Here’s another installment in my wages of dysfunction series today. As a result of Congressional intransigence on a cap and trade program or meaningful standards for clean energy production, investors have grown tired with waiting and are turning their attentions abroad:
Alternative energy investment prospects have shriveled in the United States after the U.S. Senate was unable to break a deadlock over tackling global warming, a Deutsche Bank official said.
“You just throw your hands up and say … we’re going to take our money elsewhere,” said Kevin Parker in an interview with Reuters.
Parker, who is global head of the Frankfurt-based bank’s Deutsche Asset Management Division, oversees nearly $700 billion in funds that devote $6 billion to $7 billion to climate change products.
Amid so much political uncertainty in the United States, Parker said Deutsche Bank will focus its “green” investment dollars more and more on opportunities in China and Western Europe, where it sees governments providing a more positive environment.
“They’re asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry,” Parker said of Washington’s inability to seal a climate-change program and other alternative energy incentives into place.
This is a real depressing scenario for the US, the country which invented many of the technologies prevalent in alternative energy production. Now, instead of profiting off of that R&D, we are seeing investment in that production move offshore to Western Europe and China. All because legacy industries like oil and coal own our Congress. Deutsche Bank only has $45 million dollars of investments in green energy in the US, compared to $7 billion worldwide. That’s embarrassing.
Even in unrelated bills, the lack of attention to clean energy investment predominates. The state fiscal aid bill included an offset that slashed $1.5 billion in clean energy loan guarantees. That robs the country of its economic future.
And just to put the icing on this cake, the AP examined the rise of dirty coal plants – old-style dirty coal plants – right here in America.
An Associated Press examination of U.S. Department of Energy records and information provided by utilities and trade groups shows that more than 30 traditional coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction.
The construction wave stretches from Arizona to Illinois and South Carolina to Washington, and comes despite growing public wariness over the high environmental and social costs of fossil fuels, demonstrated by tragic mine disasters in West Virginia, the Gulf oil spill and wars in the Middle East.
The expansion, the industry’s largest in two decades, represents an acknowledgment that highly touted “clean coal” technology is still a long ways from becoming a reality and underscores a renewed confidence among utilities that proposals to regulate carbon emissions will fail. The Senate last month scrapped the leading bill to curb carbon emissions following opposition from Republicans and coal-state Democrats.
“Building a coal-fired power plant today is betting that we are not going to put a serious financial cost on emitting carbon dioxide,” said Severin Borenstein, director of the Energy Institute at the University of California-Berkeley. “That may be true, but unless most of the scientists are way off the mark, that’s pretty bad public policy.”
But coal polluters can make it through the gatekeepers, while legitimate steps to reduce carbon emissions cannot. So we see a boom in the dirty energy space while clean energy investment dollars move to Europe and China.
The President did say at a fundraiser in LA last night (my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail) that the United State must “have a strategy that starts to limit carbon, because we want those clean energy jobs here in the United States. Not in China. Not in Germany.” But this came at a private event, to a friendly audience. Efforts to limit carbon have hit a brick wall in Washington, and we’re paying the price for this unforced error, one which may be felt for decades as we decline economically relative to the rest of the world.