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Co-authored with Dylan McConnell, Melbourne Energy Institute research fellow. Published by The Conversation.

Last week, Griffith University’s Vlado Vivoda argued that renewable energy “makes no economic or political sense” for Australia.

While we welcome Vivoda’s contribution to the national energy policy debate, the conclusions he draws fail to account for the clear imperatives for quickening the pace of renewable energy deployment.

First and foremost of these imperatives is climate change. Given the prominence of climate change in the political sphere, and the fact that it is a key rationale for advancing renewable energy technologies, it is puzzling that Vivoda discusses Australia’s energy future without acknowledging the implications of climate change.

The bulk of Australia’s carbon emissions are produced by the stationary energy sector. To address climate change, this sector will have to shift from fossil fuels and embrace zero-carbon energy sources.

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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 ABC, Australia’s National Broadcaster.

Recently, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution, a new report that investigates how reducing our carbon dioxide output will benefit the Australian economy. Not surprisingly for me, the report finds that our transition to a clean energy economy yields excellent job-creation prospects for Australia. But amid this positive economic forecast is a framing of climate change that has several limitations and implications for policy.

Creating Jobs – Cutting Pollution (pdf) frames climate change as a pollution problem. This frame is consistent with the title of the Rudd government’s chief climate change policy, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and is a dominant way of communicating the problem of climate change in Australia.

The pollution frame shows how we understand, or in this case misunderstand, the phenomenon. What is meant by pollution in the context of climate change? Does the same language used for sewage overflows, chemical leaks, and oil spills adequately communicate the steps needed to address the challenge?

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Cross posted at WattHead and The Energy Collective.

The US climate blog It’s Getting Hot in Here featured an excellent post on the framing of climate change at the weekend. Taj Schottland, a senior at the College of the Atlantic, has developed three frames for communicating climate change and associated policies to political conservatives. To appeal to conservative audiences, Schottland recommends:

  1. Replacing the term ‘climate change’ with ‘climate security’ to better explain the ways in which the changing climate adversely affects America’s economic health, national security and prosperity.
  2. Highlighting clean ‘energy advancement’ as a way to avoid the negative connotations associated with reducing emissions and by implication economic growth.
  3. Emphasising the objective of cap-and-trade policies to ‘harness the power of the market.’

Regardless of whether you agree with Schottland’s suggestions, it is encouraging to see that climate advocates are examining the ways in which climate change is framed. And perhaps more importantly, that they are developing new frames to communicate the impacts of the phenomenon to a wider audience. Given that the construction of one capture-all frame is virtually impossible, we need multiple frames to appeal to people across the political spectrum, and build the broad public support needed for government action.

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

Steven ChuIn a speech yesterday at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, energy secretary Steven Chu again repeated his declaration that nothing less than a technological “revolution” is necessary to meet America’s energy challenge and to ensure the US position as a leading global economic power.

Speaking alongside Congressman Ed Markey, Chu told his audience that future US prosperity depends upon widely deploying renewable energy, developing carbon capture and storage capabilities, and increasing energy efficiency–but most importantly, it depends upon becoming a leading innovator in clean energy technologies.

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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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Leigh Ewbank


Climate and energy writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Creative Commons License All blogs presented on this site, therealewbank.wordpress.com, by Leigh Ewbank are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License
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