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Peak green technology

Given the number of crowd funding green energy scams that make their way across social media, you would be forgiven for thinking that green technology is in its infancy.  Worryingly, though, there are signs that genuine progress in green technology may be slowing.

This, at least, is a concern raised by Warren Cornwall in Science:

“The number of patents issued in fields related to cutting carbon emissions climbed from 15,970 in 2009 to approximately 35,000 in 2014 and 2015, before slipping back slightly to about 32,000 in 2016…

“Patents can serve as a handy metric for innovation, because they track new inventions their creators think are economically valuable enough to patent.”

Peak patents
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The decline in new patents comes at a time when the Trump administration is actively cutting support programmes provided by the US Department of Energy in the years since the 2008 crash.  However, it is unlikely that this was solely responsible for the growth in patents from 2010, since technologies can take many years to go from the drawing board to the point where they can be patented.  It is more likely that the boom in patents resulted from corporations investing in green technology development as a result of global initiatives to combat global warming.

The Trump cuts may well lead to a further decline in green energy patents because:

“… some clean energy technologies, such as more efficient electrical grids and devices that can store intermittent solar and wind power, are still in an early stage where private investment alone won’t bring them to fruition.”

This provides an even greater incentive for governments and energy experts to develop energy and climate strategies based on technology that already exists – or is at least likely to be available in no more than a decade – rather than continue to pin their hopes (and our children’s future) on yet-to-be-invented green technologies that will never even make it to the patent stage.

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