Secretary of Energy Steven Chu warned Monday that in the global clean energy race, “America still has the opportunity to lead,” but “time is running out.” Chu warned that the US could be overtaken by China and the EU.

Chu likened a sequences of Chinese milestones, including the development of the fastest supercomputer in the world, to the Soviet Union’s landmark 1957 satellite which led the US into the Space Race.

“America, I am optimistic, will wake up and see the opportunity. And when it does, it still has the greatest innovation machine in the world,” said Steven Chu in a speech entitled “Our New Sputnik Moment.”

He also said the US still concentrated on research in areas such as defense, computers and pharmaceuticals, but that its funding for energy innovation was paltry.

China has developed technology for the highest-efficiency coal plants and it is working to build the world’s most expansive high-speed rail network.

“America still has the opportunity to lead in a world that will need essentially a new industrial revolution to give us the energy we want inexpensively but carbon-free,” said the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. “But I think time is running out.”

Chu called for creating the right environment, and not just for corporations, but for innovation and research in general, noting that ” federal support for scientific R&D is going to be critical for our economic competitiveness.”