US trails China and EU in creating clean energy jobs

Alexandra Ellerbeck writes on the Washington Post website about the challenges facing the Biden administration to create millions of jobs, particularly related to battery technology critical for powering electric cars and storing solar and wind energy


China, Europe way ahead of U.S. when it comes to clean energy jobs

President Biden has promised that U.S. efforts to combat climate change will create millions of jobs. But the country will be playing catch-up, especially when it comes to battery technology critical for powering electric cars and storing solar and wind energy.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a data provider, reports that China has 93 “gigafactories” that manufacture lithium-ion battery cells, compared to only four in the United States, our colleague Jeanne Whalen reports.

If current trends continue, it will “leave the United States dependent on China and other trading partners for much of its battery supply, a risky proposition not just for the auto industry but for the military, which is planning to electrify more of its vehicles and gear,” our colleague writes.

Clean energy supporters and companies say that it will take federal action to catch up. 

Per Whalen: “Aside from California, which has adopted many incentives and regulations to boost electric vehicles and renewable energy, the United States has largely left the sector to the free market.”

Meanwhile, China provides battery and electric-vehicle companies with billions in state support, subsidizes consumer purchases of electric vehicles, and makes buyers of gasoline-fueled cars wait longer to get a license place. The European Commission, for its part, promised last month to spend $3.5 billion to subsidize Tesla, BMW and other countries to produce more batteries in Europe.

The U.S. government has not been entirely absent.

Federally funded universities and labs produce some of the best early-stage battery research of anywhere in the world. A federal loan helped jump-start Tesla, and the Obama administration provided tax credits for a limited number of electric vehicle purchases.

But some federal support dried up under the Trump administration, and the United States still falls short of other countries.

U.S. investment could ramp up under Biden.

Biden has promised to “use all the levers of the federal government, from purchasing power, R&D, tax, trade and investment policies” to “position America to be the global leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles and their input materials.”

The president signed an executive order calling on all federal agencies to convert their fleets to electronic vehicles, and he has pledged to build 500,000 charging stations. On Thursday, the Energy Department announced $100 million for clean energy technology.

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