China Takes the Lead on Clean Energy Jobs: How the U.S. Can Still Win

A majority of Americans are worried that the United States’ role in the world economy will diminish in the coming years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But the truth is, China is already beating the U.S. to clean energy jobs.

China is quickly becoming the global powerhouse in clean energy manufacturing and innovation, dwarfing the efforts of America. Backed by huge investment and an industrial policy bigger than the world has ever seen, China has become the worldwide leader in new energy technology markets while the U.S. is quickly falling behind.

But we can match the scale of China’s centralized industrial policy by fully deploying the engine of American prosperity: our marketplace. It is the only tool we have with the scale and capital to compete with China.

If the U.S. puts a limit on carbon pollution from dirtier sources of energy, we will send a clear signal to the marketplace that will unleash a massive wave of private investment in clean energy that would allow us to compete with the Chinese.  Only when American policy creates a profit motive for investors, inventors and entrepreneurs, will we have a chance to win the race.

President Obama made that case to the Business Roundtable. He called for a price on carbon to kick-start America’s efforts to win the clean technology race.

Key excerpts of the President remarks:

A competitive America is also an America that finally has a smart energy policy.  We know there is no silver bullet here – that to reduce our dependence on oil and the damage caused by climate change, we need more production, more efficiency, and more incentives for clean energy.

But to truly transition to a clean energy economy, I’ve also said that we need to put a price on carbon pollution …

What we can’t do is stand still.  The only certainty of the status quo is that the price and supply of oil will become increasingly volatile; that the use of fossil fuels will wreak havoc on weather patterns and air quality.  But if we decide now that we’re putting a price on this pollution in a few years, it will give businesses the certainty of knowing they have time to plan and transition.  This country has to move towards a clean energy economy.  That’s where the world is going.  And that’s how America will remain competitive and strong in the 21st century.

If Congress puts a limit on carbon pollution, the U.S. will compete with China. If we don’t, there’s no reason to believe the future will look any different than the facts we see today. Those facts are listed below, or you can download and print EDF's one-page handout version [PDF].

China’s Climate and Energy Policies Create an Investment Advantage

  • In 2009, China dedicated $440 billion in government funding solely to clean energy. –AFP, 5/24/2009
  • Renewable energy industries in China reached 1.12 million jobs in 2008 and are increasing by 100,000 a year. –NYT, 1/31/2010
  • China is already moving aggressively on measures it promised at Copenhagen, including closing an additional 10 gigawatts of inefficient, polluting coal plants. – Washington Post, 1/7/2010
  • In December 2009, China passed a law requiring its electric grid companies to buy any and all electricity generated from renewable sources. – WSJ, 12/27/2009

China Goes into Wind Power Overdrive in 2009

  • Five years ago, there was almost no Chinese presence in the wind manufacturing industry, and now China hosts the world’s largest wind market with installed capacity of over 25,000 MW, a significant increase from 2008, when China was home to about 12,000 MW. –  GWEC, 2/3/2010
  • As the world’s wind power capacity grew by 31% in 2009, China was responsible for one-third of the additions, experiencing industry growth of over 100%. – GWEC, 2/3/2010

The Saudi Arabia of Solar

  • China has leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. – NYT, 1/31/2010
  • Already home to one-third of global solar manufacturing capacity, Chinese competition has reduced global solar prices by 30% and is forcing rivals to shift production facilities to China: U.S. Evergreen Solar Inc. is moving its assembly line from Massachusetts to China, while BP PLC's solar unit said it would stop output in Maryland and rely on Chinese suppliers instead. – WSJ,  12/15/2009
  • Responding to domestic demand, Applied Materials – the world’s largest supplier of equipment to the solar photovoltaic industry – opened the world’s largest private sector solar research center in Xian, China in October 2009. – TIME, 11/30/2009

Green Technology Investment

  • Batteries and Electric Cars – China is also leading in advanced vehicle and battery technology. Chinese firm BYD introduced the world’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle , China’s production of lithium ion batteries had accounted for 41 percent of the global market by 2008, and the number of battery companies in China increased from 455 to 613 between 2001 and 2004. – Breakthrough Institute, 11/09
  • Transmission — China is an emerging world leader in ultra-high-voltage, or UHV transmission technology, with more than 100 domestic manufacturers and suppliers.  The State Grid Corporation will invest $44 billion through 2012, and $88 billion through 2020 in building UHV transmission lines. – Center for American Progress, 6/4/2009

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6 Comments

  1. Berthold Klein
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    What a bunch of Bull- Man-made global warming is a hoax and the Chines know it. They are playing the rest of the world for the fool they are. The Cap & Steal environmental wachos will destroy any chance of our regaining any semblence of prosperity.

  2. astroknott
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    You can't be serious. I about fell out of my chair when I read the title of this. China has been milking this global warming hoax for all it's worth. They and India have been completely unwilling to sign on to this nonsense. And good for them. I can't believe that I have been rooting for the Chinese.

    You guys really need to come back to the real world. I know that it must be difficult for you accepting that this has all been a giant lie but eventually you really need to accept the truth that global warming is nothing but a giant scam. The sooner you see the truth the sooner your healing can begin. You are still in the "denial" stage of grief.

  3. Erica
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Astroknott, how do you reconcile billions of dollars of Chinese investment in clean tech with your belief that China thinks global warming is a hoax?

    Furthermore you are missing the point: when it comes to renewables, it doesn't matter whether climate change is happening. The world's oil supply will run out eventually – with the Saudis driving the price sky-high toward the end – and whoever has invested in creating and controlling the next generation of energy will rise in power.

  4. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    On China, I’m ecstatically happy to have China and everybody else on board developing clean tech. The more, the merrier. Yes, it would be particularly great if the US expanded its activities, but I think that's happening. A price on carbon would accelerate it, certainly. But there are opportunities for everybody. The Chinese, for instance, have tapped an American CSP company to build a 2GW project. Siemens is expanding its manufacturing in India. Vestas is building plants in the US. The bottom line for me is the greening of the world economy.

    At the same time, let's try not to ignore the inescapable fact of China's authoritarian government. (See http://climatechange.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2010/02/02/dept-of-missed-signals/) The Chinese would do even better if they moved toward the "Fifth Modernization" – democracy.

  5. astroknott
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Erica.

    The billions of dollars in Chinese investment is coming from the developed world, not the Chinese treasury. They are making billions on this. It's a gravy train for them. Neither they or India have to comply with ANY carbon reductions and they get to rake in all the "green" dollars from the rest of us. Siemens as well as GE and some other huge multinational companies have signed on to this nonsense because they are making billions in "green" dollars from U.S. taxpayers. G.E. Manufactures wind generators for example. Largely funded with tax dollars. Its a gravy train of "green" dollars for them. They don't care if its a lie as long as they are getting paid.

    Wake up! To deny that this is, and has always been, nothing but a fraud, is like arguing that the world is actually flat.

    go here: http://www.climatedepot.com/

    The evidence that this is a fraud is beyond overwhelming. It's undeniable, irrefutable, proven FACT! There is a consensus that this is a fraud. If you don't accept it as such then you are a climategate "denier".

  6. Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Fantatic job here. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you definitely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Well, at least Im interested.

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