Recounting some history, Secretary Chu said, "On a windy day at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers launched the world's first powered airplane to achieve human flight and with it, a whole new industry. For the next several years, they led the world. What is less appreciated is that the United States lost the technology lead in airplanes by the beginning of World War I. Although the U.S. military was the first and major customer of the Wright Brothers and their competitor, Glenn Curtiss, between 1908 and 1913, the United States ranked 14th in government investment in aviation. The low level of government showed: When we entered the war in 1917, we were so far behind that our allies convinced us to produce European designed aircraft. . .
"The second lesson involves the history of the automobile. In 1885, the modern gasoline-powered internal combustion engine was invented in Germany by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile; he invented the assembly line, which greatly increased worker productivity. America became the dominant automobile manufacturing force in the world by becoming the low-cost, high-quality mass producer. As the price of cars came down, the market exploded. More factories were built and more workers were hired and America dominated the auto industry. . .
"My final lesson is about information technologies. American ingenuity created the technologies upon which modern electronics were born, but federal support helped usher in the telecommunications era. The U.S. saw the potential of this emerging industry and took action to help foster its growth. The military was an early adopter of computers. The Defense Department backed research that helped lead to the development of Internet technology. The purchasing power of the Air Force, NASA and other federal agencies guaranteed a market and drove down costs for microchips, making them affordable and widely available for use in a range of technologies. . .
"Once again, there is a huge opportunity before us a global clean energy market that is already worth an estimated $240 billion and is growing rapidly. In fact, a very reasonable estimate is that solar photovoltaic systems alone represent a global market worth more than $80 billion this year. To put that $80 billion in perspective, that's nearly as much as Americans spend every year on beer. The difference is that the solar PV market will grow and will dwarf the beer market. The United States built an early lead in the clean energy race. Solar cells, wind turbines, and lithium ion batteries were all invented here. But we are no longer the leading manufacturer of any of those technologies. In keeping with the comparison with beer, in 2009, we spent $7.1 billion on potato chips $2 billion more than our federal investments in energy research.
"History is repeating itself just like we took the lead in automobiles from Germany, other countries have studied the U.S. playbook and are using it to take the lead from us. While some people in Washington are debating whether the clean energy economy is real or whether we should try to compete, other countries are seizing the opportunity. Nowhere is this more evident than in China. Last year in Shanghai, I visited Suntech, currently the leading photovoltaic manufacturer in the world. They import their silicon wafer material from the United States, because the electrical energy required to refine the silicon is much less in the U.S. They add the high technology processing steps in a highly automated facility in China. Suntech is not only a low-cost leader, at the time of my visit they held the record for the highest efficiency poly-silicon solar cells in the world. Suntech is trying to do to us what Henry Ford did to Daimler and Benz. . .
"While we've made progress, the United States is at a crossroads. Many clean energy tax incentives are expiring. The 1705 loan guarantee program closed on September 30th, and we've obligated virtually all of our Recovery Act money. America faces a choice today: Are we going to recognize the opportunity and compete in the clean energy race or will we wave the white flag and watch all of these jobs go to China, Korea, Germany and other countries? . . .
"We had this same debate in 2008 and 2009 about the auto industry. A lot of people in this town were ready to give up on U.S. auto manufacturing. President Obama refused to let the U.S. auto industry collapse. Today, Ford, GM and Chrysler are profitable and are creating jobs and quality products. After seven straight years of decline, America's auto manufacturers expanded their output by 35 percent last year. The President took action because auto manufacturing is a lifeblood of our economy. A Center for Automotive Research report found that nearly 8 million jobs are impacted by U.S. auto manufacturers, suppliers and dealers. This includes jobs directly connected to manufacturing and other jobs that benefit when workers spend their paychecks. The critics were wrong about the auto industry. I believe they are just as wrong today when they say we shouldn't bother investing in efficient vehicles or clean energy. . .
"To those in Washington who say we cannot or should not compete, I say: that's not who we are. In America, when we fall behind, we don't give up. We dig in and come back. Why should we concede one of the biggest growing markets in the world that is in our sweet spot: technological and manufacturing innovation? America has the opportunity to lead the world in clean energy technologies and provide the foundation for our prosperity. We remain the most innovative country in the world ... but "Invented in America" is not good enough. We need to ensure that these technologies are invented in America, made in America and sold around the world. That's how we'll prosper in the 21st century."
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