The Move Toward Green Technology

In an article by Christian Parenti, published in The Nation (July 16, 2010), he writes:

In the wake of the BP oil spill, some captains of industry have begun calling for government leadership to spur a clean-energy revolution. In June billionaire software mogul Bill Gates visited Washington and encouraged lawmakers to pony up public subsidies to triple clean-tech R&D funding from $5 billion to $16 billion annually.  On his website Gates wrote, “When it comes to developing new sources of energy, and ways to store that energy, I believe the federal government needs to play a more active role than it does today.”

Gates’s acknowledgment of the need for government intervention is welcome, but he and many others are stuck on “innovation.” The fixation on new “game-changing” technology is omnipresent. Think of the metaphors we use: a green Manhattan Project or a clean-tech Apollo Program. It recalls Tocqueville’s observation that “the American lives in a land of wonders, in which everything around him is in constant movement, and every movement seems an advance. Consequently, in his mind the idea of newness is closely linked with that of improvement.”

Yet according to clean-tech experts, innovation is now less important than rapid large-scale implementation. In other words, developing a clean-energy economy is not about new gadgets but rather about new policies.

In one area — automobiles — implementation finally seems to be taking off, as more and more automakers are positioning themselves to produce hybrid or all-electric cars. For a detailed review of the 2010 offerings, see “Charged Up and Ready to Roll: The Definitive Guide to Plug-in Electric Vehicles” published by the non-profit organization Plug-in America:

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