I was in a public opinion polling briefing the other day and heard that just a few years ago, in 2008, Americans still believed that the United States was the leading economic power in the world. Asked more recently, the largest share said China has become the leading economic force. Similarly, when asked back in 2008 which country would be leading the world 20 years down the road, Americans said the United States would (like 56 percent thought so). In just a year’s time, that switched. A majority now believe that China will be leading the world economy 20 years from now. It’s significant in terms of public mood. It’s sad too. But it’s also kinda “no duh!”
Take China’s economic prowess when it comes to energy. I’ve been keeping my eye on China’s energy policies for years now, chalking up win after win to the Chinese when it comes to national policy that encourages renewable energy and discourages dirty fuels (and boosts the economy and creates jobs).
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I’m not trying to say that China is faultless when it comes to pollution and climate change. They’re far from squeaky clean. But it is a bit embarrassing when they are way out ahead of the United States on energy solutions, don’t you think? And China’s no fool. They’re taking these measures to the bank—leading in the business of clean energy technology. Here’s the score from a recent Bloomberg article:
China’s incentives to encourage low- carbon generation such as solar and wind power are almost triple those in the U.S., according to the Climate Institute.
Measures to spur renewable energy, as well as taxes on dirtier forms of generation such as burning coal placed China above the U.S., Japan, Australia and South Korea in a six- country study and below only the U.K.., according to the report, prepared for the Sydney-based [Climate Institute] by London-based analysts at Vivid Economics.
China overtook the U.S. on Sept. 8 to top a quarterly index of the most attractive countries for renewable-energy projects compiled by the global accounting firm Ernst & Young. State- owned China Development Bank loaned at least $42.8 billion this year to solar manufacturers including LDK Solar Co., JA Solar Holdings Co., Trina Solar Ltd., Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. and Suntech Power Holdings Co.
Of $82 billion of green stimulus funds actually spent last year, China accounted for $61 billion.
China wins again. It almost feels like we’re not even playing the same game! Embarrassed yet? I am.
Image courtesy: kconnors, MorgueFile.
China is not a country we want to emulate, economically, politically or environmentally. The World Bank currently ranks their individual annual income (measured by per capita GDP) at $6,838, just behind Turkmenistan and about 15% of the US level.They still mine huge amounts of coal, and their mining fatality rate is dozens of times higher than the US. Need we compare the air quality in Beijing to a city like New York?Looking to China today through rose colored glasses, or Spain (whose current unemployment rate is 20%) as we did just three years ago when they were second on the Ernst & Young list, reminds me of the slogan the Freakonomics blog came up with for the US: “Our worst critics prefer to stay.”