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Published by the US-based clean energy advocate, Americans for Energy Leadership.

On the heels of filing a complaint with the WTO against China’s subsidies for its domestic wind turbine manufacturers, President Obama signed an appropriations law that requires the Department of Defense to purchase American-made solar panels. The move appears to be the first instance of America leveraging its WTO complaint to boost its clean technology industry, and shows that the US is beginning to take the clean energy race seriously.

Some will argue that the ‘buy American’ provision smacks of hypocrisy—that the administration is as guilty of the same behaviour it has criticised China for. Others will argue that the measure counters the Chinese subsidies and is a legitimate way to bolster the US clean energy sector in an uneven playing field. Either way, the move shines a spotlight on the role of military procurement.

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Published by the US-based clean energy advocate, Americans for Energy Leadership.

In an attempt to advance the “new Sputnik” narrative, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against China over its clean energy subsidies in the last weeks of 2010.

The administration’s move comes just months after the United Steelworkers (USW) union filed a trade case with the office of United States Trade Representative. The earlier USW petition argues that China’s generous subsidies and land grants, available only for locally made parts, constitute preferential treatment of its domestic clean energy manufacturers. The current practices, the USW argues, disadvantage American firms and are trade distorting.

Over at Grist, Lucia Green-Weiskel and Tina Gerhardt write that:

“Both complaints ignore the fact that energy industries all over the world benefit from government subsidies. In the U.S. and Europe, the nuclear and fossil-fuel industries get massive public subsidies. And as a percentage of GDP, Spain and the U.K. pump funding at levels similar to China’s into green subsidies.”

While this critique is correct, ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether or not the WTO rules in favor of America. The whole exercise helps to focus attention on the “new Sputnik” narrative that appears to be gaining momentum.

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Published by the National Times.

The silver bullet view of carbon pricing is a common theme in Australian climate change policy debates. It is argued that by establishing domestic carbon price signals the nation will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and address the challenge of climate change. International examples of carbon pricing initiatives are often cited in these debates. Unfortunately, incomplete accounts of them hide important lessons for policymakers at home. A recent opinion piece by Dr Peter Wood and Paul Burke of the Australian National University is no exception.

Wood and Burke present several international cases where carbon pricing is now operating, or is on the cards, to make the case that Australia is behind many nations in adopting such measures. While this contention is correct, Wood and Burke do not consider whether the carbon pricing measures adopted abroad have been effective. They do not consider the initiatives that preceded carbon pricing proposals or the fact that carbon taxes are often used to generate revenue rather than creating a price signal for the private sector.

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Cross posted at Beyond Zero Emissions.

The Australian Greens have put high-speed rail (HSR) back on the national agenda. Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has called on the Rudd government to fund a study identifying the best route for connecting Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, with HSR.

The ambitious project represents the type of nation building that should be at the heart of national climate policy. The project has the potential to reduce Australia’s ballooning carbon emissions, and kick-start the development of a larger HSR network that can one day connect all of Australia’s mainland capital cities.

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Published by American clean energy blogs WattHead and The Energy Collective.

US FlagIn yesterday’s Washington Post, prominent U.S. business leaders John Doerr (from Kleiner Perkins) and Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE) became part of the growing chorus calling on the nation’s leaders to prepare America for the clean-energy race. They warn that the U.S. is quickly falling behind in “the next great global industry”—green technology—with the risk of damaging America’s economic competitiveness.

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Published by the Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank based in Oakland, California.

Moon LandingThis week marks the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk, the event which made the US the first and only nation to accomplish one of the greatest technological feats in human history. While space-race aficionados will argue that US-Soviet competition continued beyond the 1969 moon landing, for the layperson, Armstrong’s ‘small step’ marked the end of the space race.

In 2009, the United States faces a new global competition, one that will have far greater implications for the future of our nation and the world: the clean energy race

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Co-authored with Johanna Peace and Devon Swezey and published by the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead.

People's Hall China Historically, the United States has been the nation with the capacity and determination for large-scale investments in promising new technologies–but not this time. Now it’s China’s turn. In the coming weeks, China will unveil an unprecedented multi-billion dollar investment in renewable energy.

The details are sketchy, but China is reportedly developing a massive renewable energy investment plan. While little is known about the precise level of expenditure the Chinese will commit to research, development and deployment (RD&D), if it’s anywhere between the US $440-660 billion over ten years reported by AFP and the Center for American Progress then it’ll be an unprecedented investment in the new energy economy.

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Co-authored with Johanna Peace and Devon Swezey and published by the Breakthrough Institute and the Energy Collective.

It’s official: India won’t accept binding caps on its emissions of greenhouse gases. Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh made the case clear last Thursday:

“India will not accept any emission-reduction target–period,” Ramesh said. “This is a non-negotiable stand.”

India’s announcement is the latest frustrating news for those following the efforts of climate negotiators as they struggle to eke out an international agreement by this December’s UN summit in Copenhagen. It’s frustrating because the fundamental dissonance between what developed countries demand and what developing countries are willing to give appears to be the single most intractable roadblock standing in the way of a successful treaty. In fact, this very problem has impeded progress on international climate negotiations for decades.

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Published by the Breakthrough Generation.

US China

Of all the reports that emerged from the UNFCC climate change negotiations that concluded in Bonn last week, one particular report has stuck in my mind. In the last days of the negotiations the Associated Press reported that ‘China wants the United States to deliver top of the line technology as part of a new global warming agreement.’ It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that technology transfer between the two nations is a complex issue.

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Published by the Breakthrough Generation.

In his book, China Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World, Tim Fishman explores the rise of China and highlights areas where the Chinese have out-competed, are gaining ground, or seek to out-compete US industries. When we consider the recent developments, including China’s investment in clean energy from ‘green’ stimulus measures exceeding that of the US, and enacting fuel efficiency standards beyond those recently approved by Congress, it seems this could represent an emerging trend.

While Fishman acknowledges that ‘[t]he ability of American industry to stay ahead of its competition rests on the national gifts and resources that the United States devotes to innovation’, he warns that the innovation gap is ‘beginning to narrow’.

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Leigh Ewbank


Climate and energy writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

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