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Energy Innovation

Driving Technology Competition and Cooperation Among the United States, China, India, and Brazil

Authors: Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, , C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, , Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program, and , Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Energy Innovation - energy-innovation

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date November 2010

114 pages


Low-carbon technology innovation and diffusion are both essential aspects of an effective response to climate change. Studying China, India, and Brazil, Michael A. Levi, Elizabeth C. Economy, Shannon K. O’Neil, and Adam Segal examine how innovation in low-carbon technologies occurs and how the resulting developments are diffused and adopted. This report zeros in on a critical tension: the United States' interests in encouraging the spread of technology to reduce emissions can clash with efforts to strengthen its own economy. This tension has traditionally been the province of debates over “technology transfer” and intellectual property rights; this study goes beyond those debates to look at the complete innovation system.

The authors begin by exploring each major emerging economy in four different dimensions. First, they examine how efforts to create and manufacture low-carbon technologies do and do not stimulate efforts to deploy those technologies at home. Second, they assess how government policies affect countries' abilities to absorb technologies, looking at policies that create markets, invest in innovation, protect intellectual property rights (IPR), and affect trade and investment barriers. Third, they examine how the economic structure of each major emerging economy affects the country’s ability to respond to climate change through innovation and foreign technology absorption. Fourth, they examine each country's ambitions for technology and product exports, which affect the degree to which U.S. commercial interests are helped or hindered by the spread of technology.

The report then assesses a range of policies and offers recommendations. These are aimed at boosting domestic investment in innovation, strengthening active government promotion of technology transfer and diffusion, and promoting an open international system conducive to the commercial spread of technology. Recommendations address IPR, trade and investment rules, government support for research, development and demonstration, standard setting, technology cooperation centers, and multilateral institutions, among other areas.

The study also includes detailed case studies of wind technology in all three countries, clean coal in China and India, electric vehicles in China, solar energy in India, and biofuels and deforestation in Brazil.


More About This Publication

Michael A. Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment and director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations. He directed CFR’s Independent Task Force on climate change in 2007–2008. His most recent book, On Nuclear Terrorism, was published by Harvard University Press in 2007. He received his PhD in war studies from the University of London (King’s College) and his MA in physics from Princeton University.

Elizabeth C. Economy is C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her most recent book, The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future, published by Cornell University Press in 2004, was named one of the Top 50 Sustainability Books in 2008 by the University of Cambridge. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of China. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, her AM from Stanford University, and her BA from Swarthmore College.

Shannon K. O’Neil is the Douglas Dillon fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her expertise includes political and economic reform in Latin America, with a focus on Mexico and Brazil, U.S.-Latin American relations, energy policy, trade, and immigration. She directed CFR’s Independent Task Force on U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality. Dr. O’Neil is currently working on a book on Mexico’s political, economic, and social transformation, and also publishes She received her PhD in government from Harvard University and her MA and BA from Yale University.

Adam Segal is the Ira A. Lipman senior fellow for counterterrorismand national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, Advantage: How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge, will be published by W.W. Norton in January 2011. His previous book, Digital Dragon: High-Technology Enterprises in China, was published by Cornell University Press. He received his PhD, MA, and BA in government from Cornell University.

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Michael A. Levi writes that "climate change needs to be confronted," but that an overemphasis on clean technology could lead to new conflicts.