Monthly Archives: February 2010

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
Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Economics, International, Jobs, Policy / Read 9 Responses

Why Walmart’s Carbon Commitment Can Make Such a Difference

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth,” when explaining the principle of levers.

Leverage is the big news about Walmart’s announcement today. The company has committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.8 million cars.

So is Walmart moving the earth? No, not yet. But this is precisely the kind of innovative approach to reducing carbon pollution that we need right now. Environmental Defense Fund worked closely with Walmart to craft this goal and project that makes the most of what Walmart can uniquely do to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

This commitment is bold because:

  • Walmart’s supply chain is where the action is. It’s the biggest possible lever that Walmart could bring to the table. Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce their emissions – which they otherwise might not do – resulting in positive ripple effects around the globe.
  • It prioritizes the biggest opportunities. Walmart is looking at the products that create the most carbon emissions across their lifecycles – as well as products that are top sellers – and focusing on those first.
  • It gets carbon pollution reductions now. There’s no waiting for the United States or the world to act.
  • It will likely reach ten of thousands of companies around the globe – companies that would not be required to reduce emissions by national or international regulatory proposals but will greatly benefit from energy efficiency efforts.
  • It adds to a drumbeat of clear messaging to suppliers from Walmart that they need to reduce carbon pollution. This commitment follows the Sustainability Index, Product Innovation work with Private Brands and other initiatives.
  • It’s good for business and good for customers. This project is about Walmart and its suppliers working hand-in-hand to find ways to drive carbon and energy – and cost – out of the supply chain. Walmart customers care about America’s energy future. They see tangible value from carbon reductions every time a lower carbon product costs less or uses dramatically less energy once they get it home.

Two kinds of change: Simple but big and transformational
In this project we will look at two different kinds of opportunities. The first opportunities are simple and relatively small changes that, when coupled with Walmart’s scale, become big reductions. The other opportunities are more transformational, where we dive deep and engage an industry or consumers to fundamentally change products or their uses.

DVD packaging is an example of a simple change that adds up because of Walmart’s scale.

A couple of years ago, Walmart asked one of its DVD suppliers – 20th Century Fox – to be a part of a pilot for our project. They made simple changes to make DVD packaging lighter, which cut energy use by 28% and reduced the lifecycle carbon emissions of DVDs sold to Walmart by about 25,000 tons. It had a big multiplier effect, too, because the lighter packages were also used on DVDs sold at other stores, and the change evolved from movies to video games and software too. Small change – big cumulative effect.

One of the other pilot projects Walmart tried was milk. This is an example of a project that falls into the category of industry transformation. Agriculture contributes 8% of the total U.S. carbon footprint, and the dairy industry is a significant contributor. At Walmart’s request, several dairy suppliers analyzed the costs and emissions associated with a gallon of milk, from dairy farm to distribution center. By gathering and looking at the data, we found many opportunities to reduce emissions – at farms through changes in fertilizer and manure management, at dairy processing facilities through improved energy efficiency and even in the product itself, such as making milk shelf-stable.

Some of these changes are now underway at one of Walmart’s suppliers, Dean Foods. We’re estimating that this one supplier alone can reduce CO2 emissions by 300,000 tons overall by 2015. If these changes were adopted throughout the dairy industry, we estimate that we could see over 2 million tons of greenhouse gas reductions in the same period.

Will this be easy? To put it simply: No. Looking deep into the supply chain and across product lifecycles for carbon pollution reduction wins is uncharted territory. The cross-organizational team working on this project has spent months creating a detailed guidance document about what can count towards Walmart’s goal, as well as how reductions should be quantified and confirmed. We’re committed to making this project as transparent as possible and will be publicly releasing the guidance document within a month for anyone who wishes to comment or share ideas.

Walmart’s action today won’t eliminate the need for a national and global cap on carbon pollution. These caps are absolutely necessary. We can’t solve our pollution problems without them. But negotiations take time, and while the clock keeps ticking, carbon pollution keeps building up in our atmosphere. Today, Walmart has shown that is it not waiting to act to reduce global carbon pollution.

Read more about Walmart’s commitment and view the webcast of the announcement.

Originally posted on Environmental Defense Fund’s Innovation Exchange blog.

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Weather and Climate in the Face of the “Snowpocalypse”

While Washington was buried under several feet of snow, we all needed some entertainment. Fortunately, leaders of the anti-science movement were happy to provide it.  Sen. DeMint (R-SC) said: “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle,'” while Sen Inhofe (R-OK) built an igloo dubbed “Al Gore’s New Home.” Sean Hannity reported “it’s the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore’s hysterical global warming theories.”

I suppose it doesn’t matter to them that the National Academy of Science and all major scientific organizations who have studied the question have concluded that pollution is causing changes to our climate.  Or that there is some evidence that climate change could make blizzards like this more common, even as the world continues to warm. According to TIME:

“Hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of snow. Colder air, by contrast, is drier; if we were in a truly vicious cold snap, like the one that occurred over much of the East Coast during parts of January, we would be unlikely to see heavy snowfall.”

One day’s weather does not define our climate. It’s one slide in the filmstrip — meaningful when strung together, but relatively uninformative on its own. (See our previous post on this.) That is why it is so important to follow the scientists unearthing past weather, recording present weather and modeling future weather — a theme The Colbert Report and the Daily Show picked up in their shows last week.

Unfortunately, some people are attempting to exploit the recent snow to mislead the public about a carbon cap. There’s an ad attacking Congressmen Boucher (D-VA) and Perriello (D-VA) for voting for the House climate bill. Far from “kill[ing] tens of thousands of Virginia jobs,” this bill would bolster the Virginian and American economies. shows just shy of 100 Virginian companies — already employing over 16,000 — are poised to grow under a carbon cap. That’s just one snapshot of the United States could achieve with climate legislation.

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Climate Video Action Week: Start Your Camera!

Cameras are standard on most cell phones, which has led to a surge in goofy videos of things like co-workers dozing off.  But for one week in March, your camera phone can serve a higher purpose — stopping climate change.

Be a part of Environmental Defense Action Fund’s Climate Video Action Week, a video campaign to connect you directly to your Senators. To participate, create a 30-second video explaining why you want a strong climate bill with a real cap on carbon  — now.

During the first week of March, we’ll send the videos to your Senators, and we’ll also feature the best ones in our next online ad campaign.

My colleague, Erin, explains more in the video below.

Please spread the word and re-post this video for your friends to see! And again, here’s where to get the full details of the video action week.

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The Frank Luntz Poll About Global Warming: Still Hot News

Remember the Frank Luntz poll we told you about last week?  The prominent pollster found bipartisan support for a strong climate and clean energy bill, and it’s been generating a lot of buzz.

Here are just a few of the many stories about it:

  • True/Slant talks about Luntz’s surprising views on the climate issue, saying he’s “teaming up with Fred Krupp of all people” …
  • The Vine has an even better summary of the “strange bedfellows” effect:

It was a little surprising to see [Luntz] this morning at the National Press Club, teaming up with the Environmental Defense Fund on a new set of poll findings about climate legislation. Even Luntz couldn’t help joking about it: “When Fred asked me to do this with him, I asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’

  • And Climate Progress and Treehugger both talk about the meaning of poll’s bipartisan results in the wake of recent Democratic election losses.

If you’d like to skip the news clips and see for yourself, in addition to the full audio we shared earlier, we now have 5 minutes of highlights:


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