Bush's Clean Technology Fund: Too Little, Too Late


Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson penned a piece in today’s Washington Post that pushes the president’s proposed $10 billion international Clean Technology Fund. The fund, which Bush referenced in his State of the Union address this year, is designed to subsidize cleantech projects in the developing world.

The piece was published on the heels of the president’s attendance at last week’s G-8 Summit , where he reiterated that the U.S. would not agree to binding emission reductions unless the world’s developing economies, namely China and India, also signed on.

The fund is an attempt to show the developing world that the U.S. is willing to work collaboratively on climate change. But this isn’t about altruism, for it would involve the U.S. and other developed nations selling their clean technologies to buyers in developing countries and subsequently retaining the bulk of cleantech intellectual property — the very same model upon which the fossil fuel industry was built.

The fund would work by financing the differential cost between, for example, a coal-fired power plant and an equitable wind farm. Through a mix of loans, grants, equity investment and credit guarantees the fund, as managed by the World Bank, would pay the incremental cost of the wind farm over the coal plant while private business and the country’s government would cover the remainder.

And while Lugar and Paulson do use wind as an example, they make sure to specify that “clean technologies” include the administration’s favorite controversial clean technology: clean coal. “Such emerging technologies include carbon capture and storage, which separates carbon dioxide before it goes up a smokestack and sequesters it underground,” they write. China is currently bringing online about one coal-fired power plant a week, making carbon capture critical but still elusive, as many don’t think the technology will be viable for at least a decade.

Bush wants the U.S. to contribute $2 billion over the next three years while other developed nations fill in the remaining $8 billion. However, Lugar and Paulson point out that the World Bank estimates it’ll cost $30 billion per year to deploy clean energy technologies in the power sector alone.

The decision as to whether or not Bush’s clean technology is the best way to get China and India to come to the climate change table will be left to the next president. But while McCain and Obama have made both lots of noise about energy and foreign policy, neither has yet articulated a cogent foreign energy policy.



Firstly, I firmly believe that Bush has done more harm to this country than any president in the history of this country… from the economy, to the environment, to its security, to America’s reputation abroad. I can only hope that the next president can undo his many follies.

Secondly, and totally off the subject, I’d just like to say congrats on the nice design work on your sites. You’re designer gets it.


What do you mean by ‘too little too late’? The man is following through by providing billions of dollars for clean energy technologies, and you are basically saying: don’t do anything, we would hate to say that Bush did something right.

This sounds like the old parable of King Solomon and the two mothers. Both mother’s claim ownership of a child, so Solomon offers to split the baby in half. The lying mother agrees, and the real mother cries to save the baby’s life, and is willing to give the baby up.

You are just like the lying mother, willing to sacrifice a clean energy investment just because it came from President Bush. Shameful.


Providing developing countries with clean technology to pursue low-carbon development is critical to curbing global greenhouse gas emissions. While only a drop in the bucket compared to total energy infrastructure investment needs, a $10 billion CTF could be transformational in leveraging private sector investment. But the U.S. should not be participating in the CTF as currently designed. According to the World Bank’s framework document, virtually any technology that is marginally more efficient could receive CTF funds. That means, in addition to wind and CCS, CTF funds could also be used to finance coal plants without carbon capture and storage, provided such plants use supercritical technology over dirtier, cheaper subcritical technology. The current framework for the CTF reflects a lack of vision. These scarce financial resources should be focused on the task of rapidly drive down the costs of zero carbon energy alternatives by strategic investments in currently available technologies, such as solar thermal. David Wheeler at the Center for Global Development testified before a House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing last month regarding the CTF, arguing that the rapid increase in global greenhouse gas emissions demands that the international community use clean technology funds not merely to improve efficiency but to catalyze a transformation in energy costs. He further estimated that a strategic investment program could close the cost gap between solar thermal and coal-fired power in 5-10 years for a cost of under $10 billion. The CTF is a tremendous opportunity to make real progress in addressing our warming planet, but reforms to the current design are needed to turn this opportunity into a reality.

For more on David Wheeler’s testimony:

Full disclosure: I work at the Center for Global Development

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