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

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.93%4.15%
15 yr fixed3.03%3.12%
5/1 ARM3.27%3.19%
30 yr refi4.01%4.20%
15 yr refi3.09%3.17%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,399.67 19.26 0.12%
Nasdaq 4,316.07 57.63 1.35%
S&P 500 1,904.01 17.25 0.91%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.02 -0.82%
Data as of 11:20pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.76 2.09 2.14%
Bank of America Corp... 16.26 0.05 0.31%
Pfizer Inc 27.93 0.10 0.36%
Facebook Inc 76.95 1.00 1.32%
Microsoft Corp 44.08 0.45 1.03%
Data as of 4:04pm ET

Sections

Better-than-expected iPhone sales and record Mac sales lifted Apple in its fiscal fourth quarter. More

China's economy has clocked its worst quarter in more than five years, raising concerns over Beijing's ability to meet its own annual growth target. More

In three years, all Chicago high school students will have to take a coding course in order to graduate. More

Host a furniture market. Here's how small town High Point, N.C. rakes in this much money -- twice a year. More

Detroit has 80,000 dilapidated properties and 100,000 empty lots. It's trying to get more people like Antjuan Wyatt to buy them. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.