Home > Uncategorized > The Green New Deal is happening in China

The Green New Deal is happening in China

from Dean Baker

One of the Trump administration’s talking points about global warming is that we’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while the countries that remain in the Paris accord are not. Well, the first part of this story is clearly not true, as data for 2018 show a large rise in emissions for the United States. The second part is also not very accurate, as most other countries are taking large steps to reduce emissions.

At the top of the list is China. The country has undertaken a massive push to convert to electric powered vehicles and clean energy sources.

China’s progress in this effort is truly extraordinary. In the case of electric cars, it has used a carrot-and-stick approach where it offers consumers large subsidies for buying electric cars while also requiring manufacturers to meet quotas for electric car production as a percent of their total fleet of cars. It has also invested in the necessary infrastructure, ensuring that there are a large number of charging stations widely dispersed across the country so that drivers don’t have to worry about being unable to recharge their cars.

The result has been a massive increase in the sale of electric cars. Electric car sales are projected to be 1.1 million this year, almost equal to sales in the rest of the world combined. The country expects sales to continue to rise rapidly, with annual sales hitting 11.5 million in 2030. By comparison, electric car sales are expected to be just 480,000 in the United States this year, less than half the number in China.

There is a similar story with solar and wind energy. China added more solar capacity last year than the rest of the world combined. In 2018 it already surpassed the goal it had set for 2020. It is now looking to double its capacity over the next two years.

China also has almost as much wind power capacity as the rest of the world combined. Its capacity is more than three times as great as in the United States. However, even with the extraordinary growth in clean energy, wind and solar together still account for less than 20 percent of China’s generation capacity and less than half the amount of electricity produced by burning coal.

Nonetheless, China’s enormous progress in promoting electric cars and clean energy should tell us a great deal about the potential in these areas in the United States. While China’s economy has grown rapidly over the last four decades, on a per person basis its income is still less than one-third that of the United States.

This means that a relatively poor country was able to make massive gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with its baseline growth path. The focus on electric cars and clean energy also did not impair the country’s growth in any obvious way.

Over the last decade, China’s GDP growth has averaged 7.9 percent annually. Perhaps there is a story where China’s economy would have grown even more rapidly without the subsidies and other measures to promote green growth, but obviously, these measures could not have been very serious impediments if the country could still sustain one of the fastest growth stretches the world has ever seen.

If China could make such enormous progress in a short period of time, surely the United States could make comparable gains with the resources at its disposal. This doesn’t mean that the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be costless: People will have to change lifestyles. This means doing without SUVs and eating much less meat. But China’s success is an impressive example.

This brings up another issue directly related to Donald Trump’s trade war with China. One of the biggest complaints that Trump has is that China is “stealing” our technology. Most media commentators have widely endorsed this complaint.

China already spends almost as much as the United States on research and development. With a much more rapidly growing economy, China is virtually certain to pass the United States in research and development spending in the very near future, if it has not already done so.

Rather than spending so much effort worrying about what China is taking from us, we should be thinking about what we can get from China, especially in the area of green technologies where it has made such enormous progress. Rather than looking to lock up our technologies to maximize the profits US corporations get from their patent and copyright monopolies; a modern trade deal would look to maximize the flow of technology across national borders.

That would be the focus of a trade deal if we were concerned about economic prosperity and the future of the planet. Unfortunately, that is not likely to be the agenda of the people involved in trade negotiations.

See article on original site

  1. January 20, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Very good article. Thank you. China may also be experimenting with the idea of distributed intelligence and a modern form of democracy beyond the kind designed to mostly represent capital.

  2. culturalanalysis.net
    January 20, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Terribly misguided article, swallowing the Chines Greenwah propaganda without bothering to unpack the data. Well here are some facts… That extra wind and solar capacity that you say China has added looks good on only paper, because it is built in remote areas where there is no network to utilise it and 50% goes straight into the ground; it is all for show. Yes, China is developing plenty of Green technologies to sell to the west, but ts commitment to coal power is steadfast. An additional coal power capacity equivalent to the ENTIRE capacity of the USA is in active development.

    Here are the details and plenty of references:
    https://culturalanalysis.net/2018/11/03/chinas-energy-gambit/

    • Econoclast
      January 20, 2019 at 11:19 pm

      Interesting, but who wrote the piece? Who is this web site? Lots of links but no indication of why I should find the article or the website credible.

  3. January 20, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    The issue here is not China or China vs the world (US) but the fact that both countries embrace the idea of the “Green New Deal” which is basically narrow focused on “climate change” but is basically a whitewash of the standard neoliberal growth economy.

    It would be of interest for this blog to contrast “green growth” vs “green ‘degrowth’ ” when looking at the planetary resources from a systems perspective. My sense is that GND can not hold when the hype and persiflage is stripped away

    • culturalanalysis.net
      January 20, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      There are two perfectly feasible ways of taking CO2 to pre industrial levels without destroyibg the economy or freedoms:

      1) planting a forest the size of India (every country could do a bit)

      2) choosing Nuclear power generation as our primary energy source. This is the future anyway. The existing technology is safe enough and there are already 100s of nuclear power plants in the world. So if anyone wants to “save the world” you better study fusion technology and try to make nuclear power safer and more compact.

    • January 21, 2019 at 11:21 pm

      Tabeles: I follow the current iterations about a Green New Deal in the US , and have been advocating for it for more than a decade. Although the draft six pages for a Standing Select Committee in the American House of Representatives, in just two months, garnered 45 endorsements by Congresspeople, and two presidential contenders (Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren) the leadership in the House did not grant a committee by such name, nor did it give the asked for powers to the substitute.

      I try to follow what Dean Baker writes and what is happening in China – after all, one of our own here at the World Economics Association, Richard Smith, wrote an article that seems to me is quite at odds with Dean Bakers take on matters there in China, but I want to give it another close read and also read Baker’s exchange with Jason Hickel in Foreign Policy.

      Here’s Smith’s article, which doesn’t sound like he thinks a Green New Deal is blooming in China, does it? http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue82/Smith82.pdf The title is China’s Drivers and Planetary Ecological Collapse, and it appeared in issue 82, in December of 2017, so just over a year ago.

      I might add with a title like that and given Dean’s title here, I was hoping Dean might refer to it. But no luck.

  4. Helen Sakho
    January 20, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    The biggest polluters always get away with it. By the time they engage us in characteristically useless arguments and comparisons of which “superpower” is doing what to itself and exporting it to the rest of the Globe, the globe would have melted away. Future generations will pay, what is left of them that is.

  5. John Hermann
    January 21, 2019 at 1:08 am

    Culturalanalysis, the article that you refer to reads like anti-China propaganda. If it waddles and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. The article seems to dismiss climate change as nothing more to worry about than a slight temperature increase and perhaps rising sea levels. It is far more than that — including for example the disappearance of snow and glaciers from such places as the Himalayas and Tibetan highlands, which supply river water to China and India. Water which is indispensable for human survival.

    • culturalanalysis.net
      January 21, 2019 at 3:36 am

      What it reads “like” is irrelevant. Focus on the cited/linked sources of information (you do not provide any and you don’t dispute any specific claims made).

      I am not disputing that CO2 accumulation causes warming (i make no claims about how much warming) just speculating what beliefs may motivate China to act the way the act. The article was published in the Quadrant magazine.

  6. John Hermann
    January 21, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Culturalanaysis … speaking about relevance, a very relevant point that has been missed in this article is the relative costs of fossil fuel sources of energy and renewable sources. The renewable energy costs continue to fall, partly by reason of China’s developments in the field, especially solar PVs. On average, renewable sources are now cheaper than fossil fuel sources all over the world, and it is likely that the price differential will increase over time. Assuming that the markets are not going to be rigged on a large scale in perpetuity, one must conclude that over time coal fired power stations will be phased out everywhere, simply via market forces, including within China. If that is so, then China’s current investment in coal powered technology must be regarded as a temporary bridge until the mass production of new types of safe and efficient batteries (e.g. vanadium redox flow batteries) and PVs takes over. Another incentive to do so is the heavily polluted aerial environment that has plagued China for a long time now, largely attributed to the burning of coal and oil products. China is now in the process of converting all of its buses from diesel to all-electric, and its other motor vehicles from gasoline to all-electric. This transition will probably take at least a couple of decades. There are a number of other major economies that are doing precisely the same thing (the U.S. is not one of them). I would also point out that there can be no winners from climate change, anywhere on the planet.

    • culturalanalysis.net
      January 21, 2019 at 5:26 am

      Why are people repeating such nonsense. Renewables without subsidies would not exist. Their true cost must also factor in the lifespan of facilities (very short), disposal of old panels (toxic, mostly non recyclable) and extreme unreliability. Plus it is not scalable or transportable like Coal; useless in case of military conflict. Your thinking is not even yours, you are just repeating the greenwash propaganda.

      You want to save the world, start studying nuclear physics to improve the technology or lobby for a global shift to nuclear.

      Alternatively we could plant a forest the size of India, as that would take CO2 down to pre industrial levels.

      Renewables are a rort, a pipe dream.

      • John Hermann
        January 21, 2019 at 5:46 am

        You are evidently unaware that subsidies for renewables have been, or are in the process of being, phased out all over the world. The same cannot be said for coal. The reason again relates to the economics of energy production. Coal is being propped up by some governments, who are swimming against the tide. But even these subsidies will disappear as the true costs to economies from doing so becomes clearer. In regard to nuclear, this is by far the most expensive power option.

        Evidence that what I have said is true will be found in the simple fact that energy companies recognize what I have said to be true, and that’s why most of their investments and energy investment plans involve renewables, not coal or nuclear.

        Your last sentence clearly reveals your ignorance and bias.

    • Calgacus
      January 24, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      Since this is an economics blog, it is worth reciting some basic economic literacy:

      Speaking of “costs”, “subsidies”, “market forces” “rigged markets” makes no logical sense at all in such a situation. It is gibberish based on specious, circular reasoning and falsehoods. Not understanding that is not understanding basic economics.

      It’s like the old Jack Benny joke – The mugger says – “Your money or your life” Benny says – “I’m thinking”. Or more aptly, worrying about costs of renewables vs fossil fuels in a global warming scenario is like worrying about your wallet getting wet when you are drowning. It confuses means and ends.

      The idea of global warming is that the true cost of all the fossil fuels we’ve burnt is enormously higher than previously thought. So oil, coal etc have been and are fantastically subsidized, enormously more than renewables ever have been. In any case, monetary costs are a side effect of government spending and taxation. BY DEFINITION, all markets are “rigged” – an unrigged “free” market is logically, not merely empirically impossible. Monetary costs cannot be used to ultimately determine what is spent and taxed – for that reverses causes and effects.

      If global warming is anything like as bad as most climatologists say, then removing “subsidies” from renewables – is in reality subsidizing fossil fuels and enormously destructive activities using them. It is lunacy, not something to be celebrated. Of course that renewables are declining in real costs even in this environment is something to be celebrated – it is saying that even with today’s enormous and insane subsidies to them, fossil fuels are becoming “uneconomic.”

      • Craig
        January 24, 2019 at 5:09 pm

        Precisely, and that is why having a publicly administered non-profit national and central banking system that would be at arm’s length from the other three branch’s of government is essential if we are going to ever get serious about issues like global warming, and stabilizing an economy already plagued by lack of monetary democracy and that has no where to go but get worse with the only getting started disruptive force of AI unless of course we awaken to an intelligent implementation of the new paradigm of Abundantly Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting at the point of retail sale.

        Also, “In any case, monetary costs are a side effect of government spending and taxation.”

        Yes, under the current paradigm this is correct…because a FLOW of Debt Only is an INHERENTLY BURDENSOME FLOW of cost. This is not the crank idea that interest is the be all and end all of our economic and monetary problems. It is the recognition that a monopolistic paradigm of Debt Only tied to profit making systems which will always attempt to cut costs IS UNECONOMIC…..unless a new paradigm of Abundantly Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting is integrated into that system.

      • John Hermann
        January 28, 2019 at 6:09 am

        The fundamental problem, militating against all of the changes that are so clearly needed for turning the global situation around, is the currently accepted model of capitalism. Unfortunately it has no mechanism for slowing down the rate of GDP growth for any reason whatsoever (in this respect it is like an aircraft which requires a minimum speed for stability, unlike a helicopter), and it cannot afford to stall because to do so would send the economy into a tailspin and crash.

  7. James Beckman
    January 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Glad that we have new viewers, as Dean Baker is like most of us who do/did university teaching. As Dean operates out of DC he uses a variety of government sources. He is probably best known for challenging intellectual property rights, from pharmaceuticals to professional degrees like medical. He received his PHD from the U of Denver, so is not tarred/feathered by some as coming from an “elitest” East-West Coast institution.
    As I suffer from adult onset asthma, I remind some that hydrocarbon use is associated with major health issues as well as global warming with its fires/floods. Both justify govern- ment subsidies, it seems to me.

  8. Frank Salter
    January 21, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Coal is the dirtiest energy producer, with high mortality of miners. Wind power has possibly the smallest footprint. Hydroelectricity at waterfalls is excellent but dams are dangerous and have many environmental contraindications. Photovoltaic at scale competes with the growing of vegetation. All so-called renewables will never provide sufficient energy which leaves only nuclear. Nuclear technologies need to be improved. Thorium is likely to be excellent but requires extensive development. Fusion may be available in the future. Massive research efforts are required. What chance any rapid change?

    • Econoclast
      January 22, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      Somebody please tell me this:
      1. What is the clear political (not technological, political) path to achieving permanent waste storage for thousands of years? Political.
      2. What is the clear political path to creating a government that can last long enough to manage (1)? Political. I eagerly await.

      In my long experience, nuclear is fool’s gold, not a “green” option. On many grounds, including costs. Among other myths, the fuel cycle makes nuclear not “carbon emission-free”. And political management so far has been and continues to be rife with corruption. Take away the many (some hidden well) subsidies and even modular nuke doesn’t pencil out.

      My state is nuke-free by law (and long ago I helped kill two of the damn things, and a power company veep thanked us for saving their asses from a bad investment). Now the modular nuke people, a pro-nuke power consortium once called “whoops”, the US Department of Energy, and my state’s higher education system are pushing to put loopholes in our strong state law.

      I live near the Columbia River, one of the world’s great rivers, still functioning quite well in the biosphere. Hanford nuclear waste hourly leaks into this great river and poses a greater threat to life than all the damn dams combined. The present political system constantly works to limit the cleanup and management at Hanford. This is what we can expect in the future.

  9. Michal
    January 22, 2019 at 1:24 am

    How often do you come across publish output of Chinese research? Probably not often, because you’d realize that while the quantity is indeed impressive, the quality is usually just not comparable to that of average American research (or European or Japanese, but the post is about USA vs. China).

  10. John Hermann
    January 22, 2019 at 3:04 am

    Frank, large scale photovoltaic units can be (and are) constructed in arid and desert areas, where competition with growing vegetation is not an issue. Thorium is much better and safer than uranium as you say, and the ore is widespread, however these reactors cannot be used for the production of material used in nuclear bombs, which I suspect is a major driving factor for uranium reactors. Nevertheless, for me the bottom line is that renewables are – on the whole – cheaper than the other options, and are likely to remain so.

    • Frank Salter
      January 22, 2019 at 8:29 am

      Blowing sand is not conducive to photovoltaic units. Electrical distribution across long distances is more difficult. If there is widespread use of electrical vehicles then renewables simply do not scale. That only leaves nuclear as a valid solution.

      • John Hermann
        January 22, 2019 at 12:21 pm

        Arid areas and grasslands are not necessarily characterized by blowing sand. There are many examples of very large scale PV units within China and southern asian countries for feeding into local grids or into storage batteries (or both), far to numerous to mention. These countries do not seem to have been unduly worried about possible competition with the growing of vegetation. As for electric vehicles (which are are gradually increasing), the future trend will be to have more and more solar panels on the rooves of homes along with battery storage units, from which cars my be recharged overnight. Battery technology is improving, and I do not think lithium batteries will be used for larger scale operations, more like vanadium redox – which is far safer and more efficient.

      • Frank Salter
        January 22, 2019 at 4:52 pm

        I am not trying to disagree about what can possibly be done. It is to register the sheer scale of the problem. In 2013 we used in total 18TWh of energy. In 2016 only 18% of the energy produced was electrical. To replace fossil fuels means that we would have to increase generating capacity by more than five times. If it was to come from renewable sources that amounts to some 26 times more than renewables are providing at the moment.

  11. John Hermann
    January 22, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks Frank, I acknowledge the scale of the problem, and do no dispute your statistics. However I would point out that there are some countries and states where the statistics are less daunting, that is, where there is a greater proportion of renewables in the overall mix – far more than 4%. So I see these governments as leading the way, by showing what is possible. In my state (within Australia) around 40% of the power used is already generated from renewables. Indeed some countries have set a target of 100% as their long-term objective. . And most of the new investments by electric power companies are now with renewables, not coal. Details can be found on the web.

    • Frank Salter
      January 23, 2019 at 7:06 am

      Unfortunately Australia is atypical. The land area per human is one of the greatest in the world. That means its insolation is one of the greatest in the world so photovoltaic is likely to be a solution. I have not done the calculation for the maximum possible energy collection if all land were committed to electricity generation. Ian Fells did a calculation for the UK and half the land area was required at that time. UK farming is already unable to feed the population, so the only solution here is nuclear.

      • John Hermann
        January 23, 2019 at 10:44 am

        It might be that nuclear is the only option for some densely populated countries with limited area and limited insolation if what you say is true. However fission technology is messy, dangerous and expensive. Fusion technology would seem to be far less dangerous, if only the containment problem could be solved — and I suspect the solution to this and its development is still a long way into the future. However I remain optimistic in regard to solar roof panels for countries where sunshine is plentiful, supplemented by new battery and storage technologies. Pumped hydro is being looked at seriously in my country.

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