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2010 Was a Kick-Ass Year for Clean Energy Investments -- Thanks, China!

Global investment in clean energy rocketed to a record $243 billion in 2010, largely on the back of China's rabid spending and solar rooftop installations in Europe, according to figures released this week from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Meanwhile, the Americas region -- which includes the U.S. -- brought up the rear. And the way things are shaking out, the U.S. won't make any headway in 2011 either.

If anything, the U.S. is headed backwards. For instance, HBSC said in a research note Thursday the uncertainty that marked global investment in low-carbon energy tech has been replaced with optimism -- except in the U.S.

Uncertainty rulez in the U.S. -- thanks, Congress!
It's not that the U.S. is at a standstill, while every other country busily slaps up solar panels and invests in wind power. New clean energy investments in the Americas region rose 35 percent to hit $65.8 billion, the BNEF said. And the U.S. was among several countries, led by Germany, that helped investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects surge 91 percent to $59.6 billion. BNEF even highlighted the $400 million financing for wind developer Pattern Energy Group and $350 million for Better Place as two notable U.S. private equity deals.

The U.S. is just slower, which is significant considering our wealth, size and resources. The problem stems from policy uncertainty, meaning Congress has punted repeatedly on climate-change legislation and even a narrow energy bill.

You're either on the bus or off the bus
But let's be clear: China is driving the bus these days. And while China is accelerating, an increasing number of U.S. lawmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our largest pro-business lobby group, are busy arguing about whether climate change is real. Earlier this week, chamber president Tom Donohue attacked the EPA in his annual 'State of American Business' speech and called the agency's emission rules part of a regulatory tsunami by the Obama administration.

If it wasn't already blatantly obvious that China is wiping the floor with us, here's two more tidbits to consider: China installed more than three times as much wind capacity than the U.S., according to the American Superconductor Corporation. And China announced this week it will more than double its wind capacity by 2015 to 100 gigawatts.

Photo from Flickr user zzzack, CC 2.0