Ex-NY governor: US should follow Israel on clean technology

Pataki: Israel truly is taking a longterm look at innovation and growing its economy.

February 21, 2011 23:01
2 minute read.
Former NY governor Pataki with Dan Gillerman

Pataki 311. (photo credit: Avi Levy)


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The United States should follow Israel’s lead in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in clean technology, former New York governor George Pataki said Monday.

“Israel truly is taking a longterm look at innovation and growing its economy,” he told The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the 2011 Landmark Ventures Israel Dealmakers Summit in Tel Aviv.

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“We need more government encouragement of R&D... more recognition of the globally competitive nature of the marketplace,” Pataki said.

“[Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz] is talking about lowering the corporate tax rate to as low as 6 percent [for certain companies in the periphery]; ours on average is 39%, and in New York it’s even higher, and it makes it enormously difficult for our entrepreneurs to compete globally.”

Pataki, who now specializes in next-generation vehicles and other environmental projects at New York law firm Chadbourne & Parke, criticized the Obama administration for investing in corn ethanol at the expense of other next-generation fuels.

“What I think government should be doing is incentivizing generically,” he said, adding that rather than select one from a variety of fuels such as corn ethanol, electric, hybrid electric and fuel cells, it should let innovators and the marketplace dictate what works best by providing incentives such as the lowering of corporate taxes for the first 10 million next-generation vehicles sold.

Although reluctant to rule out any specific fuel source, Pataki predicted that electric vehicles would play a big role in the future, adding that up to half-a-dozen companies could introduce them to the US marketplace in the next year, including Better Place, which is preparing to bring electric taxis to San Francisco.

Pataki, who has visited Israel several times in the past and who works closely in his job at Chadbourne & Parke with Israeli companies such as geothermal- energy firm Ormat Technologies, said it was always exciting to witness the commitment to entrepreneurship and to technology development displayed here.

He predicted that Israel would continue to play an important role in the field of clean technology for many years to come. But he warned that the industry must look to survive long-term on more than government subsidies.

“There’s going to continue for the next decade to be an enormous need for innovation for driving down costs... for scaling up products so you can achieve greater efficiency,” Pataki told the Post.

Referring to the rising price of oil and growing instability in Arab nations, Pataki said there was “enormous near-term opportunity” to push ahead with clean-technology development, adding that there was a particular urgency for the US because of its reliance on foreign oil.

“You couple that with the fact that it comes often from very unreliable sources, not just in the Middle East... but also in places like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela,” Pataki said. “He is a terrible leader for his country and a terrible enemy of freedom and America, and yet his economy is funded by US imports of Venezuelan oil.”

Pataki’s resignation earlier this month as head of the anti-health-care-reform group Revere America sparked rumors that he is considering a bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2012.

“Now I want to focus more broadly, both from the legal green-tech side but also on public policy and much broader issues, than what I’m doing right now,” he told the Post.

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