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Clean Energy Competitiveness: Open Data versus Green Mercantilism

Earlier this month, The Economist ran an upbeat editorial on the reinvention of the U.S. economy.   I was reminded of what is good about the U.S. and the amazing capacity this country has to innovate and collaborate, a theme that seems to recur in many other reports I’ve recently read.

This capacity is evidenced by the Obama Administration’s Open Data Initiatives program.  I’ve been reading about the Energy Data Initiative (EDI), which has joined existing initiatives on healthpublic safety, and education.  The EDI aims to help the country benefit from entrepreneurial innovation enabled by open energy data from the U.S. government and other sources. By working to make energy data more available to entrepreneurs, new products and services will continue to emerge, allowing the government to push innovation forward at minimal cost to taxpayers.

Efforts have already led to two “energy data jams,” one in Silicon Valley and another at Google’s office in New York.   White House CTO Todd Park described these as events where, “Participants brainstormed ingenious new ideas for products, services, features, and apps that could be built using open energy data as an input.”  He has asked that further ideas be e-mailed to DataInnovation@hq.doe.gov.

Compare this to the government role described in the recent ITIF report, “Green Mercantilism: Threat to the Clean Energy Economy,” where the authors expose how global energy innovation is being undermined by unfair trade practices.   They summarize, “Not only do green mercantilist policies hurt clean energy producers in the United States, they also limit the incentive to invest in innovative, next-generation clean energy technologies, which hurts, not helps, the global community’s ability to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.”

Couple this with the G-77’s disturbing efforts to again try to justify IP theft and forced tech transfer in their negotiating positions leading up to Rio+20, and you get a clear picture of the challenge.    

Efforts like the EDI do not garner controversy or prompt WTO cases.   Instead, they are part of what The Economist highlighted about what is right about this country.   I’m looking forward to the upcoming “Energy Datapalooza” (more on this later), and watching our government and the private sector partnering together in the right way.

Public Policy Tags: Intelligent Efficiency, Energy