The global demand for batteries is expected to grow exponentially over the next 20 years. We cannot make the conversion to clean energy without first acknowledging the need for energy storage and transfer (better batteries and a smarter grid). Despite the important role these parts play in green energy, the economic impact of this domestic manufacturing reaches clear across the country.
Many companies responsibly monitor the distance and method in which materials are shipped to them. Unfortunately, just as many organizations are eager to capitalize off of the green moniker, without even the slightest effort to improve their emissions impact.
In July, President Obama released a statement underlining the steps he plans to take in order to boost our economy. Specifically, he is looking at the way the United States handles their exports as one of the largest tools to potentially reduce the nation’s debt.
The decision to hone-in on domestic manufacturing—including exporting the fruits of that labor—is a well calculated one. Over the last 10 years, over one third of people employed in manufacturing industries have lost their jobs. These people are already primed and ready to jump right back in to the green manufacturing industry.
Here is an excerpt from a speech President Obama delivered at ZBB Energy in Wisconsin this past August:
We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012. And that’s not just creating work in the short term, that’s going to help lay the foundation for lasting economic growth… Just a few years ago, American businesses could only make 2% of the world’s advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles – 2%. In just a few years, we’ll have up to 40% of the world’s capacity.
Obama also underlined a series of strategic points in a report on the National Export Initiative (NEI). Obama feels that this initiative will set us on the path to economic recovery – by means of a manufacturing renaissance in America.
In July, the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, was appointed to Obama’s Export Council. It isn’t hard to see where Liveris was selected for such a position. Liveris published an editorial on USAtoday.com, “How U.S. can launch a manufacturing renaissance.” In the article, Liveris succinctly highlights what is necessary to improve domestic manufacturing, and how as a result, the economy will follow suit.
- New infrastructure that leverages private investment in plant and equipment, and modernizes our nation’s communication networks, electric grids and air, sea and land transportation systems. This will extend the lifespan of the nation’s infrastructure, boost domestic manufacturing and improve the quality of life of every American.
- R&D that’s cutting edge. The experiences of competing countries demonstrate that R&D investment leads to greater economic growth, worker productivity and higher standards of living. We have begun to make progress. At Dow, for example, we are stepping up our partnership with the government in this call to action.
- Education that leads the world. The U.S. needs to enhance student skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where we widely lag global competition. In the past, STEM education and workforce training was a key U.S. strength, underpinning its manufacturing leadership.
With Vice President Biden on Monday, I am laying the cornerstone on a breakthrough lithium ion battery factory — Dow Kokam — supported by recent federal grants. To increase advanced manufacturing, the U.S. needs to reinforce R&D spending.
Dow and other major U.S. corporations must work with the administration to co-invest in American infrastructure, R&D and education. Beyond establishing areas for long-term investment, the Advanced Manufacturing Plan should also address some obstacles to growth:
- A “pro-trade” policy that creates a “level playing field” with limited tariffs and barriers to entry. The U.S. should adopt pending trade agreements such as Doha, which ensure that same treatment with key foreign partners — reciprocal market access to enable free and fair American participation. Competing countries are negotiating easier market access for their manufacturers, at the expense of American operations.
- An alternative energy strategy that will secure the abundant energy that industry needs to stay competitive. Energy is the lifeblood of U.S. manufacturing, but we have no comprehensive policy to support it. We should become far more efficient in its use, seek lower carbon alternatives and, with proper safeguards, expand traditional supply.
If you are interested in finding out more about our past, current, and future trade activity, the United States International Trade Commission does a pretty fantastic job serving up the information they’ve collected and published over the years.
Daniel Fielding is a freelance content & web developer. You can see more of his work at Shades of Green, a Green Technology Blog.