China Leads the World in Renewable Energy While U.S. Recedes

renewable energyActiv Solar shares under Flickr

If you are an American, you may be scratching your head wondering why on earth your political leaders would be so completely negligent in embracing the economic opportunity of a lifetime. The answer, unfortunately, is all too obvious.

China is, by far the biggest polluter in the world. By current numbers, it emits 10,357 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually (the U.S. occupies the second spot emitting 5.414 million metric tons annually). What is conveniently left out of American media is that China is heavily focussed in developing its clean, renewable energy sector, and eventually phasing dirty energy out of existence. In literal terms, China is pouring billions upon billions of dollars into creating the technology and the infrastructure for an entirely new and cutting edge renewable energy sector, and in the process creating millions of jobs and solidifying an immense strategic advantage over any other country that is a slow mover on this critically important area. To put it in other words, the clean energy economy not only represents one of the biggest opportunities to reduce pollution on the planet, it also represents the biggest opportunity for nations to concretize vast economic and geo-political power for generations to come. China’s government sees this opportunity and is acting on it. The American government, on the other hand, is crippled by the private interests of the oil industry.

Much of the current geopolitical world revolves around oil-producing nations. This is where the U. S. derives much of its power and influence, as it is able to leverage this power over nations that need their dirty energy in order to run and sustain dirty energy economies. Along with dirty energy comes wars, famine, human rights abuses, proxy wars among the worlds superpowers and indescribable suffering for nations caught in the middle (e.g. Syria). Such is the reality of the dirty energy economy.

Now, just imagine how the geo-political balance of the planet would shift if oil were no longer the principle driver of the world’s energy. The power structure we know would completely change and a new world order would be the result. Since China’s ambition is to tilt the world away from an American-centric world to a Chinese-centric one, it makes sense that the goldmine of renewable energy would form a central pillar of their expansion strategy. Contrast this with the renewable energy ambitions of the U.S. government, which is under a new leadership that seems totally concentrated on propping up what is a vastly, and rapidly, a diminishing economic sector.

Wind farm in Xinjiang viewed from the Lanxin railway.

China has emboldened its reputation as the official global leader of electrical energy generation. The clean energy generation from China is twice that from the United States which lags behind in second place. The magnitude of the Chinese solar power sector alone is overwhelming, as it employs over 2.5 million people. This figure dwarfs the 260,000 people working in this same sector in the United States.

This is indicative of the energy policy direction of both nations, under leaders with a gulf in their visionary perspective. President Trump is selling “clean coal”, while China is strategically reducing coal production and placing emphasis on clean energy production. China has made inspiring feats in cutting over 1.2 million jobs in the Chinese coal sector in 2016 alone. The Chinese National Energy Administration boldly set out a target last year to massively chop down on coal energy usage, aiming to satiate only 20% of the country’s energy needs by 2030. And China seems well on pace to clinch that target as a report from Greenpeace showed that by the end of 2015, clean energy was already accounting for 12% of the total energy needs of the nation. In the United States, clean energy accounts for 10% of the total energy consumption.

As far is continuing to invest in its renewable energy sector, in January of last year China announced that it would invest roughly $367 billion into the generation of renewable energy. This would include solar, wind, wave power and nuclear energy. The nation is also abandoning previous plans to construct 85 coal-fired power plants. These clean energy moves are expected to birth 10 million jobs in the clean energy sector trumping the over 3 million jobs already existing in that industry in China, as verified by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

In China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, the nation outlined its audacious ambitions to slash its energy intensity (aka increasing energy efficiency) by 15% by 2020. The results of this endeavor are already evident, as energy intensity had dropped by a hefty 5% in 2016 alone. The main drive towards the reduction in energy intensity for the nation is the industrial inclination towards renewable energy. Every year, China invests over $100 billion in domestic renewables. This doubles what the U.S. invests in domestic renewables on an annual basis. This $100 billion spent annually even surpasses the combined investment that both the European Union and the United States make every year in renewable energy.

Stocksnap shares under Pixabay

In addition, China is also the largest manufacturer and exporter of clean energy technology, which further strengthens its geopolitical advantage for generations over the U.S., which does not have the same collective ambition. China, on its own shoulders, supplies about two-thirds of the world’s solar panels. China also produces almost half of the planet’s wind turbines. It is expected that by 2035, China could be accounting for 28% of the world’s primary energy demand while the U.S. could account for just 12%. At present, China is already supplying 23% of this amount, while the United States supplies 16%. So by 2035, while it would be an acceleration for China, it would be a deceleration for the United States.

With the above information in mind, if you are an American, you may be scratching your head wondering why on earth your political leaders would be so completely negligent in embracing the economic opportunity of a lifetime. The answer is simply that the U.S. government is owned by massive corporate interests, that the dirty energy interests have their tentacles everywhere within American politics and that as long as this is the case, China is going to keep surpassing the U.S. until its political position is diminished permanently. This seems to all but be written in stone, unless a massive uprising from the general population changes the course of American history. This remains to be seen. What will continue is China’s tightening grip on the renewable energy sector, and its political leverage over the rest of the world.

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