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Can the US Deliver on Innovation in the Energy Sector?

Big Question!  We pride ourselves on innovation and the power to execute on those ideas that propel the next economy. Silicon Valley is the example, but is it the rule.  Yes we innovated the Semiconductor, PC, Communications systems, Software, Internet, IP Communications, Digital Media and the like.  But now, this next wave of key infrastructure innovation in energy and the many resources we have taken for granted, requires the cooperation and backing of government.  An effective government in policy and practice.

Here is the challenge,  when France can build a beautiful suspension bridge on time and on budget and we couldn’t get the Boston big dig done in less then 10 years and two times over budget or the San Francisco Bay Bridge that has yet to be finish, years over due and way over budget. When China can build  42 high speed bullet train lines of thousands of miles of  tracks and we can’t get a plan  for one line past the drawing boards.

Both business and investors question the viability of our government as stated in the Op-Ed piece “Watching China Run” that they prefer to look at opportunities “overseas because right now in America’s wacky, dysfunctional public sector there is no clear vision of a viable clean-energy economy, and, thus, no clue about how to get there.”  China is walking away with the sector.  Innovation occurs where the demand is.  If we don’t develop the demand, the innovation will never come to fruition.  Yes, we have the most extraordinary venture capital system in the world, but if there is no market , then it will not deliver.

The demand for new enhanced forms of clean energy, must come from mandates, policy changes that are at odds with many incumbent big businesses in energy.  It can not come from the development itself.  Many people liken the new energy sector to the communications era of the 90’s.   It has many parallels.   The new digital technology was coming on line and many dreamed of all the potential of the new services and revenue that it could bring.  But, what really made the industry kick was competition.  MCI, Sprint, and host of others came into the market, deregulation followed, and the break up of the world’s largest monopoly, ATT.  This is why we have the Internet today with all its services.  If the competition didn’t evolve the public policies wouldn’t have changed.   We have to force the changes by active policy changes that allow competition and drive demand. It is our best method to drive the new market.  We are not China, where government policy drives all.  We will need policy and competition, then we can have a big thriving market.

Any discussion welcome on this challenging topic.

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