The new Peekaboo version of The New York Times ran an excellent overview of the state of "green" business in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world, which pretty much explains what we're seeing today.
European and Asian governments had good game plans and put them in play effectively, while, until the last few years, the oil-bound U.S. stood alone bravely claiming that the science on climate change wasn't in yet. As a result, other countries have raced ahead in developing and implementing sustainable technologies on a wide scale.
"Many European countries — along with China, Japan and South Korea — have pushed commercial development of carbon-reducing technologies with a robust policy mix of direct government investment, tax breaks, loans, regulation," and emissions either capped or taxed, author Elisabeth Rosenthal writes. "Incentives have fostered rapid entrepreneurial growth in new industries like solar and wind power, as well as in traditional fields like home building and food processing, with a focus on energy efficiency."
Tighter energy-efficiency standards in Europe, Japan and China have incented companies there to dive into design and development with more gusto than their American counterparts — with the notable exception of California, whose standards are equivalent to Europe's.
The story contrasts insulation jobs on a single, four-story home each in the U.S. and Britain: $5,000 vs. $1,000, with the English tapping that 40-to-60% subsidy from their government, thus being able to recoup their full investment in 12-18 months in fuel saved. (Poor people and seniors got theirs done for free.)
"U.S. Is Falling Behind in the Business of ‘Green’" – NY Times, June 8, 2011, by Elisabeth Rosenthal
"California's Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings"