ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2010

GE's Immelt: U.S. lagging in clean energy

By Martin LaMonica, March 2, 2010 12:00 PM US Eastern Timezone

Jeffrey Immelt told entrepreneurs and investors to move fast on clean energy.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.--The demand for energy products is gravitating toward the developing world and the bulk of new clean-energy business risks going along with it, said General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

Immelt gave a talk at the ARPA-E Summit here on Tuesday where he focused on the importance of energy in the context of global economic competitiveness. The conference, meant to showcase disruptive energy technologies, has attracted energy technology entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers.

The U.S. is historically been strong in developing new technologies, but uncertain policies and relatively low levels of spending on research and development make the forecast murky, Immelt said.

"Unless we have a broad perspective on job creation, innovation, and technology growth, we are going to fall behind as a country," he said. "We need growth as a country and globally we play in a much more competitive arena than any other time in our lifetimes."

Given today's trends, the demand for energy-related products will expand much faster in Asian countries than in the U.S. or Europe, he said. For example, by 2020, the number of passenger cars sold in China and India will be more than twice the number sold in the U.S. The auto industry in those two countries will consume all of the oil output of Saudi Arabia by then, he said.

Having strong local demand will naturally pull businesses to those countries because "innovation and supply chain strength gets developed where the demand is the greatest," Immelt said.

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