Environmental experts debated strategies that would help make the United States a stronger player in the international green energy market. They aim to promote competitive strategies for U.S. businesses overseas while avoiding the loss of U.S. jobs.
The Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee met with experts and businesspersons from the environmental industry to discuss America’s potential for green export growth. Representatives from General Electric, The Department of Commerce, The Business Council for Sustainable Energy and the American Enterprise Institute weighed in on their perspectives of American success in the world of environmental technology.
“The U.S. is now being eclipsed by other countries, said Dr. Andrea Larson, witness and professor of the University of Virginia. “The green commerce arena is biggest opportunity in world markets now and for the foreseeable future. It is the new game.”
The witnesses unanimously suggested lifting international tariffs that limit the U.S. from trading with prominent countries in the environmental industry, including China, Denmark, Germany and Colombia. They said a free market outlook would yield the best economic results.
“What I don’t like is the idea that other countries can use laws to keep us out. And we respond to this by not addressing that problem,” said Rep. John Barrow, D-GA. “We end up turning to the taxpayers trying to figure out how to jump start our economy when we’re pretty much on an unleveled playing field.”
The committee acknowledged that the U.S. lags behind other nations in the exportation of green technology.
Chairman Bobby Rush, D-IL, cited a study from the Environmental Information Administration saying the U.S. could gain $40 billion per year in green technology and 750,000 new jobs by 2012. He said that today, there are 9.1 million American green technology jobs. But only six of the 30 leading environmental manufacturing companies in the world are American-owned.
“It’s important to have a conversation about the opportunities that trade holds for American jobs and American ingenuity, particularly in the emerging green technology sector,” said Rep. Cliff Sterns, D-FL. “We must view trade as an opportunity and not a threat if we want to see our exports grow.”
Some congressmen remained skeptical of green businesses and their consideration for American jobs. Congressmen Steve Scalise, R-LA, and Tim Murphy, R-PA, said American businesses would likely move their operations overseas if tariffs were lifted to reduce costs.
Scalise said it is important the subcommittee examines ways to create jobs given current energy policy.
“If enacted, the proposed Cap and Trade energy tax would be the most dramatic overhaul of America’s energy economy in a lifetime and it would shift millions of jobs overseas,” he said.
In Spain, which was praised for being an innovator in the green tech business, one job was created for every nine lost. He also noted that nine out of 10 of the green jobs created no longer exist.
The Honorable Mary Saunders of the Department of Commerce recommended a new green tech Web site promotion program where information available in one space. She also recommended energy efficiency initiatives assisting U.S. manufacturers. She stressed importance on being able to manufacture efficiently in the U.S. before selling overseas.
“With a world hungry for climate change solutions, the United States must act as an incubator in innovative technologies,” she said.
Tim Richards, the Managing Director of International Energy Policy at General Electric, said green is the future of business. He cited the U.S. Environmental Information Administration study showing that 92% of green energy consumption will grow outside of the U.S. in developing nations.
He said providing businesses incentives, promoting green projects domestically and opening trade to developing countries with green technology will expand U.S. export potential.
However, when Murphy questioned witnesses about the consequences of opening international trade, nobody gave comment on the potential American business or job losses.
Half of GE’s manufacturing investments are overseas in places like China. Richards couldn’t provide information on the number of jobs lost in the U.S. from their interests overseas.
“If none of you can answer that [the side effects] then you shouldn’t be here. Come prepared,” he said.