The Skywriter

Weekly roundup 1/21/11: The green truth about US and China


Weekly roundup 1/21/11: The green truth about US and China

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Pressuring China, Pressuring Ourselves

The big story this week revolves around Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Washington and meetings with President Obama. The bulk of their conversation has been pre-packaged with less-than-savory global issues that are set to heat up already tense relations. But energy has found its way between the two world leaders as grounds for compromise. Many outlets predict clean energy could be the high point of their talks.

This is a significant step coming off of December, when the U.S. challenged the special Chinese government's fund that awarded grants to makers of wind power equipment. The New York Times reports:

The Americans say the fund provides subsidies that are illegal under World Trade Organization rules because the grants appear to be contingent on manufacturers using parts made in China.

But even after the President Obama's responsive "Buy American" provision for the Defense Department,that barred Chinese solar panels, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has expressed his continued worry about the U.S. mentality towards clean energy projects. Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday, he explained,

China's made no bones about it. They consider all the energy sectors in their industries as critical technologies… If you read the newspapers, virtually every other day there's another article about how important it is and how critical they think this is. And it's not altruism. They think it's a road to wealth creation in China. But I think it's a road to wealth creation in the United States as well."

That's a far cry from how the U.S. government addresses clean tech, even in the wake of the able and willing. Nonprofit research group Next 10 reports that the green workforce in California,

…expanded 3% from January 2008 to January 2009 -- three times the growth of overall employment around the state. Standouts include the energy-generation sector, which includes renewable-energy efforts such as wind and hydropower… The Bay Area grew the most, with an 8% jump in 2008. The region now represents 28% of green jobs and 26% of companies offering the positions."

But the growth isn't garnering the support it needs. The Wall Street Journal pointed out this week that clean tech in Fremont, California has jumped in the past four years - growing from 6 to 20 firms in just four years.

You can't throw a Frisbee in Fremont without hitting another solar company,"
says Dan Shugar, chief executive of one of these firms, Solaria. But despite the small boom, they are struggling to compete with China and suffer massive layoffs familiar to the area known for the closed Nummi auto plants.

We need to reframe our priorities and foster the growth before it dies out -- but will the U.S. catch on in time? The New York Times offers a platform for the great debate with contributions from Grist, Van Jones and an array of economics, government and environmental experts. This is a must-read to learn the many reasons why clean tech represents the future of our economy.

Weekly Highlights:

  • Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: The public servant who fought to cut climate pollution and create clean energy jobs made significant strides this week. After being shot in the head two weeks ago, she is leaving the hospital to continue her recovery at a Texas rehabilitation facility. We wish her and her family all the best as the congresswoman continues her recovery.
  • Obama Says: President Obama wrote an opinion essay in the Wall Street Journal defending new climate pollution rules under the Clean Air Act as a "common sense" measure.
  • Drill, Baby, Drill?: The co-chairman of the National Oil Spill Commission said that the United State's oil will run out by 2031 if efforts to use our reserves aren't curbed. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla) made comments on draining our domestic supply as a warning to Republic lawmakers pushing to touch reserves as gas prices rise.
  • Splitting the Spill: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will divide their 1,000 employees into two operations: one to manage the development of offshore resource and the other to enforce safety and environmental regulations. Additionally, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich announced the 'creation of a permanent in-house body of experts from government, industry, academia and nongovernmental institutions to advise on offshore drilling safety, well containment and spill response.'
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): Senator Brown has been a longstanding friend to the clean energy movement, but recently he has been under tremendous pressure to support gutting the Clean Air Act. Dirty Energy will stop at nothing to pressure leaders like Brown. Please join 1Sky in calling on Senator Brown to stand up for Ohio and the Clean Air Act.

Got any other interesting news to share? What do you think about developments on the climate front this week? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

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