February 2011


In the last few weeks I have felt an odd dark and complicated cloud pass over me. At the same time, many of my Sino-file friends have fallen silent, a sharp change for the usual gregarious bunch who are known for their ability to suddenly launch into their specific version of the China-rising theory without warning (or prompting in some cases). I am included in this bunch. I suddenly don’t know what to say about China. And I realized the other day what the problem is: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Wisconsin.

In single-party, authoritarian China, why haven’t the citizens jumped onto the revolutionary bandwagon that has traveled from Cairo to Madison?

Twenty years ago students joined hands around a giant paper mache replica of the Statue of Liberty in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square demanding a free press and American-style human rights only to be brutally pummeled by China’s People’s Liberation Army. But in today’s China, political passion has been smudged out by get-rich aspirations as many Chinese ride the wave of economic growth in that country.

Yet China remains in many ways a repressive state. The government controls where people live, how many children they have and what news and information they have access to. There are no formal channels to file complaints. Child laborers work 15 hour days 7 days a week with only two bathroom breaks. Corruption runs rampant.  People die every day from toxic water and unbreathable air. And citizens who try to speak out against their government are blackmailed or jailed without a trial. Journalists who stray from the status quo end up getting their hands cut off by mysterious thugs in the middle of the night. Activists are “harmonized” (aka disappear).

Like in Egypt, the cost of food and housing in China is rising rapidly stretching a working person’s wallet to a dehumanizing degree. Egyptians and Chinese are both watching vast amounts of wealth flow into their country and disproportionately to the wealthy as the gap between rich and poor widens. If these conditions set the stage for revolution in Cairo, why not in Beijing?

Something did happen in Beijing. A sort of non-event, I guess.  A planned “Jasmine Revolution” was scheduled by unknown organizers to take place last Saturday in front of the McDonalds in Beijing’s equivalent of the Champs Elysee, a pedestrians shopping street a couple blocks from Tiananmen Square called Wangfujing. The problem was that no one showed up except foreign correspondents and police.  As one observer noted: “No one shouted slogans, no one held signs, it was just a group of people standing around photographing each other.”

So why didn’t the revolutionary fervor spread to China? One blogger explains that “discontent towards the government in China hasn’t translated into meaningful opposition.” Another blogger argues that Chinese people don’t protest their government because they are afraid that no government will only lead to chaos. The general consensus within the China blogosphere (with the notable exception of this post from the Wall Street Journal) is that Egypt in not China.

These are good points. One additional reason might be that there is a difference between big “D” American style democracy and little “d” democracy. Big Democracy clings to the ideals of civic and political rights, private property, individualism and the rule of law. Little democracy is less dogmatic and it revolves around political participation, social and economic rights and rising the standard of living. I would argue that while the Chinese Communist Party has rejected Big Democracy for years, it is making notable shifts in the direction of society marked by transparency, rights and political participation China style.

For example, last year Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for freedom of the press in a CNN interview. He continued, “The people’s wishes for, and needs for, democracy and freedom are irresistible.” Chinese Environmental Policy Czar, Xie Zhenhua, made a historic shift in Chinese government policy in October when he called on non-governmental organizations to play a constructive role in policy making. In December of 2010, over 200 Chinese NGOs attended a UN summit on climate change and lobbied their government to take a firmer stand against climate change with much of the freedom and determination of their Western counterparts.

China’s gradual changes may not move people to tears, inspire art (like it did for my god-mother in Cairo) or cause people to swing from lamp posts and sing national anthems but there are important political shifts taking place. They may not be the events that draw the foreign correspondents, but they are real, important and meaningful.

By Lucia Green-Weiskel

As China bids farewell to the Year of the Tiger and rings in the Year of the Rabbit this month many Americans are wondering: Is China eclipsing the US and taking over as the world’s new superpower? In last year’s midterm election, 29 candidates (from both parties) were afraid that was the case. Each one included anti-China messages in advertising campaigns claiming that their opponents were too timid against a menacing and rising China. Glenn Beck thinks China will overtake the US to become the largest economy in the next decade and we should be very afraid. Coming on the heels of his state summit with Chinese president Hu Jintao, Obama’s State of the Union address was full of implicit and explicit China comparisons. “China is building faster trains and newer airports,” he said. “Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a ‘D.’” One particular area where China is steaming ahead is energy. Thomas Friedman and Energy Secretary Steve Chu have both referenced a new Sputnik moment, drawing a comparison between today’s US-China clean technology race and the notorious US-Soviet space race of the Cold War.

On the energy and technology front, what has China been up to in the last year?  What follows is a list of China’s achievements in the Year of the Tiger, in numbers:

Breaking World Records:
In the last year, China:
— overtook the US as the world’s largest car market (this actually happened in late 2009).
— overtook Germany to become the world’s largest exporter.
— overtook Japan to become the world’s No. 2 economy.
— built a passenger bullet train that set a new record hitting 302 mph.
— built the world’s longest bridge over water.
— held foreign exchange reserves that hit a world record in 2010 at $2.5 trillion.
— set a record when the Agricultural Bank of China IPO hit $22.1 billion in July.

Selling Stuff:
In keeping with past years, China sold a lot of stuff in the Year of the Tiger. China’s role as the “factory of the world” has catapulted it to the top as both the world’s largest energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases (although this has been true since 2006, China only admitted it last year.) With just 20% of the world’s population, China sold:

95% of the world’s rare earths (used to make electronics).
90% of the vitamin C consumed in the US and 70% of the world’s penicillin.
80% of the world’s laptops (including Taiwan).
75%
of the world’s garlic supply.
70% of the world’s light bulbs, toys and footwear.
70% of the world’s metal lighters come from one city, Wenzhou.
70% of the world’s violins.
70% of the world’s sex toys.
60% of the world’s neckties are made in Zhejiang province.
55% of the world’s solar panels.
50% of the world’s wind turbines.
50% of the world’s cameras.
44% of the world’s cement.
40% of the world’s coal (but accounts for 80% of the world’s coal mining related fatalities).
30% of the world’s air conditioners and televisions.
25% of the world’s washing machines.
and Chinese vehicle sale grew by 40% to reach 17 million units.

It is important to look at these numbers in context. Although China is the largest energy consumer and emitter of greenhouse gases, it has a much smaller energy footprint on a per capita and an historic basis. One American consumes five times the energy of one Chinese. Although China is emitting greenhouse gases at a faster rate today, a great majority of the emissions in the air are the result of the American and European industrial revolutions. Finally, nearly one-quarter of China’s greenhouse gas emissions are directly sourced to products that are exported to the West.

Setting Ambitious Policies:
In the last year, China launched a set of ambitious carbon-reducing policies, which if implemented, could amount to the greatest carbon avoidance in the world. The 12th Five Year Plan (covering 2011-2015) will include a reiteration and formal commitment to reduce the energy intensity of the Chinese economy by 40%-45% from 2005 levels by 2020. The plan also includes measures to increase reliance on renewable energy. Some officials have claimed renewable sources could make up 20% of China’s total energy use (that number does not include nuclear energy). The US and China are neck-and-neck on electric vehicles. Both countries have pledged to have one million EVs on the road in the next decade (see here and here). The table below shows key projects and the tonnage of carbon equivalent that was saved as a result of the energy savings goals in the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-2010).

Source: LBNL estimates and calculations based on National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC), 2006. Implementation Suggestions of Ten Key Energy-Conservation Projects during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, NDRC Department of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection Document #: [2006] 1457.  Accessed on Feb. 14 at www.chinafaqs.org/library/chinafaqs-chinas-ten-key-energy-efficiency-projects

Under the 12th Five Year Plan, China will begin to implement a national cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, something that was a high priority during the Obama presidential campaign, but which has turned into a political flop in Washington. And there are hundreds of new standards and regulations put into effect every month in Beijing to increase the energy efficiency of appliances, buildings, fuels and vehicles. For example, below is a chart of fuel economy standards for vehicles in different regions around the world. China ranks below the EU and Japan, but ahead of the US and Canada.

Source: Dr. Feng An, Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation, ©2011.

All this must be taken with a pinch of salt. While China is encroaching on the US in key technological areas, it is far from unseating the world’s superpower. Other key indicators demonstrate this. For example, China’s military is Lilliputian compared with the US. Last year China’s military budget was $77.97 billion, less than one-eighth of the US’s $663.8 billion budget. And the US economy still towers over the world: US nominal GDP in 2010 was $14.62 trillion to China’s $5.76 trillion.

China remains firmly in the category of a “developing” country. With a population five times larger than the US, per capita GDP (PPP) was $7,400 in 2010 ranking it 127th in the world according to the CIA World Fact Book (the same GDP measurement for the US was $47,400, the 10th highest in the world). While 76.7% of the US GDP comes from the service sector, over half (56.4%) of the GDP in China comes from industry and agriculture. The lesson here is that while China is making big strides, it is still a developing economy and far behind the US in key areas. China might have the fastest computer, but it is one of the only countries in the world which still manufactures the ox-drawn plow.

By Lucia Green-Weiskel and Tina Gerhardt

Originally Published in the Huffington Post

The most concrete goods delivered by last week’s bilateral state summit between President Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao came not from heads of state but from CEOs, as US and China-based businesses signed a deal through which China agreed to buy $45 billion worth of American exports.

President Obama argued that these deals would create jobs the U.S. but as Robert Reich reported, that’s not exactly right: “It will create more profits for American companies but relatively few new jobs.”

“Clean energy” companies signed most of the deals. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Brookings Institution and the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy hosted a series of meetings on the “US-China Strategic Forum on Clean Energy Cooperation” in conjunction with the summit.

China’s VIPs included CEOs from the largest coal and nuclear companies: Wang Binghua from State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation; Zhu Yongpeng from Guodian Corporation, one of China’s largest energy companies; and Zhang Xiwu from Shenhua Group, China’s largest coal company. US guests of honor included James E. Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy; Aris Candris, CEO of Westinghouse; and Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power.

A number of agreements and memorandums of understanding came out of these meetings. GE signed a letter of intent with China Ministry of Railways, expanding on a preexisting agreement to bring China’s technology to the US, in order to build high-speed railways — a goal mentioned in Obama’s State of the Union address.

US-based Westinghouse Electric signed a memorandum of understanding with two of China’s leading nuclear power companies, in order to develop nuclear power capacity in both countries.

Several companies, including U.S.’s Duke Energy and China’s ENN Group, signed agreements to develop and implement “clean coal” technology.

Companies that were given a presidential nod when they were invited to the White House’s Wednesday evening state dinner for Hu included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Chase, Microsoft, Boeing, the Carlyle Group and GE.

GE’s position of influence has grown, not only through the letter of intent it signed with China, but also because — amidst the US-China summit — President Obama appointed GE CEO Jeff Immelt to head his economic advisory panel, a position formerly held by Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker.

During the forum co-hosted by the Brookings Institute and the China Institute Innovation and Development, last week US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and his counterpart Zhang Guobao from China’s National Energy Administration hosted a signing ceremony for the US-China Clean Energy Research Center.

A $150 million dollar initiative of the US’s Department of Energy and China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the center will facilitate mutually beneficial agreements between US and Chinese companies and will focus on energy efficiency, clean coal and electric vehicles.

Events associated with the ceremony emphasized more how to use fossil energies efficiently and less how to connect renewable energy to the grid. Clean technologies and renewable energy were crowded into one session, cut short when Chinese investors stated that the US does not invite investment in clean technologies and renewable energy: it sends inconsistent policy signals and lacks incentives for the development of renewable energy.

Signs affirming that China’s policies for investment in renewable energy are more coherent and long term than the US’s have been evident in recent weeks. Solar panel maker Evergreen announced recently that it would shutter its main plant in Massachusetts, laying off 800 workers, and moving production to China. The reason? China’s government provided much higher subsidies of solar energy.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/15/business/energy-environment/15solar.html

Earlier this week, the American Wind Energy Association announced that China has become the leader in wind energy capacity, seizing the lead from the US. According to the wind industry, US wind power in the US is hampered by uneven incentives: a lack of consistent and reliable federal policies on and subsidies for renewable energy.

Instead of taking the opportunity to up the ante of a US commitment to renewable energy by setting strong policy signals, Obama has largely left energy discussion to CEOs. The announcement on Monday of the departure of Carol Browner, his senior climate and energy policy adviser, has only increased concerns among environmental groups about the president’s commitment to passing a climate bill, establishing a nationwide renewable portfolio standard (RPS). (China, like the EU, has established renewable targets. The U.S. has yet to set such domestic targets.)

While partisan divides are cutting deeper into American politics, one area where the left and right seem to get along is China bashing.

Pundits from both the right and the left accused Obama of coddling a dictator, pointing to the lavishness of the state dinner, Michelle Obama’s “commie” red dress and Sasha Obama’s eagerness to learn Chinese as evidence.

From Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Human Rights Watch and from Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to Rush Limbaugh, the message was clear: China abuses human rights and is stealing our jobs.

In his State of the Union address, Obama stated that subsidies for oil companies will end and that the US will get 80% of its energy from clean sources by 2035. Without aggressive government investment and strong policy signals, it remains unclear how to get from here to there.

Tina Gerhardt is an academic and journalist.
Her writing has appeared in Grist, The Huffington Post, In These Times and The Nation.

Lucia Green-Weiskel is Project Manager of the Climate Change Program at the Beijing-based independent Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET).  Her work has appeared in Chinadialogue.net, Grist, The Huffington Post and The Nation.

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By Lucia Green-Weiskel and Tina Gerhardt

Originally Published on Alternet

In China, a race toward self-reliance and clean energy technology is certainly on, but the U.S. still needs to make some key changes if it wants to compete.

Next week, January 19 to 21, President Obama will host Chinese President Hu Jintao for their first bilateral summit this side of the Pacific. According to former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, this “will be the most important top-level United States-Chinese encounter since Deng Xiaoping’s historic trip more than 30 years ago.” While economic and military issues will be on the agenda, a key part of the meeting will be energy. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has suggested that a Sputnik-like race for clean energy between China and the U.S. may be emerging. If so, how can the U.S. get in the game, given the current political climate in the country?

U.S.-China relations have been rocky over the past two years. At the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, China and the U.S. wound up at a standoff in the summit’s final hours.

Tensions hinge on who should take responsibility for the bulk of the emissions. The U.S. blames China, a growing economy and the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while China blames the U.S., the largest emitter historically and the larger emitter on a per capita basis, by far.

The original UNFCCC charter from 1992 stipulates that developed nations, such as the US, lead the world in fighting climate change, since they bear historical responsibility for producing it. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol echoes and expands this concept, calling on countries to act with “common but differentiated responsibilities,” which means while all nations are “responsible,” each nation acts according to its ability based on its level of development.

This statement has caused considerable tension between the U.S. and China. While the U.S. rejects “common but differentiated responsibility” and insists that China must step up to the plate, China believes that developed countries should take the lead.

From recent UN negotiations in both Copenhagen and Cancún, it is clear that the U.S. wants an agreement that has “symmetry” — one that includes reductions commitments from developed and developing countries. China, for its part, is willing to make voluntary commitments but insists that the U.S. sign on to a legally binding agreement.

Additionally, concerns at the UN climate talks revolve around how emissions reductions commitments will be monitored, reported and verified.

Closely linked to the energy issue is the problem of economic protectionism. Last September, the U.S. United Steelworkers (USW) filed a 5,800-page complaint against China with the U.S. Trade Representative, arguing that its renewable energy subsidies violated international trade regulations. The complaint followed on the heels of a call by environmental groups and politicians for higher tariffs to be imposed on China-produced high carbon imports.

In December, Obama sided with the United Steelworkers, filing a complaint with the WTO against China’s wind power subsidies and leaving Chinese officials feeling snubbed and victims of a no-win American policy.

According to Dale Jiajun Wen, a scholar at the California-based International Forum on Globalization: “The recent complaints filed by the U.S. union have further consolidated the impression by many Chinese that the U.S. has no real concern for the climate but is only using it as a China-bashing tool. The inconsistency of the U.S. climate and trade policy is too obvious to ignore.”

The protectionist tendencies continue unabated: Last week, Obama signed a military authorization law that includes a “Buy American” clause, prohibiting the U.S. Department of Defense from purchasing solar panels made in China and undoubtedly dismaying Chinese officials.

Given these tensions, it remains to be seen what agreement the U.S. and China will reach at the upcoming Washington summit. Last week, Obama announced a shuffle in his Asia and China teams at the National Security Council and State Department in an attempt to hit the reset button on U.S.-China relations.

And Energy Secretary Chu recently framed the new relationship between the U.S. and China as a “Sputnik Moment.” Referencing the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, which demonstrated its technological advantage and led to the Cold War-era space race, Chu warned that the U.S. risks falling behind China in the clean technology race.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke already noticed this trend in 2009 when he said, “Ten to fifteen years from now, we’re going to be saying, ‘How did Shanghai become the Silicon Valley of clean energy?'”

Yet whether this new clean technology race pits the U.S. against China competitively, as the Cold War-era space race did, or allows for scientific partnerships between the U.S. and China remains an open question.

The new joint U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC), which will be featured at next week’s meeting, forms one sign of collaboration. The center will facilitate joint research and development on clean energy. Priority topics include building efficiency, clean coal, carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. Despite this sign of cooperation, the U.S. and China have exhibited remarkably different approaches to the development of clean technology and how to transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one predominantly reliant on renewable energy.

Although historically China has relied on coal and hydropower for its electricity, it is investing in renewable energy at breakneck speed.

Currently, 70 percent of China’s economy is coal-powered. But policy changes are afoot. Although it is not an official figure yet, China’s energy bureaucrats seek to drop coal reliance from 69 to 63 percent by 2015. According to Zhang Guobao, Director of China’s National Energy Administration, China has saved more than 300 million tons of coal in the past five years by replacing dirty and outdated thermal power plants.

Another new policy puts forth that 15 percent of China’s energy must be derived from renewable energy. In addition, China’s new energy policies focus on energy efficiency compliance, considered a green technology in China.

China’s ramped up clean technology also draws on renewable energy. A 2007 report released by the World Watch Institute stated that “China has become a global leader in renewable energy.” Its renewable energy sources encompass biomass energy (derived from sugarwastes and rice husks) and biofuel (produced mainly from corn), as well as solar and wind power. (In China, nuclear energy is not included as a renewable as it is in the U.S.)

Overall, China is the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels. Suntech Power in Wuxi is the world’s third largest producer of solar power. Moreover, while China produced 50 percent of the world’s solar panels in 2010 it receives about 2 percent of its total energy from solar. Under new aggressive government plans for investment in renewable energy, however, this number will likely grow rapidly. In Rizhao, a city in northern China, 99 percent of households use solar water heaters.

Recently, an Arizona-based company, First Solar Inc. signed a deal with China Guangdong Nuclear Solar Energy Development Co., a Chinese state-owned energy company to build one of the world’s largest solar power facilities in Inner Mongolia.

Wind power has also seen dramatic increases in China in the past five to six years. The wind industry has doubled in size each year since 2004. And as the New York Times reported just this week: “More than three times as much wind power capacity was installed in China last year than in the United States.”

Here, too, policy played a strong role. Greenpeace’s Li Yan told AlterNet that “a law required that 70 percent of wind had to be manufactured domestically. This stipulation helped to create jobs and to boost China’s wind power, which has overtaken other previous leaders, such as Denmark, Spain and Germany to take the number one spot.”

Challenges to China’s wind economy remain. According to Li Yan, “If one talks about the installation capacity, China will probably be number one by the end of this year or next year, but if we talk about wind energy that has been connected, then we are still far behind.” While installation occurs more quickly, connecting, according to Li Yan, remains slowed by the centralized state owned energy structure, which has created a bottleneck.

Li Yan’s concern pinpoints one of the potential pitfalls of the China’s implementation strategies: strong policies at the central level do not always translate well into solid implementation at the regional level.

In March, China will release the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015), which will set new renewable energy targets. The plan calls for deep cuts in energy-intensity and large subsidies to bring renewable energy and electric vehicles to scale. It includes both a cap and trade program and carbon taxes. And it requires utilities companies meet energy-saving targets and invest electricity revenues in renewable energy. Additionally, China has announced that it will produce a nation-wide greenhouse gas inventory by 2012 — its first since 1994. Producing such an inventory of greenhouse gases requires a sophisticated ability to measure emissions from a variety of sources.

While implementation remains a challenge, many of these targets are being met. For example, China’s National Development and Reform Commission recently announced that it will meet its target of reducing total pollution by 10 percent from 2005 to 2010. Last year, the Chinese government ordered blackouts in many parts of China in order to meet another target to reduce energy intensity by 20 percent by 2010 from 2005 levels.

Thus in China, a race toward self-reliance and clean energy technology is certainly on, even if it the Sputnik Moment race itself is a U.S. construct. Chu, like China, seems to be taking the long view of the environmental and economic situation.

In the U.S., renewable energy still needs to be made cost competitive. A number of measures could help to develop and make renewable energy affordable: 1) feed-in-tariffs; 2) subsidies; 3) tax credits; and 4) state regulations provide renewable portfolio standards (RPS), that is, demand that a specific percentage of their energy, typically 4-30 percent, be derived from renewable energy sources by a specific date.

A feed-in-tariff system — the first of these incentives — allows homeowners, who have installed solar panels, to sell back to their utility company the excess amount of energy produced, thereby reducing their overall electric bill. As of 2009, 11 states were considering legislation to permit feed-in-tariffs in the U.S.

Subsidies in the United States often heavily favor fossil fuels. This predilection leaves renewable energy, which has been growing nonetheless, artificially gummed up in the U.S. Subsidies for renewable energy could encourage a shift in the base.

Tax credits for production of renewable energy are also extremely beneficial. Thus far, growth in wind farms has been astronomical as a result of the Recovery Act or tax credit 1603.

Michigan is second nationwide for wind manufacturing and just announced another new plant. Its success comes as a direct result of grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Additionally, Recovery Act funds help businesses diversify into clean energy through the Clean Energy Advanced Manufacturing program. And a state law enacted by Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2008 requires 10 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2015. Due to these subsidies and laws, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that Michigan will create 30,000 more jobs in the wind-manufacturing sector.

The results of all this investment into wind in the U.S. are already upon us. Texas, Iowa and California lead the country in installed wind capacity. To date, 20 percent of all energy in Iowa comes from wind; it marks the largest growth over the past year. In Texas, 25 percent of all energy comes from wind power. Wind farms in the Southwest and off the coast in the Atlantic have also ramped renewable energy sources. Across the country, wind as a source of renewable energy has increased four-fold over the past decade.

During the UN negotiations in Cancún, it was announced that the Recovery Act 1603 tax credit for renewable energy would not be extended. Peter Kelley, of the American Wind Energy Association, told AlterNet, “what this means is that the growth we have seen in wind in the past few years, which grew 20 percent in 2008 and 40 percent in 2009, is set to decrease by 45 percent due to the expiration of this tax credit.”

Kelley is not only concerned about the environment. He sees the relationship between renewable energy and the economy, and specifically, job opportunities. “The wind energy industry,” he added, “kept 85,000 people in jobs during this economic recession. As a result of this tax credit expiring, tens of thousands of layoffs will occur.”

Yet Kelley’s view that tax subsidies produce jobs differs sharply from the views of some Republicans who took control of the House of Representatives last week and were quick to dissolve the Global Warming Committee, established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in 2007. They refer to the national energy tax not as job inducing but as a “job-killing national energy tax.”

“We have pledged to save taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “The Select Committee on Global Warming — which was created to provide a political forum to promote Washington Democrats’ job-killing national energy tax — was a clear example, and it will not continue in the 112th Congress.”

It remains to be seen what results Chu’s ramped-up program will have for the economy and the environment. Given last week’s changes in the Obama administration and at the helm of the House, will the Department of Energy be able to ring in a new era committed to clean technology and renewable energy? Will it be able to be competitive in a renewable energy race?

In light of Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington, the Sputnik Moment proclaimed by Chu could herald either a new era of cooperation, or of competition.

Tina Gerhardt is an academic and journalist whose writing has appeared in Grist, The Huffington Post, In These Times and The Nation. Lucia Green-Weiskel is Project Manager of the Climate Change Program at the Beijing-based independent Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (ICET). Her work has appeared in Chinadialogue.net, Grist and The Nation.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149507/


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