U.S. falling behind in clean-energy race: Chu

GREENVILLE, South Carolina Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:16pm EST

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GREENVILLE, South Carolina (Reuters) - The United States is falling behind in the race for clean, renewable energy and risks losing its prominence in high-tech manufacturing, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Monday.

"America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution," Chu told business leaders, political leaders and engineers at a Clemson University symposium.

But, he said, "The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race. ... China is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy ... China has now passed the United States and Europe in high-tech manufacturing. There is no reason the United States should cede high-tech manufacturing to anyone."

Last week the U.S. Energy Department awarded a $45 million grant to Clemson's Restoration Institute to test the drive trains for the next generation of large-scale wind turbines.

The grant, plus $53 million in matching funds from public and private sources, will be used to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at a former Navy base in Charleston, South Carolina.

The facility will perform highly-accelerated testing of advanced drive train systems for wind turbines in the 5 megawatt to 15 megawatt range, the latter of which could power 6,000 homes.

"This is going to be a very competitive business and we want to help the United States get a leadership position in wind generation technology," Chu said.

"This is high-tech manufacturing. This means quality jobs for Americans, this means better exports and balance of trade, it means better consumption at home, it further drives down the price of wind, it betters our exports, it creates jobs in America. We see all good things."

Chu said the nation must decrease its dependence on foreign oil and mitigate against global warming by decreasing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Talks at the Copenhagen summit on climate change in December will focus on a framework for moving forward, he said.

"Many people think once you've got an agreement, the work is done. No, the work is just beginning. You've got to deliver the goods," Chu said.

(Editing by Jane Sutton)

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