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Jeff Immelt, green technology and American renewal

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Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and chief executive, has been one busy guy as of late, if not with actual work then at least with giving speeches and publishing articles regarding the future of the Unites States as it pertains to business, technology, and innovation. Consider his latest piece, co-authored with John Doerr who is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Coufield & Byers, that was published the other day in the Washington Post. The article, titled Falling Behind on Green Technology, is more or less a call for the U.S. to get serious about green technology. Two major points are presented: First, the U.S. has the top five leading internet technology companies, but when it comes to green technologies the U.S. has only one of the top five wind power producers, one of the top ten solar panel producers, and two of the top ten next generation battery manufacturers. Second, because long-term guidance from policy makers is lacking, and current policy is detrimental to green technology startups, the U.S. is falling behind significantly when compared to other countries, especially China.

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Of course, the statistics above might only become a problem if one truly believes that renewable energy is indeed the next big thing - a very hotly contest topic as is evidenced by the number of comments left by readers. One should not really be completely surprised that Jeff keeps pushing green technologies. GE is heavily vested in wind turbines, heavy machinery, and appliances. Each one of these segments is likely to profit significantly from any regulation requiring higher efficiencies - then again maybe profiting handily while cleaning up the environment might not be so bad after all. The article’s introduction of the China scare is also somewhat amusing; after all, the Russian scare during the cold war era seems to have worked wonders for American ingenuity, so maybe all that is needed now is a green war era? All humor aside, it is a brief article so you can consumer it quickly and decide for yourself.

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In case you need a longer dose of Jeff Immelt you might be interested in the video below showing the speech he gave when GE announced a new Manufacturing and Software Technology Center outside of Detroit. The speech, titled American Renewal is rather long one coming in just short of 45 minutes. If you don’t have your coffee handy and a comfortable chair, here is quick synopsis: Jeff argues that the U.S. cannot rely on being a service-led and consumption based economy. It needs to be technology based and export that technology. Further, goals need to be set long term in terms of great undertakings and compensation must be adjusted such that people that truly have brains are valued more than bean counters. Jeff proposes a plan that consists of five fronts: First, an increase in R&D spending is needed since technology makes countries and people wealthy in the long term. Second, the U.S. needs to focus on clean energy and affordable healthcare as the engine for future job growth. Third, the U.S. needs to seriously commit to manufacturing and exports, rather than relying on the American consumer to lead the recovery. Fourth, the U.S. should utilize the government as a catalyst for leadership and change through public/private partnerships, while at the same time be cautious about too much regulation that might stifle innovation. And finally, he encourages business leaders to be responsible for the competitiveness of their own country. In addition to all of the above, Jeff encourages those who have capital to invest, for the best time to invest is when it is hard to do so for others. The video is below, so you can watch it and make up your own mind. Regardless, whether you agree with Jeff regarding renewable energy or affordable healthcare, if either of them comes to pass there ought to be plenty of opportunities to capitalize on this for low-power and analog semiconductor startups.

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