Chu said that unless the U.S. acts more aggressively to address climate change – including measures that create a cost for emitting carbon dioxide – it will continue to lose out to European and Asian countries that have gained the lead in high-tech energy industries.
He noted that the U.S., in the mid-1990s, had 45 percent of the global solar photovoltaic market, but that the U.S. market share is now less than 10 percent.
Chu noted several other areas where the U.S. is losing out in high technology energy manufacturing to countries that are moving more aggressively to boost alternative energy generation.
“This is very, very scary,” he said. “We still need to have a core in manufacturing.”
He later told reporters that uncertainty about U.S. climate policy, such as when a price on carbon will kick in, is leaving banks hesitant to make loans for energy projects.
Chu said that the prospect of energy prices rising slightly if U.S. climate legislation is enacted must be weighed against what he called the greater cost of not acting.
“Meanwhile everything is on hold. Everything on hold means capital on hold, capital on hold means investments not being made. Investments not being made means jobs not being created, and we are falling behind. One has to realize that that is in fact now happening,” Chu said.