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I include some excerpts here from an interview which Energy Secretary Steven Chu just gave with Platts Energy Week television (http://www.plattsenergyweektv.com/) an independent all-energy news and talk show with ownership links to McGraw Hill.

The U.S. engine for clean energy innovation and economic growth is a four-cylinder engine but only three cylinders are firing now. Technology innovation, investment and state-level policy are all producing horsepower but federal level policy to create a long-term framework in support of technology innovation, long-term investment, and state support is seized up.

These extracts from Sec. Chu represent to my mind the best way forward and perhaps, in a time of polarized partisanship, the only way forward:


The White House, its Democratic allies and Republicans need to “look for the things that the vast majority of Americans will say, ‘This is good for me, this is good for America, this is good for my state,’ and move forward on those issues,” Chu told program host Bill Loveless. The interview, available at this link, airs in Houston tonight and was aired Sunday in Washington, D.C.

The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate-change bill last year that would have put a price on carbon emissions, but the measure died in the Senate. Nevertheless, Chu said there were other options for moving the U.S. towards a clean-energy future.

“Absent a price on carbon, what are the things you can do? Well, you can create a demand for this thing, whether it be wind or solar or any form of renewable energy [and] say, ‘This is where we are heading,'” Chu said. “These are many of the things that we as a country should wrestle with and think about.”

In the interview with Platts, Chu struck a conciliatory note, saying it wasn’t up to him to pick the policy — such as a price on carbon or low-carbon energy-use mandates — that would support renewable energy “or clean energy” projects.

“This is a discussion that has to be held with Congress, with the American people,” Chu said. “What the country really wants, and what business really wants, are those long-term signals to say, ‘This is where the country is heading.’ “

He also said there would be other opportunities for common ground with Republicans in Congress, such as retrofitting buildings and homes to cut down on energy bills.

“We are working on ways to do this so it doesn’t require massive public-sector investment, but it is private-sector investment because it is going to be saving money,” Chu said. “I think that is a common ground.”

The full article on this interview is available at http://bit.ly/eVBdWp

Dominique Doms of the International Trade Examiner shared the following observations on the recent clumsy steps in the pas-de-deux between the U.S. and China on climate change and clean energy policy coordination.  These missteps are beginning to follow a regular rhythym.  Last November, the COP15 in Denmark stumbled into acrimony when the Chinese negotiating team responded to Obama’s open hand with a pointed finger and the meeting broke up without a global framework deal to support cap-and-trade.  The approach to this November’s COP16 meeting in Mexico is already looking wobbly in light of two issues:

  1. The filing on September 9, 2010 of a trade action by the United Steelworkers against China for unfair subsidization of its renewable energy exports.  (Bearing in mind the ringside seat perspective I had on the U.S.-Japan auto trade dispute in the early 1990s, I see this move by U.S. labor on the global chessboard as natural and expected but hardly commendable.  At best, it will serve as a palliative and not a remedy).
  2. The clumsy steps China took to embargo strategic minerals essential for the manufacture of many clean energy products without official explanation.

Whatever happens in Mexico, the dance will have to go on.  As Bloomberg New Energy Finance has pointed out, the U.S. and China are effectively “joined at the hip” as a de-facto G2 burdened with the responsibility of maintaining global environmental and economic sustainability.

The ultimate remedy will be for U.S. policymakers to look into the mirror and understand that the real issue is not an either/or issue of cooperation v. competition with China, though both are inescapable facts of the matter.   The ultimate challenge is for us to realistically assess what we have and have not done to move our country into the future.  We can compare ourselves with  China but that comparison must be based on a realistic assessment of how our national systems are different and on different pathways we will need to follow to move our country forward.  Just like with Sputnik, our goal should not be to hold China’s clean energy development back, it should be to marshall our resources to move our country’s clean energy development forward.  In the final analysis, the U.S. and China will need to be partners in this global effort but that global partnership — in order to be effective — must be based on maximum effort by each of the partners as well as on a respectful and realistic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each partners system.  tc

Beginning of Dominique Doms comment:

“Clean and renewable energy production has become a new dispute between the US and China and centers around Chinese subsidies that unfairly give an advantage to local companies and price US producers out of the market.  Stephen Chu, US Energy Secretary, told the international press that the US government welcomes Chinese green companies but that there has to be a level playing field for US companies as well.

At the center of the dispute are large subsidies to Chinese manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines that allow them to gain an unfair and competitive advantage over US companies that are not entitled to the same government stimulus.  The US is requesting from China, through the World Trade Organization, that US companies that manufacture green energy components have access to the same stimulus funds as their Chinese owned counterparts.  It is expected that China will ultimately reach an agreement with the US as both countries believe that government subsidies are a key factor in the development and manufacturing of green and renewable energy sources.

The goal of both countries is to further reduce carbon emissions to halt global warming by lowering global pollution.  China holds an advantage over the US as the largest manufacturer of solar panels. The edge in the global market with a very high demand for renewable energy sources is the direct result of China’s near monopoly of the rare earth minerals market.

China controls 93% of the RE market both in raw materials as well as its alloys that are used in solar panel reflection mirrors.  The US has reopened some of its RE mines again after having been absent in the market for 20 years. That alone may not be sufficient to close the competitive gap with China but subsidies to American producers may result in a better pricing balance.

Discussions between Mr. Chu and his Chinese counterparts have been ongoing since the opening of the US-China Clean Energy Research Center last week.

The center is the largest research center of its kind where scientists from both countries will jointly develop green and renewable technologies.  A permanent agreement may be reached prior to the COP-16 meeting to be held in Mexico from November 29 through December 10.”

(end of Dominique Doms comment)

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