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 fixed3.90%3.90%
15 yr fixed3.02%3.07%
5/1 ARM3.00%3.14%
30 yr refi3.97%3.96%
15 yr refi3.07%3.12%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,010.68 -115.44 -0.64%
Nasdaq 5,070.03 -27.95 -0.55%
S&P 500 2,107.39 -13.40 -0.63%
Treasuries 2.09 -0.04 -1.64%
Data as of 5:35pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.50 -0.17 -1.02%
Apple Inc 130.28 -1.50 -1.14%
Pfizer Inc 34.75 0.31 0.90%
Intel Corp 34.46 0.45 1.32%
General Electric Co 27.27 -0.36 -1.30%
Data as of May 29
Sponsors

Sections

Ed Gilligan spent his entire 35-year career with American Express, starting as an intern ad rising to one of the highest executive posts at the bank. More

The U.S. economy lost ground in the first quarter, but it is already showing signs of life. More

Brit Morin is a DIY queen. Her startup Brit + Co. inspires women and girls to be creative -- and just raised $23 million in funding. More