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US, China, and India to Compete in Online Clean Energy Race

RP Siegel | Friday May 7th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greenest of them all?

A new initiative by the folks at 350.org might just allow us to find out.

The Great Power Race involves college students around the world and measures their ability to organize, recruit and gain support for an idea that could ultimately affect their quality of life for decades to come.

It starts with a registration round to see which country can recruit the most campuses for the race. Once the race begins, each campus must develop its own energy projects, relying on students’ enthusiasm, commitment, innovation and ability to reach out and connect with others and implement their programs on campus. Organizers expect over 500 campuses to participate in each of the three countries, making this the largest international clean energy action to date. Students are expected to make significant use of all the social networking technology at their disposal.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, wants to focus particular attention on these three countries because, “If we can’t get the biggest polluters and the biggest economies to change, then we’ll never win.”

International partners include Energy Action Coalition, Indian Youth Climate Network , and China Youth Climate Action Network.

Students will soon be able to track registrations and other Great Power Race statistics on 350.org’s Great Power Race website that will be launching soon.

According to Roselin Dey, 350.org Indian organizer, “Youth across India are already working on solutions to the climate crisis. The Great Power Race will be an opportunity for us to highlight and build on their efforts.”

But China might turn out to be the biggest challenge for the American team. A recent article in the LA Times claims that China has surpassed the US in clean technology investment, outspending us by close to a factor of two to one.  The article cites a Pew Charitable Trust report that says China spent $34.6 billion, compared to $18.6 billion spent in the US. This has given China a tremendous competitive advantage in areas like Wind, Solar and Smart Grid technology, which are expected to dominate the economic landscape in years to come.

The fact that the US is spending many times that amount in wars in the Middle East, fighting to retain oil access, and in an expanded offshore drilling program, brings to mind Ben Franklin’s famous quote about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound (or a barrel) of cure. The US is now 12th overall in resources invested in renewable energy, when measured as a percentage of total economy.

Let’s hope that our young people have more concern about their future than our leaders do. They will have a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment in the upcoming race.


RP Siegel is the Executive Director of Cool Rochester and co-author of Vapor Trails.


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