The impacts of budget sequestration are slowly being unveiled to the general public. Furloughs at the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) led to air traffic gridlock and angry travelers. Parks and national tourist sites are cutting back hours. And the Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced furloughs for 680,000 civilian employees. While these short-term impacts are painful, in particular to those losing work hours and income, sequestration is initiating cuts with negative, long-term impacts, which are not yet immediately apparent.
One area of specific concern is the potential $381 million in cuts to energy innovation investments at the DOD – a 25 percent cut compared to FY2012 levels. Since 2009, DOD has invested $5 billion in clean energy research, development, testing, demonstration, and procurement, representing almost 25 percent of U.S. clean energy funding in FY2012. DOD’s focus on clean energy innovation is important for three reasons:
- The DOD has been the source of some of the last century’s most important breakthrough technologies, including the Internet, GPS, and microchips and it could have a similar impact on clean energy technologies like batteries and smart grid;
- The DOD has developed its own cohesive
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is nothing but consistent: he wants a carbon tax and he wants it bad. Since 2005, he’s mentioned “carbon tax” 41 times in his column. Yet, while his support for a carbon tax hasn’t waned, the characteristics of his preferred carbon tax policy have.
As ITIF argues in Inducing Innovation: What a Carbon Price Can and Can’t Do, pricing carbon by itself does little to support clean energy and carbon reductions. It can be a useful tool for nudging near-competitive low-carbon technologies into the market and spurring modest carbon cuts, but it’s at best a complementary climate policy. That changes if we use a carbon tax as a revenue-raiser to support additional policies aimed at making clean energy cost and performance competitive with fossil fuels. In other words, tying a carbon tax to aggressive energy innovation policy can get us better climate mitigation “bang” for our climate policy “buck.” It’s why I proposed an “Innovation Carbon Price” that ties 20 percent of carbon tax revenue to public energy innovation investments and 80 percent to strengthening corporate tax incentives for training, research, … Read the rest
President Obama released his long-awaited FY2014 budget request and while it’s unlikely the budget will be taken up by Congress in its entirety, it remains an important document. Namely, the proposal is significant because it steadfastly argues that America can continue to support next-generation industries like clean energy. In fact, the President’s proposal budgets for a number of high-profile, high-impact programs, including those aimed at growing the domestic clean energy manufacturing sector, reduce transportation fuel use, and calls on Congress to fund a new Energy Innovation Hub to transform the electricity grid.
Across the board, the FY2014 request boosts key energy innovation offices at DOE by about 15 percent compared to the FY2013 Continuing Resolution and seven percent higher than the President’s FY2013 request. The lion’s share of budget gains are aimed at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which would see a budget increase of 54 percent from FY2013 CR levels, and at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which would see a budget increase of 46 percent.
Expanding Research Capabilities in Advanced Energy Manufacturing
The largest budget increase target at EERE – 22 percent to … Read the rest
Global competition in export credit financing has become increasingly formidable, with foreign competitors enjoying substantial support from their countries’ export credit agencies, as ITIF explains in Understanding the Importance of Export Credit Financing to U.S. Competitiveness. The United States’ Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) fills an important role in leveling the playing field for U.S. exporters by matching credit support that other nations provide to their exporters, thus preventing foreign exporters from enjoying undue advantage. This ensures that U.S. exporters are able to compete against foreign competitors based on the quality and price of their products and services, and not lose sales because a foreign government has helped a foreign competitor by providing superior financing terms to a potential buyer.
Unfortunately, other countries—and principally America’s top economic competitors in Europe and China—continue to invest significantly more than the United States does in export credit financing, both as a share of GDP and, in China’s and Germany’s case, even current dollars.
In fact, from 2007 to 2011, China invested $227.6 billion in cumulative new medium and long-term official export credit volumes compared to the United States’ $70.6 billion, according to data … Read the rest
After already slashing R&D funding, the Sequester is about to deliver another kick in the teeth to American competitiveness: it’s going to sharply reduce our ability to measure it. This one comes courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which announced last month that the sequestration has forced it to eliminate its International Labor Comparisons (ILC) program, a neat little database that adjusts foreign data to a common framework, allowing you to compare the traded sector health and competiveness of the United States against that of other countries.
This may not sound like much, but in the nerdy world of competitive analysis economics, it’s huge. No one else provides this data to the same extent as ILC. The OECD does a bit,[i] but their data are rife with warnings about the perils of cross-country comparison among their indicators. Moreover, the OECD has little-to-no data on the big boys such as China and India, which renders its data useless for any “big picture” comparisons of our competitive health. Other organizations, such as the UN Industrial Development Organization, provide limited competitiveness data that is vastly incomplete.
In contrast, the ILC … Read the rest
Amidst the furor over the Sequester there is another critical policy issue being debated and it concerns the U.S. government’s role in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Obama administration is seeking Congressional authority to change the voting process at the IMF, and in particular, to give China a much larger role. But the last thing the U.S. government should be doing is strengthening the ability of China to shape IMF policy, especially given its unrepentant, mercantilist practices.
Established after WWII, the IMF was charged with overseeing the international monetary system and encouraging member countries to eliminate exchange restrictions that hindered trade. As a result, under IMF rules, each member country has agreed not to engage in “protracted, large-scale intervention in one direction in the exchange market.”
These are nice words but in practice they have been rendered largely meaningless. The IMF has proven unwilling to take action to curtail currency manipulation or similar egregious actions China and other nations have engaged in to distort global trade, hurt the U.S. economy and advance their domestic economic interests.
Case in point, the IMF’s Executive Board concluded its 2010 Article IV consultations … Read the rest
Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced funding opportunities for two new programs, each with $20 million, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. The first, Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE), is focused on developing improved biological technologies to convert natural gas to liquids for transportation fuels, while the second, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-Metal Systems (METALS), is geared towards improving the manufacturing and recycling of light metals for use in vehicles. (No one can fault the agency’s efforts to create clever acronyms). The move signals emerging government recognition of the importance of transportation decarbonization and the need for a range of innovative transportation technologies to facilitate that endeavor.
Cutting transportation sector emissions is critical to mitigating climate change. The ITIF report Shifting Gears notes that more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to cars and light trucks. Furthermore, the report observes, the number of those vehicles on the road globally is estimated to grow more than 47 percent from 750 million in 2010 to 1.1 billion in 2039.
Fittingly, the federal government … Read the rest
On Wednesday, March 13, the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on the turbulent state of U.S.-India trade relations. The Subcommittee’s hearing reflects growing attention and concern related to India’s recent embrace of a wide slate of “innovation mercantilist” policies that seek to bolster Indian economic and employment growth by distorting global trade rules and forcing investment and production to occur in India. India has erected these policies in a diverse range of sectors from information and communications technology (ICT) to life sciences, clean energy, and retail.
For instance, in February 2012, the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced a Preferential Market Access mandate for electronic goods (the PMA Mandate) which imposes local content requirements on procurement of electronic products by government and private sector entities with “security implications for the country.” A specified share of each product’s market—anywhere from 30 to possibly even up to 100 percent—would have to be filled by India-based manufacturers, with the local content share for each product rising over time. The policy’s coverage is so broad it could easily capture half of India’s ICT market. In fact, on … Read the rest
Ofcom, the UK’s FCC, has published a broadband scorecard comparing Britain’s broadband networks to those of the other large European economies: France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The report compares broadband deployment, subscription, use, and price in the five European nations that are most comparable and offers limited but interesting insight on performance.
The Brits are taking some stick from European critics who wanted Ofcom to produce a more comprehensive ranking against the entire EU-27 and especially speed merchants Latvia, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania, and Sweden. In Ofcom’s defense, the report does include an appendix that provides data on the rest of the EU.
The report is especially interesting as it comes on the heels of our report, The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand, on the ranking of U. S. broadband versus other nations, especially those in the EU and the OECD.
The UK is the only nation other than the U. S. to publish SamKnows data on broadband speed, so the limited data it has on performance is directly relevant for us. As readers of our report will know, there are many methods of measuring broadband speed, … Read the rest
On December 21, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration published a draft environmental assessment for a new variety of salmon that promises to benefit the health and wallets of consumers, reduce dramatically the environmental impacts some have linked to conventionally farmed salmon, and reduce over-fishing pressure on wild salmon stocks. The publication of this EA is noteworthy because it marks at least a temporary elevation of facts, reason, and innovation-friendly policy over ignorance, mendacity, and what appears to have been ill-considered political interference with science-based and pro-innovation policies with a long history of strong, bipartisan support.
The document should have been published more than a year ago. But as is often the case with pathbreaking innovations, its road has been marked by unexpected bumps and potholes. It finally looked as if the path to publication was clear last April, when movement suddenly stopped without explanation. The story is well told in SLATE , by Jon Entine, who has ferreted out indications that it was put on hold out of fears its publication might anger a portion of President Obama’s most fervent base, a calculation of elevated political significance in an … Read the rest