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The motto of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is ‘knowledge in the public service.’  This publication of mine from September 2012 is made available to the public free of charge here by downloadable PDF.

Book Cover

INTRODUCTION

At the time of my initial appointment to the Wilson Center, it struck me that something was missing from the general discussion in the United States concerning China’s embrace of clean energy and its implications for the United States. Much of what had been written embraced one of two polar positions. It seemed that the U.S.-China relationship in clean energy was either the best avenue for our cooperation or the measuring stick for our final competition. To a casual but concerned reader, the message was confusing. Newspaper “word-bites,” rather than informing discussion, lent anxiety to the existing confusion. The Woodrow Wilson Center provided me time and resources to examine the facts about clean technology (“cleantech”) and China. This was timely. Government agencies, think tanks and trade associations hoping to influence the policy debate began in February 2009 to release a spate of lengthy and in-depth policy reports, many of them technical in nature. We will learn in Chapter One how and why that gusher of information—which has thrown up literally shelf-feet of reports over the past year and a half— suddenly arose. However, for the purposes of this Introduction, it is simply worth noting that these policy tomes, for all that they did serve to provide data-based context to what had previously been “context-free” highly combustible reporting, did not offer much help to an interested non-specialist in making better sense of the main issues. At this “informed” end of the information spectrum, there was now almost too much information spread across too many specialized viewpoints. For a busy entrepreneur, investment manager, business professional, state or local government official, regional economic development analyst, scientific researcher, or engaged student—in fact, for any concerned “global citizen” wanting to understand the issues in a straightforward and streamlined way— it was famine or feast. A super-abundance of highly-specialized information provides not much more help in gaining an efficient grasp of the core issues than scattershot newspaper and media reporting had offered. Sustaining U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation 3 This book aims squarely at the “middle ground” of curiosity and interest in this broad topic. At the outset, I would like to be clear about three “operating assumptions” I have built in: Timeframe The three main chapters are concerned with the three-year period from mid-2008 to mid-2011. Except for one digression involving Five Year Plans which covers a 30-year period, this limitation on perspective actually helps bring the main subject matter into better focus. The bulk of the U.S. political effort to engage with China in the clean energy arena took shape during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and was further framed through policy initiatives of the Obama administration. For a new industrial ecosystem like “cleantech” or clean energy, what is relevant is defined by what has most recently happened. It is only in the Conclusion that the time-frame is pulled back to show that some of the dynamics described in preceding chapters are, in fact, related to deeper and more long-standing trends in the overall U.S.-China relationship. Structure As author, I have insisted on an organizational principle for presenting information which puts me at odds with the conventional approach of “Beltway” experts. In Washington, the tendency is to run all relevant information through what I will call the “policy blender” and to present the resulting product as a mix of policy recommendation, policy analysis, and policy refutation. I take a different approach. I believe that the policy process is best served when the three main aspects of business-relevant policy are broken down and viewed separately in their own right. These are: (a) the politics underlying the policy process; (b) the technology innovations which policy initiatives aim to support; and (c) the investment ultimately required to take any technology innovation to scale in the marketplace, thereby driving policy on a long-term and sustainable basis. Rather than jumble these perspectives, I treat them in Merritt t. Cooke 4 separate chapters and try to adopt the relevant “mind-set” of each in presenting material in the respective chapter. This may be nothing more than a reflection of my former training as a cultural anthropologist, but I believe it is useful—within the complex arena of China, the United States, and energy—in revealing underlying dynamics. For this reason, in the U.S. section of the opening chapter on Politics, I will rely heavily on the words of key political actors. Ours is a system where the president needs to persuade the electorate and what is said matters. In the section on Chinese Politics, the approach is different, relying instead on “structural analysis” of the ruling party and its interests. In each case, the attempt is to adopt a perspective particularly suited to its subject matter. Purpose The Woodrow Wilson Center’s motto is “knowledge in the public service.” Woodrow Wilson epitomized the ideal of the “practitioner scholar”—the part-time scholar who devotes some of his or her career to bringing scholarly research into the practical, socially-relevant domains of government or business or non-profit work. This is the spirit with which I have written this book. I am neither a career academic nor a professional policymaker. I have tried to make this book clear and concise, although it involves a complex, and fast-changing topic. Especially for technically inclined readers, I want to acknowledge that no sector domain in the U.S.-China clean energy field can be adequately reduced to a couple of pages. I believe this topic is an important one. If the United States and China find a way to realistically base and sustain their cooperation in clean energy, they will be addressing directly 40 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions. And if together they manage to create a replicable model of cooperation, they can indirectly help the world address the remaining 60 percent. At its core, this topic touches everyone—those who care deeply about America’s place in the world, those who are moved by China’s epochal reemergence, those who are environmentally-engaged, and those who are responsible global citizens. Students are a particularly important audience because the tectonic issue described in this book will ultimately be the felt experience of their generation. In short, I hope that this book may be found to present important issues in a balanced way and to offer something useful and readily comprehensible to anyone with enough interest to pick it up.

View the Wilson Center’s Book Launch Event here

Happy Year of the Snake!

I have some major catching up to do so let me begin here with a link to my book which the Wilson Center launched on September 24, 2012.  (Note: if you want to download the PDF of the book, just right-click and use the Save As option).

Book Cover

More 2012/3 updates to follow in rapid sequence.

Thanks for hanging in there,

Thanks to everyone for their support in 2011 and my best wishes for your health and happiness in 2012!

The U.S./China Clean Energy blog ends the year with close to six thousand views, a level I believe can increase several fold next year following the January 2012 release of Sustaining U.S.-China Cooperation in Clean Energy by the Kissinger Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center (WashDC).

I’ll close out the year by giving you this preview of Cooketop News, my Paper.Li aggregator providing “front-burner” updates about the U.S. Mid-Atlantic connection and “hot” insights on clean energy technology, investment and policy.  Okay, I’ll remove tongue from cheek now.  More prosaically, Cooketop News will be hitting the Internet airwaves on a regular daily basis (Mon-Fri) starting Monday, January 2nd. A summary of top stories will then be provided each week in a Friday post here on U.S./China Clean Energy along with personal observations about what impact the weeks events are having on ‘U.S.-China sustainability’ trends.

Here is the summary of stories from this week’s trial run:

Monday, December 26, 2011

California’s new Renewables Portfoliio Standard (RPS) program

 Predictions for Cleantech in 2012

 The smart grid according to Cisco

 How do you say ‘Google Search’ in Chinese? 2011 top search results in Asia

 China continues tradition of Christmas crackdowns

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

 JDS Architects wins major Green Building Design Award in Hangzhou

U.S. smart grid gets US$8bn boost toward a smarter and greener future

SEIA & GTM Research release “U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Q 2011” report   

China proposes collecting bio-data on foreign visitors

 Big Oil redrawing the energy map with unconventional fuels

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Retrofits are the new darling for energy efficiency investors

China needs new policy course as capital tide turns

China plans Asia’s biggest coal-fired plant

Interactive map for tracking China’s global investment by sector

10 predictions for Cleantech and Sustainability in 2012

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 clean energy stories of 2011

China’s energy consumption now double the world average

U.S. DoE supporting research into advanced solar thermal

China drafting plan protect copper & other investments in Afghanistan

New funding could help lower cost of electric vehicle (EV) chargers

Friday, December 30, 2011

Food security to be a concern for China in 2012

Beijing on the horns of a new yuan exchange rate dilemma

Does China’s rare earth’s monopoly imperil clean energy?

Gordon Chang updates his ‘coming collapse of China’ prediction, 10 yrs later

5 predictions for Boston Cleantech in 2012

 

That’s it for 2011!  Enjoy an exhilarating slide into 2012 and I’ll look forward to seeing you on the other side of New Year’s Day.   Best wishes for the new year!

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