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Business leaders focus on environmental innovation

Keynote speaker David Rothkopf said the U.S. is falling behind on environmental policy while speaking at the Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday. Poppy Lynch/Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aliya Karim.

Business and financial leaders emphasized the need to use clean technologies and build energy industries in the United States at a day-long conference hosted by the GW School of Business Thursday.

Keynote speaker David Rothkopf stressed the importance of governmental coordination in environmental policy while speaking at the Jack Morton Auditorium.

“It’s most striking how out-of-step the U.S. is,” Rothkopf, CEO of the Garten Rothkopf international advisory firm and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, said. “Every other country realizes it can’t exist without government investments.”

Rothkopf said environmental policies in other countries have given them a competitive advantage in the economy, while the U.S. has seen a drop in job creation over the last decade.

“We are the least strategic country out there,” he said. “There’s this delusion that somehow the government shouldn’t be involved, but that wasn’t always the case.”

Business School Dean Doug Guthrie, who kicked off the event, expressed similar sentiments, saying the U.S. is falling behind countries like China in the energy and environmental business sector.

“Recently, China’s been in the news because they’ve been stealing our jobs,” Guthrie said. “We are not subject to losing jobs because they’re stealing them, but because we are not making coordinated investments in them.”

Guthrie emphasized gradualism in innovation, decentralization to increase competition, governmental coordination, cross-industry coordination and foreign investment to build partnerships.

“We’re in a dangerous situation in the economy, but this area can catapult us,” Guthrie said.

Several panelists at the conference agreed, suggesting that international policies might provide guidelines for American policies and innovations.

“In the early planning stages, you need to think about international environment policies overseas that are driving changes,” Keith Curtis, the senior advisor on energy efficiency at the Foreign Service, said. “Guess what? It’s a jungle out there. This could potentially be the next Industrial Revolution.”

Curtis called for a reduction in the country’s carbon footprint, an issue faced by the U.S. and several other countries.

“We’re in a shaky, changeable political environment,” Curtis said. “We need some real, long-term commitment that producing carbon will cost you something. It’s one of the most serious questions we have.”

Brandon Belford, a finance specialist at the Department of Energy, discussed the need to find multiple solutions to clean energy, while Michael Bruce, the director of Manifest Energy, focused specifically on wind energy.

“Natural gas is attracting a lot of money right now with its lower greenhouse gas profile. Solar and wind energy have not,” Bruce said. “Wind employments in the U.S. are in a zigzag formation. We want supply chains optimized. We want competition.”

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