Effect Measure

Energy’s pot and kettle

China’s insatiable energy needs have made headlines. One of its worst consequences is an increase in the burning of dirty coal. (This is not to imply there is clean coal; there isn’t. Clean coal is just a coal industry marketing term.). Coal is said to supply 70% of China’s energy needs compared to 25% in the US. So if the Chinese don’t choke themselves to death first, they may help drown the rest of us by their contribution to global CO2.

But China is also doing something the US isn’t: putting substantial money into the search for and development of clean energy:

China is leaving the US in the dust in its spending on clean energy – but it still has plenty to do if it is to shake off its sooty reputation.

According to a study released last week by the Washington-based think tank, Worldwatch Institute, China will invest more than $10 billion on renewable energy this year – double the amount invested by the US in 2006. China is on track to hit its goal of 15 per cent energy from renewables by 2020, up from 8 per cent today, the authors say. “I think the targets are realistic, even conservative based on what they have done so far,” says Eric Martinot. (New Scientist)

There is plenty to criticize in China’s energy policies. But the US can’t do so without incurring the proper retort they are the pot calling the kettle black.


  1. #1 Mark P
    November 28, 2007

    Does the US figure include all investment, both public and private?

  2. #2 revere
    November 28, 2007

    Mark: Good question. If you find out, post a comment.

  3. #3 PFT
    November 28, 2007

    China does not have the ability to invade and occupy the countries that have most of the oil, yet, so they have to look for alternatives, clean or not. They already have population control with their one child policy, so they do not need to choke their citizens to death. In the US, one more lung cancer death is just one less person that will eventually collect on social security and medicare.

  4. #4 bigTom
    November 28, 2007

    While I agree with you that China is doing more at the governmental level than we are, I think we have to be careful about the stats. A lot of international investment is going into China for the manufacture of silicon, and silicon based photovoltaics. Does this count as Chinese investment, or as investment by the countries where the funds originate? Additionally at least in California large head hydro is not considered as eligible to be called “renewable”. Do China’s figures include large hydro, they are heavily investing in it.

    Of course we have no excuse other than bad governance for our poor record.

  5. #5 Moopheus
    November 28, 2007

    “China does not have the ability to invade and occupy the countries that have most of the oil, yet, so they have to look for alternatives, clean or not.”

    No, China has wasted their time and energy invading and occupying countries that mainly have sand and yaks. And they’re remarkably sensitive about any suggestion that they give the sand and the yaks back to their original owners. Not great planning from a resource perspective.

  6. #6 Dunc
    November 29, 2007

    Of course, there’s always the fascinating question of how much of China’s energy use should more properly be regarded as US / European off-shore energy use…

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