The Ambassadors REVIEW
Powering the Future Together:
What America Can Learn from a Scandinavian Friend
James P. Cain
United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark
he challenges of energy availability and climate change loom ever larger for
the international community, with our nation’s security and the world’s
environment hanging in the balance. As diplomats, we must help our nation
and its partners find solutions to these challenges. Part of our job is to assume the bully-
pulpit and enlighten others of the many things America is already doing in these areas, to
overcome the global impression that America is not doing its part. But my time in Europe
has convinced me that an even greater use of our diplomatic time and resources is to seek
out and support innovation, collaboration and partnership between America and those
abroad who are pioneering ways to lower greenhouse gas emissions, develop alternative
energy resources, and increase energy efficiency.
During the past three years as US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, I have
come to appreciate how much the United States can learn from the experiences of this
small, yet industrious nation of just five and a half million people.
I have been fortunate to
witness Denmark’s spirit of energy innovation firsthand, visiting all corners of this country
to learn how Denmark achieved “energy independence,” and how it became a world leader
in alternative energy.
As the President’s representative, I also have made it my mission to
share the good news of US advances in energy and climate change, including our
significant diplomatic efforts to advance the UN process that will culminate in next year’s
summit meeting in Copenhagen.
My direct knowledge of what Denmark can offer stems from my 37-day, 1,500-
mile bicycle tour through Denmark, which I dubbed the “ReDiscovery Tour”:
the bonds of friendship between our two countries that were nurtured when Thomas
Jefferson signed our first treaty in 1792. Along the way, I encountered countless examples
of Danish innovation in energy: from the world’s largest solar array on the island of Aero,
to the world’s longest wind turbine blade manufactured in Kolding; from the most
advanced Wave-Energy prototype at Nissum Bredning on the North Sea, to the industry-
leader in the production of enzymes for second-generation biofuels at Kalundborg; from
the headquarters of the global leader in tire recycling, to the headquarters of the global
leaders in energy-efficient skylights, thermostats, water pumps and insulation products; I
have come to understand why Denmark, for the past generation, has been at the forefront
of energy innovation.
Danish energy policy since the 1970s has focused on cultivating alternative and