Thursday, December 10, 2009

Le Défi Américain

Dominique Nora reports on the "cleantech" revolution in Silicon Valley. I was struck by this sentence in the review: "Chez nous, l'écologie, c'est surtout la loi. Là- bas, c'est des gens." It takes us back to the 50s and le défi américain. That was of course Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's notion that the Yanks had found the high road to modernity and that Europe had better follow the same route or risk oblivion. Then as now, perhaps un juste milieu would have served both sides. And it's not clear that Europe--with its lead in wind and nuclear power and research on solar power--actually lags in technology, even as it leads in regulation. But the American entrepreneurial machine is a formidable generator of energy and shouldn't be underestimated. And technology has often proven to be a less painful means of altering human behavior than government intervention--albeit, to be sure, for the worse as well as for the better.

4 comments:

Stephane D said...

The comment on "la loi en France et les gens aux US" applies to much more than cleantech. It illustrate the fundamental difference between how French and American relate to any problem: In France, it is "Mais que fait donc le gouvernment?". Aux US, it is "Think Globally Act Locally".

Unknown said...

wasn't JJSS's book published in the mid 60s rather than the 50s or is my memory playing games. I sort of remembered that it launched one of the shortest political careers (as I remember it, he was a minister for, like, 2 days in one of the first Giscard governments).

Unknown said...

Bernard, you're right as usual. It was published in 1967, and JJSS served as Giscard's minister of reform for 3 weeks until Chirac forced him to resign because he refused to support nuclear testing.

DavidinParis said...

One nagging thought repeatedly come to me each time I think about French 'clean' energy.
-nuclear waste : a problem that has never been solved and (assuming none of the numerous nuclear reactors ever have a a major accident) poses an extreme risk to the entire country (and her neighbors).
At the same time, France is engaged in heated debate (no pun intended) about the impact of windmill on the visual splendor of the Normandy coast. Even a former French president has been tilting at windmills. Could it be agenda-driven?