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Reflecting on The Wealth of Nations

December 9, 2015

By Tom Catania, Executive in Residence, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan

The NREL library uses energy-saving appliances and natural light to create a comfortable space for research and reflection.

In a coincidence of history, the year 1776 was very important for both American history and industrial economics. In 1776, the British colonies that would eventually become the United States declared their independence from England, a global economic power. This was also the year that Scottish economist Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations.

Adam Smith's treatise was a compilation of observations about conditions at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. In perhaps one of its most famous, but misunderstood references to an "invisible hand," Smith describes how the collective impact of individuals in a nation pursuing their own self interest to advance the success of the enterprises of which they are a part, contributes to the collective good of the domestic industries of a nation that is competing with foreign imports.

This is a prescient insight into the challenge taken on by the Clean Energy Manufacturing Analysis Center (CEMAC) to help create wealth and independence in clean energy technologies. At CEMAC, we seek to bring together individuals and organizations to collectively advance the clean energy economy through better data analysis and information.

It is my honor and privilege to have been asked to chair the external Advisory Committee of the CEMAC. It is the hope of the members of the Advisory Committee that we can assist CEMAC in contributing to the creation of a reinvigorated industrial revolution in globally competitive clean energy technology manufacturing.