President-elect Barack Obama ran on the promise of green jobs and an economic stimulus package that would provide support for scientific innovation. Then, Obama picked Steven Chu, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, to head the Department of Energy. Chu had been focused on turning Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory into an alternative-energy powerhouse. The green tech community rejoiced that one of their own would be in the White House.
That's because green tech is going to need some help. With the world economy falling into recession, the price of oil has dropped, even though there are serious concerns about the long-term oil supply. When energy prices drop, clean tech investments don't seem quite as attractive, and the renascent industry could be in trouble. It's happened before, after all.
Back in the '70s, geopolitical events sent the price of oil soaring, which, as it tends to, created a boom in green tech. But the early 1980s saw the worst recession since the Depression. Sound familiar? In the poor economic climate, focus and funds were shifted away from green tech. The last nail in the coffin was the election of Ronald Reagan, who immediately pulled off the solar panels Jimmy Carter had placed on the White House. The green tech industry collapsed.
History has given U.S. alternative energy research a second chance and environmental advocates hope that a different president will lead to a very different result.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Green Technology Cheers Chu
Read the 10 Top green tech breakthroughs of 2008. Here's Steven Chu: