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A Global Green Energy Movement Is Useless If the World Doesn’t Participate

some turbines doing green technology geopolitics

It’s not too difficult to appreciate that some issues require global efforts in collaboration to address. World problems related to health, climate change, energy, and others are often effectively solved when countries share information. This has been demonstrated throughout history, and it continues to be true today. But in the current atmosphere of international suspicions and nationalism, such collaborations are hard to come by. While these shifts have impacted many areas of research, one of the most concerning ones involves our clean energy future. Green technology geopolitics have promoted isolationists policies, which are counterproductive to clean energy advancement. And unless we as a nation appreciate this, the repercussions are likely to be significant.

some glass structure and green technology geopolitics
Green technology geopolitics are holding the world back from sweeping changes.

(More than a few bold businesses are tackling climate change–here’s a list of ten of them.)

There are several areas where the world’s clean energy future is at stake. Nations that fail to acknowledge climate change and take actions accordingly undermine everyone’s future. At the same time, refusing to work with other countries on clean energy solutions is self-destructive. Not only does this put these countries, including the U.S., at a disadvantage. But such positions also reduce jobs, raise consumer costs, and handicap scientific progress. This is the unfortunate situation the U.S. now finds itself based on its current green technology geopolitics. Collaborative efforts between U.S. scientists and engineers with China, Russia and other countries have been prevented out of national security concerns. But long-term, these policies will do little to bolster the U.S.’s efforts to advance its clean energy future.

“…If we’re serious about fighting climate change, policymakers need to implement policies that promote collaboration across global value chains with regard to scaling up low-carbon energy technologies.” – John Helveston, Assistant Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, George Washington University

The Current Green Energy Landscape

The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress was in part created to address the nation’s clean energy future. American production of semiconductors was encouraged out of concern of an increasing reliance on Asian nations. Likewise, the legislation was to help advance our own clean energy future by subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs). In this regard, Ford Motor Company planned to release EVs in mass production in 2026. But there’s one major issue…its ability to produce EV batteries. While nickel and cobalt batteries are available, the preferred batteries for EVs are those made of lithium, iron, and phosphate. But U.S. engineers lack the know-how in producing these batteries at scale. And as the world appreciates, China does. In short, Chinese companies have a monopoly on these battery types, which poses a serious dilemma for Ford.

(Need a breakdown of the Inflation Reduction Act? Bold Business has you covered.)

The solution that Ford devised to overcome this issue involved collaboration. In addition to constructing a $3.5 billion battery production plant in Michigan, it partnered with Chinese company CATL. Ford would license CATL’s battery technology and allow them to teach Ford’s engineers about the process. But this created some significant push-back among some legislators due to green technology geopolitics. They opposed any funds to go toward a Chinese-based company due to worries about national security. Likewise, the $7,500 EV tax credit may no longer apply because of the involvement of “a foreign company of concern.” This is a perfect example of how green technology geopolitics are impacting a clean energy future potential. And these same types of issues affect other energy sectors as well including solar and alternative fuels. Should Ford back out, roughly 2,500 potential jobs would be lost along with the chance to learn new technologies. And similarly, Ford would have to purchase their batteries from China, which would significantly raise production costs.

a bunch of wind turbines just chilling
Fossil fuel use will never go away completely–especially if only a few countries go green.

An Argument for Global Collaboration

Despite current green technology geopolitics, history supports the need for international collaboration. Repeatedly, the ability to acquire tacit or implicit knowledge from other countries extends beyond watching videos or reading books. Instead, it demands in-person instruction and observation. Such was the case when American companies and scientists gained insights from German scientists after WWI regarding the chemical industry. The same occurred in the 1980s when Japanese engineers showcased their innovative automotive manufacturing abilities. And the Human Genome Project was the result of a massive international collaboration from numerous countries. Without such collaboration, the dissemination of knowledge and technologies would have never occurred.

History is not the only support for international collaboration for a brighter clean energy future. Scientific research has also demonstrated the advantages of working with other countries on energy solutions. Specifically, the globalization of the solar panel supply chain has saved nations tremendously. Retrospective analyses suggest that countries around the world saved $67 billion from this collaboration. The U.S. itself saved $24 billion alone. In contrast, failure to collaborate on this aspect of a clean energy future increases costs by 107% in the U.S. This will be the same situation as it relates to China and battery technology unless green technology geopolitics change. A longer-term vision is needed in this regard so that more effective energy policies can be implemented.

“Nationalistic policies hurt every country and risk missing pressing climate targets.” – Gang He, Assistant Professor, Department of Technology and Society, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Stony Brook University

Embracing Collaboration for a Brighter Future

clean energy future via solar panels
A clean energy future is impossible if the world as a whole doesn’t work together.

As noted, much of the current green technology geopolitics from U.S. policymakers are based on national security concerns. These same worries supported the China Initiative in 2018 that sought to investigate Chinese espionage via Chinese corporations. However, to date, not a single case of espionage has been identified. This has not prevented trade sanctions against China and companies like Huawei. And it has not prevented the current pushback that Ford Motor Company is experiencing from some lawmakers. The problem is that such safety measures threaten a clean energy future globally. And they also threaten the country’s long-term capacity to lead the world in science and technology.

Understanding this, it’s time that the U.S. along with other countries to rethink their support for global collaboration. A clean energy future requires cooperation, sharing, and partnerships in an effort to solve problems that extend beyond national borders. New green technology geopolitics should evolve from this perspective and embrace projects like the one Ford has proposed. No nation is an island, and periodically, new innovations and technologies will surface from diverse locales. For this reason, global participation is energy and other sectors are often required for true advancement.

 

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