Morgue File Dantada Chinese street sceneI’ve been observing China’s canny advances in energy policy for yearsnow. While we in the United States hem and haw and stall around, China is cornering the market on renewable energy technologies, creating Chinese jobs, and making technological advances on conservation and curbing climate pollution. David Roberts over at Grist has written the latest installment (better than I could) about how China is shutting down dirty, old coal plants. Here’s Roberts:

Certain members of the U.S. Congress believe that America shouldn’t do anything about climate change until China does. Putting aside the moral illogic of that position, let’s focus on something China is doing: shutting down old, dirty coal plants. Surely once senators find out about this they’ll be eager to follow suit!

  • As Roberts points out, “50 GW of coal isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.”  China is, after all, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal. And they’re adding new coal facilities even while they shut down others. Still, this is part of China’s official plan to invest more in the power grid and clean energy, and gradually decrease the proportion of power plants that are coal-fired.

    Unfortunately we’re not on the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” program. Here’s Roberts again:

    China’s total coal consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions are going to rise for the foreseeable future; such is the inexorable mathematics of growth. Nonetheless, authorities recognize that shutting down old, inefficient power plants advances both environmental and economic goals. It removes the largest sources of toxic air and water pollution while swapping in new, cleaner, more efficient power plants. It also serves as economic stimulus, driving investment in and construction of new generation capacity. It’s what a free market system would already be doing, if such a system existed anywhere on the planet.

    Chinese officials get it on old coal plants. We’ll see if Congress really does follow its lead.

    Photo courtesy of MorgueFile, Dantada.