As Asia Outpaces America in Cleantech, US and China Agree to Cooperation

usandchinaflagsObama’s recent trip to China felt like a bit of a bummer, with the Times pointedly portraying the President as a solitary figure, wandering alone on the Great Wall — and getting stone-walled by the PRC’s leadership.

But behind the scenes, hard-working diplomats hammered out agreements on what could be the basis for an important partnership between the world’s two largest polluters on clean technology, ranging from carbon capture to electric cars and more.

And it couldn’t come soon enough, as a new study calculates China, Japan and South Korea will spend $502 billion on clean technology over the next five years, $337 billion more than the US, which the authors warn is in grave danger of being left behind.

Chump Change, But…

The only dollar figure mentioned in the fact sheets surrounding the packagae of announcements was $150 million over five years for a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, to be split evenly between the two countries. That’s a paltry sum given the billions in play surrounding clean technology.

But the agreements were less about money than cooperation, which, as they say, is “priceless.”

Among the areas in which the two powers agreed to enhance cooperation are:

  • Promotion, planning and testing of electric vehicle systems in cities
  • Assistance to China in developing “a robust, transparent, and accurate greenhouse gas emissions inventory”
  • Carbon capture technology (“clean coal”)
  • Shale gas extraction technology
  • Civilian nuclear energy technology and safety
  • The above-mentioned joint Clean Energy Research Center
  • Cleantech public-private partnerships
  • Renewable energy development “roadmaps”

For a more detailed review of the agreements, check out this Grist article.

More Government Needed

Meanwhile, the Breakthrough Institute’s cleantech investment study attempts to spur a growing concern in this country that due to a variety of political and economic reasons, the United States is going to give up its lead in clean technology to Asia.

The solution, the report argues, is more government support for clean technology, including “large, direct and coordinated investments in clean technology R&D, manufacturing, deployment, and infrastructure.”

To counter critics skeptical of direct government investments in industry, the report lists a host of industries — microchips, the Internet, railroads, agriculture, and aerospace to name a few — that benefited from robust government support.

The Breakthrough Institute was founded in 2003 “on the premise that the complaint-based, interest group liberalism born in the 1960s and 1970s was failing to achieve the broad social and ecological transformations America and the world need,” according to its website.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

One response

  1. electric cars are polluters. Germany already have Carbon capture technology (”clean coal”). Germany leads on solar energy. R & D of what?> Cheaper to buy whats out their, no need to reinvent the wheel.

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