Sipping Green Tea

With Barack Obama and Xí Jìnpíng

History is “made” when it’s least expected: This past week, as soon as Air Force One touched down at Beijing Capital International Airport — in nothing flat — President Obama sealed a climate initiative between China and the U.S.

By all appearances, it must be good policy with considerable merit, because, quick as a wink, 350.org’s Bill McKibben, and the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, and Ben Adler of Grist, and Mother Jones all sent congratulatory notices. The consensus amongst pundits on climate change is: “It’s a gamechanger!”

Just like that, even before the dust settled on the mid term elections, the president plays a trump card, a finger poked in the eye of Mitch McConnell. Majority Leader… who?

As a result, China’s the first, and the biggest, developing nation in the world to lend support, big-time support, to fixing the climate change/global warming predicament.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Senators McConnell and Inhofe, seething, couldn’t scramble fast enough, in front of microphones, exhorting, “the American people spoke up against Obama’s policies!” These two statesmen for the ages denigrated their own president as he stood in unison with another president, jointly representing nearly 1/4th of the people on the planet, with plans to do something constructive about global warming/ climate change. Yes, “something constructive.”

Effectively, the entire scenario with one president standing before a worldwide audience side-by-side with another president and immediately subjected to derision by senior statesmen back home is irresponsible, contemptible, and dispiriting. After all, the underlying tone of this antic is not at all subtle; it’s a straightforward message: Statesmanship is Dead!

Obtusely, McConnell and Inhofe believe that fixing radical climate change is anti-American, a job killer, too costly for business, and mistakenly based upon hopelessly flawed science. They really truly believe this, or so it seems. If it were otherwise, would they be “all-in” for green energy? Would they? Really, would they?

Still, it is clear that President Barack Obama and President Xí Jìnpíng disagree with America’s two dissenting senior senators. Both presidents believe in fixing climate change/global warming, not lambasting it.

Fittingly, China has promised to double the percentage of its renewables by 2030.

All of which prompts a query about Mitch McConnell’s astonishing public statement: “I was particularly distressed by the deal that he has apparently reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which as I read the agreement requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country.”

Hello world! Those are the words of America’s newly elected Majority Leader in the United States Senate. “…Chinese do nothing at all for 16 years blah, blah, blah… carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states…”

As it stands, if Senator McConnell’s statement is accepted at face value, then China will be forced to build-out billions worth of renewable energy resources like wind power and solar power –Presto- all accomplished in one day on Dec. 30, 2029. After all, he claims “…the Chinese do nothing at all for 16 years.”

A genuine statesman, especially one with high public stature, would analyze and understand an agreement before commenting in public. The rough details are easy to understand.

China did not commit to a specific cut in emissions like President Obama, who aims to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, but President Xí Jìnpíng did set a target date for peak emissions, and importantly, he committed to doubling renewables.

First and foremost, President Xí Jìnpíng is dealing with the issue because he listens to China’s scientists. For proof, consider this: Doubling renewables for China means adding 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-emission generation capacity by 2030, which is more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to the total electricity generation grid in the United States. That is far-removed from “doing nothing,” Senator McConnell, think about it, equivalent to building the entire electric grid in the U.S. in only 16 years, try that one on for size.

Already, China invested more on renewable energy in 2013 than all of Europe. Impressively, China’s new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and new nuclear capacity for the first time in the year 2013.

In stark contrast to America, there is no hidden agenda. China understands the threat of global warming.

China Overshadows the United States

By focusing on the global warming/climate change problem, China’s national renewable policy leaves America, with no national renewable policy whatsoever, embarrassingly gasping in the dust whilst U.S. senior politicians exhort goofy, ditzy statements that accomplish absolutely nothing, zero. But then again, we’ve become accustomed to such. Um- but how does the world see it?

Meanwhile, according to an International Energy Agency report on renewable prospects, by 2020 China will account for 40% of growth in worldwide renewable capacity whilst the U.S. lags way behind. “As a result, the U.S. is missing an incredible economic opportunity.”1

“The United States, which has long prided itself on being a leader in innovative technology, should stop debating whether we should transition to renewables and instead focus on how we transition – and how to maximize the economic benefits. Building a grid based primarily on renewable resources can be achieved with existing technologies. But it’ll depend upon federal, state and local support for renewable tax incentives, renewable portfolio standards and decentralized generation.”1

Meanwhile, “China is creating an average of 100,000 clean energy jobs each year. A recent Stanford study suggested that converting to a renewable-powered energy system could yield more than 200,000 jobs in California alone.”1

The Economics of Renewable Energy

By 2050, clean energy would save an average American consumer $3,400 per year versus fossil fuel usage, according to The Solutions Project. That’s because the price of fossil fuel rises regularly, but with clean energy — where raw materials are free — once the infrastructure is built, prices would fall. The Solutions Project, developed by Stanford University scientists led by Mark Jacobson, Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering is a nonprofit organization based upon plans for a 50-state roadmap to 100% renewable energy.

As for jobs, according to Daniel Kammen, professor in UC Berkeley’s Energy & Resources Group and Goldman School of Public Policy and head of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory: “Across a broad range of scenarios, the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per average megawatt of power installed, and per unit of energy produced, than the fossil fuel-based energy sector.”

America’s Vast Renewable Resources

Across the nation, one-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and the solar resources of just seven southwestern states could provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity.

According to Greenpeace-USA, ironically, in North Dakota alone, the home state to a massive fracking boom, there is enough wind power to produce nearly 1/3rd of the total electricity consumption for America.

And, enough sunlight hits the earth’s surface in one hour to power all humanity for one year. China knows this and they’re capitalizing on the sun’s free energy. But, where’s America?

Some American states, out-and-out disagreeing with the “deliberate obstructionism” by America’s Congress, are gung ho green technology, and the results are remarkable, truly remarkable!

As it goes, success by individual states in America exposes the preposterousness behind gimmicky statements by obstructionists about climate change policies “killing jobs” and “ruining businesses,” ruses championed by Republicans in Congress and by leading Republican presidential candidates, who sheepishly respond to climate change questions with: “I am not a scientist,” their newest stratagem to avoid confronting an issue that should be haunting them more so than ever before, especially with China stepping up to the plate and swinging away, indeed, hitting the long ball out of the park, meaning, China’s central government readily admits global warming/climate change is an anthropogenic problem that must be fixed.

As it goes, the communists in China are much more candid and honest about global warming than are the Republicans in democratic America, but then again, communism is not plutocracy.

Green Energy Creates Good Jobs, Generates Big State Revenues

Clean, green energy in North Carolina supports more than 1,200 companies employing more than 15,200 high-paying jobs. Thus and so, North Carolina is a prime example of the benefits of investing in green energy, which creates twice the number of jobs as investing in coal and almost three times more than natural gas.

As a result, North Carolina is attracting international companies, now investing and creating jobs in America, companies like Siser, USA, an Italian company, and Schletter, a German company that manufactures solar mounting systems.

As follows, green technology is helping to reverse the decades-old trend of American multinationals exporting good, solid American middle class jobs to lousy low paying weak regulatory countries, a deplorable consequence of transnationalism/globalization.

“North Carolina reaped revenue from clean energy projects of $2.67 billion from 2007 to 2013, a figure nearly 20 times greater than the state incentives of $135.2 million, according to an analysis prepared by RTI International.”2

Just like that, North Carolina is demonstrating superb results with green technology promoting growth, high-wage jobs, a strong tax base, as well as attracting international companies. That’s called prosperity!

Senators McConnell and Inhofe should really, seriously, decidedly, no ifs ands or buts about it, take a taxpayer-paid (of course) field trip to North Carolina, a state that is creating high-paying jobs, attracting foreign investment, and generating a strong revenue base by promoting green technology.

Ergo, North Carolina also helps reduce anthropogenic climate change/global warming.

As for America’s national policies dealing with global warming/radical climate change, and also in consideration of the upcoming presidential debates, listen for the phrase “I am not a scientist,” in response to questions about the issue. It is the newest slogan in the denial world, especially for politicians that dodge the issue. Expect to hear it often during the upcoming Republican presidential debates.

Postscript: “Men argue. Nature acts.” — Voltaire

  1. Don’t Let China Dominate, World Report/U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 18, 2014. [] [] []
  2. Clean Economy Rising: Solar Shines in North Carolina, A Brief from the Pew Charitable Trust, October 2014. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.