Democratic News

“Today we will hear from witnesses on competitiveness and collaboration issues between the United States and China related to clean energy.

“The hearing follows a trip I took to China in April to learn more about Chinese policies and incentives to deploy clean energy.  My staff and I visited Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Beijing to talk with investors, business representatives and government officials.

“On that trip, I was impressed by the vast combination of financial investments and government partnerships with industry to deploy clean energy.  China is rapidly developing, and although much of its growth is dominated by coal and fossil fuels, the Chinese government has combined a mix of financial incentives with government policies to promote the clean energy sector as well.  That sector is not only developing domestically in China, it’s also extending abroad and it’s influencing the United States very directly and the European markets.

“The situation in China is in direct contrast to the approach to clean energy  that we have taken in the United States.  Indeed, many of the efforts we have to promote clean tech in the U.S. are addressed in an unpredictable fashion, with funds and incentives that expire and come back to life and then expire again, and a lack of clear directional policy that would allow industry to plan for the future.

“I believe that the inconsistent approach that we’ve been pursuing has put the United States at a disadvantage in competing with China for a share of clean energy markets -- at home and abroad.  Many here in the United States argue that we should allow the free market to determine the fate of these domestic industries, and there’s truth in that suggestion, but it fails to take into account the industrial policies and practices of competing nations, as well as hidden costs in the current energy system.

“The U.S. cannot compete on a level playing field with countries that have strong industrial policies when our own policies have been so inconsistent and erratic.  In the absence of clear and coherent policies to support development of clean technology in the United States, many of our companies and industries are left relying on trade policy to try to protect their competitive interests.  Trade enforcement is critical, but we also need a strong foundation of domestic policies to build upon.

“I want to make clear that this hearing is not intended to focus on the trade cases that are currently before the USITC and the Department of Commerce.  The matters in these cases are not under the jurisdiction of our Committee.  This hearing should not be a forum to try to prejudice the outcome of those cases.

“The purpose of this hearing is to gain a greater understanding of what China is doing on clean energy and how that impacts and relates to what the U.S. is doing. 

“I hope we’re able to focus on three large issues:

  • --What is the current landscape of Chinese investment in clean and renewable energy?
  • --What are the appropriate U.S.-Chinese relationships on clean energy issues?
  • ---How do we promote U.S. competitiveness with China and other countries in the clean tech sector?

“I believe the U.S. should continue to rigorously enforce its trade laws to level the playing field when there are unfair disparities, but additional domestic measures are likely to be needed if the U.S. is to fully compete in this sector.  I’m very interested in some of the testimony related to the experience we had with SEMATECH back in the 1980s, and drawing the analogy between what the United States did there to try to support the semi-conductor industry and what might be done here with these clean energy technology areas that we’re discussing today.  I know that Alan Wolff and Clyde Prestowitz have substantial history in connection with this and may be able to enlighten us as well.

“Finally, the U.S. and China have common interests in deploying clean energy.  While we may find ourselves in the position of competing with each other for these new markets, I believe that part of our conversation should also lead to answers on what the two countries can do together to accelerate deployment of these technologies.”

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For more information, please contact

Bill Wicker at 202.224.5243

or bill_wicker@energy.senate.gov

or Rosemarie Calabro at 202.224.5039

or rosemarie_calabro@energy.senate.gov

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