U.S. wins when China invests in green

China's push into renewable energy can pay off for U.S. companies in the sector.A worker makes small repairs to the blades of wind-turbines sitting on a truck outside a factory in China's northen Hubei province. Some say the country's push into renewable energy can pay off for U.S. companies in the sector. By Steve Hargreaves, senior writer


LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (CNNMoney) -- The United States wins when China invests in renewable energy.

That was the message from Matthew Kahn, an economics professor at UCLA, speaking Wednesday at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference.

The United States wins because Chinese investment provides a market for U.S. companies in the alternative energy space. Plus, Chinese investment helps advance clean energy, bringing it closer to cost competitiveness with fossil fuels.

"This is not a zero sum game," said Kahn, speaking on a panel about China's green investments. "This makes the United States better off."

And China is certainly investing.

The Chinese government poured $120 billion into renewable energy last year while the U.S. invested just $20 billion, according to numbers cited at an earlier Fortune panel. China recently overtook the United States as the world's top market for attracting private capital for renewable energy investments.

All that money has left many concerned that the United States is losing the so-called clean energy race to China, and the jobs that go with it.

"China is where the large scale action is happening today," said fellow panelist Li Lu, head of the investment firm Himalaya Capital Management. "China is on the cutting edge of implementing leading technology and infrastructure."

All the panelists agreed that support from the Chinese government is essential for sustaining the renewable energy industry in that country.

The Chinese government has a vested interest in finding cleaner energy sources. The country currently burns massive amounts of coal, and its citizens are literally suffocating under air pollution.

Lu said the push into renewables may ultimately help clean up the air, but probably not as fast as another new technological advancement: the ability to extract natural gas from shale rock.

"There are good reasons to believe that China will have as much shale gas as the United States," he said.

Advances in drilling technology have allowed the United States to unlock vast quantities of natural gas in the last few years -- some say over 100 years worth of new supply.

Natural gas can be burned to make electricity and is cleaner than coal, although extracting it from shale has led to concerns over water pollutionTo top of page

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.04%4.16%
15 yr fixed3.15%3.15%
5/1 ARM3.13%3.15%
30 yr refi4.15%4.23%
15 yr refi3.26%3.22%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,440.59 -127.94 -0.73%
Nasdaq 5,039.78 -48.85 -0.96%
S&P 500 2,067.64 -12.01 -0.58%
Treasuries 2.23 -0.04 -1.89%
Data as of 2:38am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.67 -0.51 -2.81%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 11.37 -2.27 -16.64%
AT&T Inc 34.32 0.39 1.15%
Apple Inc 122.77 -2.39 -1.91%
Ford Motor Co 14.55 -0.06 -0.41%
Data as of Jul 27
Sponsors

Sections

Chrysler owners that haven't fixed their recalled cars are eligible for some incentives -- find out if your car is included. More

China's market is spreading investor anxiety around the world and putting Europe -- its biggest trading partner -- on edge. More

Google is scaling back its unpopular social network integrations, starting with YouTube comments. More

NASA has teamed up with Freelancer.com to crowdsource tools for Robonaut 2, its first humanoid robot in space. More