve Obama's dream without passing a scheme that puts a price on carbon?
There are plenty of evangelists for the new green economy despite the outcome at Copenhagen, which left the world well short of a binding commitment to lower global emissions.
In California, the venture capital industry, having weathered some tough times over the past 12 months, is roaring back to life and ''clean tech'' is hot.
''I am more bullish about this than ever,'' says Steve Westly of Westly Group, a venture capital fund that is backing the electric car company, Tesla. ''We have seen some stunning innovation in California and in China,'' he says, adding that China is now the leader in clean tech. ''But most people don't realise how quickly these technologies are coming.''
The parallel, says Westly, is the mobile phone market. The first mobile phones cost $3000 and weighed 3.2 kilograms. Now they are 95 per cent cheaper and weigh almost nothing. He believes it will not take long before solar reaches ''grid parity'' - when a kilowatt of solar power can be produced for the same cost as conventionally generated power - and at that point the technologies will ''go through the ceiling'', he says.
The argument is similar with electric cars. Tesla, the company that Westly has backed, has produced its first all-electric Tesla roadster, which goes from zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. But it comes with a hefty $US100,000 ($A110,000) price tag. Tesla is now working on a more economical family vehicle, which Westly believes will take the US car industry by storm.