The Love-Bunny of the Greens

Posted by: Keith Kloor  :  Category: China, Energy

Bishop Hill latches on to this post, which catches up with a two-month old wet kiss to China from James Hansen, all which leads a Bish commenter to sarcastically (and rightly) note:

The way China has become the ‘love-bunny’ of the greens is indeed funny, its human rights records is still awful, its building coal fired power station as fast as it can and it’s pollution and environmental problems far surpass anything seen in the west, hardly the hallmarks of eco-hero’s you would have thought.

China is also the “love-bunny” of a certain influential op-ed columnist (which I’ve previously discussed here and here). The weird thing about Hansen’s China-related op-ed and follow-up article (both which you can see here at his site) is that he doesn’t acknowledge the two energy faces of China (I guess he can’t in an op-ed for a Chinese newspaper). I mean, China is in no way banking on renewables to meet it’s voracious energy needs in the decades ahead. Happy talk of green tech aside, China is making deals all over the world to secure unfettered access to fossil fuels, including Canada’s oil sands.

Lastly, I’d be rather sparing in my praise for a country that keeps the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize locked away in jail.

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10 Responses to “The Love-Bunny of the Greens”

  1. Tom Fuller Says:

    A large part of China’s renewable energy capability has been built on speculation for export. They required Western renewable companies to open offices in China, supplied joint venture partners, and are using domestic installation as a sort of ‘proving ground’ to make manufacture and distribution efficient.

    They will use it, of course, with the state mandating some bids below cost to massage the efficiency ratings, and it won’t stop soon. And the same is true for nuclear power.

    But their bets are on coal.

  2. Gavin Says:

    The South China Morning Post (in which Hansen’s op-ed appeared) is a Hong Kong newspaper. He could say what he liked.
     

    What he did say was that *if* China adopted an internal price on carbon, then it could lead the world in a transition to cleaner fuels. So for that matter could the US or the EU.
     
     
    I don’t see any sense in which he thinks that the Chinese governmental system is something to be admired. Indeed, Hansen has worked for years in order to build bridges to Chinese scientists to move pollution controls (incl. BC and methane) up the agenda in their country. His statements of praise are all predicated on China setting an internal carbon price and ramping up renewables. You might think this is unlikely, but in no way does this statement imply an endorsement of China’s current path.
     
    One expects misstatements from the more partisan bloggers, but not so much from people who can actually read.

  3. Tom Fuller Says:

    Gavin, I have seen nothing that would lead any person who can read to even speculate that China will set an internal price on carbon-have you?

    China does want both energy efficiency and lower pollution-they badly need both. And they’re doing really good work in some areas, like mini-hydro and CHP, that will never get publicized. But there’s no way they will ever enforce an internal price on carbon-they literally cannot at this point in time.

  4. Steven Sullivan Says:

    If you want to see the most doe-eyed love-bunnies for China, look not to climate scientists and environmentalists , but to our merchant classes, dreaming of all those consumers.
     
    The *other* dream — that injections of capitalism would inevitably lead to democracy — hasn’t quite worked out, has it?  Instead China (and Russia) has demonstrated how very profitable ‘state capitalism’ can be.  I suspect in their heart of hearts our lords of industry envy the lack of pesky regulatory oversight in those countries more than they deplore the human rights violations.  Certainly the growing gap between rich and poor there can’t bother them any more than the one here does.

  5. Keith Kloor Says:

    Gavin,
    I’m not really sure what your complaint is about my post, which was more about the general love-in some greens (and Friedman) have with China, because of it’s rapid build-up of clean tech. Which is great in of itself.
    But I think these folks are too quick to overlook why China can take unilateral steps. Along these lines, Hansen writes in his follow-up article (my emphasis):
    “I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles.  At the same time China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the
    best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient.  This is not to say that fossil fuel interests have no power within China, but they do not rule the roost.”

    Also, don’t assume my post is an endorsement of this crackpottery post that Bishop Hill links to. Perhaps I should have been clear about that, but that post obviously takes Hansen’s words (and their meaning) out of context.
    My beef, to reiterate, is the glossing over by Hansen, Friedman (although much less so in his last column on this topic), et al of China’s dictatorship. In my opinion, its disingenuous to laud China for “taking the long view” for “cultural” reasons and because of not having to worry about “short election cycles.”

    Because if I had to choose, I’d prefer living in a country with those short election cycles than one without free and fair elections at all.

  6. harrywr2 Says:

    The price of 5500 kcal/kg steam was trading on Asian Spot markets this week at $140/tonne or $6.60/mmbtu.
    Mine Mouth Wyoming Steam is trading $13/ton for 8800btu/lb  coal,roughly 75 cents/mmbtu.
    The Asian economies already have a strong economic reason to move away from coal as a primary supply of energy.
    Nuclear, Wind(where it can be integrated into the grid) and Hydro are already cheaper then coal in Asia.
    The Chinese put ‘shovel in the ground’ on a new nuclear plant once every 6 weeks in 2010. To meet their energy demand they need to be putting a shovel in the ground every one-two weeks. It’ll take them at least 10 years to achieve that rate.
    In the meantime, they will burn coal, coal and more coal.
     
    @gavin
     
    At $140/tonne for steam coal it costs $500 million/year to keep a 1,000 MW coal fired plant fueled.
    It only costs $2 billion to build a Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear plant in China.
    China’s dependence on coal isn’t about the ‘price of carbon’, it’s about they can’t get the parts and trained personnel for nuclear reactors fast enough.
    Pricing carbon doesn’t change how long it takes to train a nuclear plant operator(10 years) or how long it’s takes Japan Steel’s nuclear forgings division to double production capacity(5 years).
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  7. JD Ohio Says:

    Gavin  “I don’t see any sense in which he thinks that the Chinese governmental system is something to be admired.”
     
    Maybe this from “China and the Barbarians Part I” gives an indication that Hansen prefers Chinese Government to the American Government.
     
    “I came away feeling that not only is it nearly impossible to get effective legislation through Congress, but that the special interests can prevent implementation almost interminably. Democracy of the sort intended in 1776 probably could have dealt with climate change, but not the fossil-money-’democracy’ that now rules the roost in Washington. ****
    I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles.”
    Also, Hansen displays his insularity and ignorance when he compliments the democracy of 1776 [am assuming that he meant to refer to the Constitution that was adopted in 1787] as being more open and fair.  The Constitution contains many constraints upon pure democracy such as the electoral college, and when the Constitution was adopted there were many restrictions on the right to vote.
     
    JD

  8. Keith Kloor Says:

    Steven (#4) writes: “The *other* dream — that injections of capitalism would inevitably lead to democracy — hasn’t quite worked out, has it?  Instead China (and Russia) has demonstrated how very profitable ‘state capitalism’ can be.”

    This is a good point. Additionally, it’s worth noting that China’s “nationalistic capitalism” gives it a leg up on capitalist democracies, where businesses need not align their interests with the state’s. There’s a good book I reviewed that talks about this chess game China is playing with natural resources and energy. We should be clear-eyed about this and not view China with rose-colored glasses.

  9. Steven Sullivan Says:

    JD sees through what appears to be Hanson expressing admiration for the Enlightenment-driven ideal of democracy that the Founders had in mind,  to uncover the dastardly scientist’s secret crush on  21st-C Chinese government.
     
    Too funny.
     
     
     

  10. JD Ohio Says:

    Sullivan you are equally as uniformed as Hanson.  It is plain silly to want to go back to the late 1700s.  Here is what the founders had in mind:
     
    See summary of U.S. voting rights below:
    U.S. Voting Rights

    When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation’s population) had the vote. Over the past two centuries, though, the term “government by the people” has become a reality. During the early 1800s, states gradually dropped property requirements for voting. Later, groups that had been excluded previously gained the right to vote. Other reforms made the process fairer and easier.
    17901790 Only white male adult property-owners have the right to vote.180018101810 Last religious prerequisite for voting is eliminated.182018401850 Property ownership and tax requirements eliminated by 1850. Almost all adult white males could vote.1855 Connecticut adopts the nation’s first literacy test for voting. Massachusetts follows suit in 1857. The tests were implemented to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants.

    Read more: U.S. Voting Rights http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html#ixzz1B2VuEbeR

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