Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Should the U.S. Have an Industrial Policy?

The current Bloomberg BusinessWeek has an interesting interview Charlie Rose conducted with financier Wilbur Ross. Ross, who became a billionaire buying and selling banks and steel companies, is a conservative fellow. But he thinks the U.S. needs an industrial policy, and one that focuses on renewable energy:
Does manufacturing in the U.S. have a future?
I think it does. What I'm worried about is R&D. You have to have new technologies. We think of China as a polluter. Let me tell you, China is the leader in wind power technology. They already are producing 40 percent of all the wind turbines in the world and exporting 80 percent of those. And they did it in typical Chinese fashion. They ordered that the power grid must take alternative power before it can take anything else. Second, it must do it under long-term contracts, and third, it must do it at a big premium price. So they managed to create a huge domestic market, and now they're beaming in on the export. That's how you have an industrial policy.

And we don't have an industrial policy at all in this country.
No, nor do we have an energy policy.

Here you are, a man who is worth more than a billion dollars. And you're saying what we need from the government is policy.
Yes. I really feel that within 5 or 10 years, we could be a second-rate power. We'll still be big, but we could be behind the eight ball in a big way.
The Economist has a cover story warning of the dangers of governments investing in industry. But, as I have noted before, the U.S. has subsidized energy for years. Unfortunately, these subsidies have mostly been for the fossil fuels industry, which hardly needs government support to stay in business.

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