Clean Energy

Obama's 'China Model' for Clean Energy Sputters

It turns out that stupid business models are stupid everywhere


President Barack Obama hoped 2011 would be a turning point year for the country, the start of something better.

In his State of the Union address to the nation that year, the optimistic president urged the country to move toward clean, renewable power and away from the energy of the past — such dirty power sources as coal, oil and gas.

Forward, he insisted, to emulate China, which the president extolled as a trailblazer in clean energy.

"They're investing in research and new technologies," Obama said. "Just recently, China became the home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer."

This was the nation's second "Sputnik Moment." Much like the first, when Russia beat America into space with a satellite, China was besting America in a transition to renewable energy. Then came his Kennedy moment, when the president set a goal — not to land a man on a distant planet but to derive at least 80 percent of America's energy from so-called clean sources by 2035.

Now, just two years later, the future for clean energy, solar in particular, isn't as bright as the president hoped.