Obama Admin Takes Aim at China’s Renewable-Energy Subsidies
Obama Admin Takes Aim at China’s Renewable-Energy Subsidies
By Lucia Green-Weiskel, Tina Gerhardt / grist.org

Last week, in a move that pits American labor against China's green-technology industry, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over China's wind-power subsidies.

The U.S. move challenges China's rapid growth in the renewable-energy market, and also throws the weight of the administration behind the unions, elevating concern about Chinese competition to the level of official U.S. policy.

The complaint falls on the heels of a 5,800-page filing made in September by the United Steelworkers against China, arguing that its renewable-energy subsidies violate international trade regulations. According to that filing, China defied trade agreements by providing land grants and low-interest loans in order to produce clean technology at artificially low prices.

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.

China sharply rejects allegations that its rapidly growing solar-panel and wind-turbine manufacturing efforts defy WTO trade regulations.

Beijing dismisses the attacks as another example of China-bashing, which rose to new heights in the U.S. during the recent 2010 midterm elections, when no fewer than 29 congressional and gubernatorial candidates pushed anti-China messages in campaign ads. In October, The Wall Street Journal reported that "China is emerging as a bogeyman this campaign season, with candidates across the American political spectrum seizing on anxieties about the country's growing economic might to pummel each other on trade, outsourcing and the deficit."

The Obama administration appears to be taking a cue from this surge of protectionist scapegoating.

China, for its part, feels it is being presented with a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't set of options. If the country invests in clean technology, U.S. officials claim China is engaging in "unfair" trade practices. If it does not, U.S. lawmakers threaten to slap a high-carbon tariff on Chinese imports. It's a no-win situation.

China is actually doing the world a favor. Its renewable-energy subsidies, which have made it a leading producer of wind and solar technology, are one of the most encouraging signs of progress in the global fight against climate change. China is currently the only country producing green technology at a scale that could dramatically bring down the price of goods like solar panels and wind turbines, making them affordable for both the developed and developing world. These advances could not have been brought about without government subsidies.

China‘s leaders have also committed to ambitious carbon-reducing policies. The country is aiming to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. And it is committed to deriving at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

China is now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but it still ranks far below the U.S. in terms of per capita emissions and historical emissions. And almost one-quarter of China's emissions come from products that are made for export. To the extent the country becomes a major exporter of wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells, and electric vehicles -- all of which are energy-intensive to produce -- it will be taking on an emissions burden from other countries.  

If the U.S. wants to get serious about renewable energy, it should ramp up its own subsidies for clean technology, not quibble over China's.

 

Lucia Green-Weiskel is project manager of the climate change program at the Beijing-based independent Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation. She appeared on Democracy NowCOP 15 in Copenhagen and the COP 16 in Cancun, and her work has been published in The Nation. during the

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who covers climate change and environmental politics. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, The Huffington Post, In These Times, The Nation, and Salon. Most recently, she covered the COP 16 climate meeting in Cancun for Alternet and The Nation.

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Rap News Special Edition: Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump
7 min · 16,441 views today · Hello world. RAP NEWS is back for a special episode on the 2016 USA Election mayhem, feat. Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump + a touch of Jill Stein & Gary Johnson. This one's...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 12,003 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 7,716 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 7,287 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Debt, Inequality and the Logic of Financial Violence
David Graeber · 4,559 views today · Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.
Prince Ea Just Put The School System on Trial and Found it Guilty of Killing Free Thought
6 min · 3,982 views today · Albert Einstien once said "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid". Today Prince...
The Culture of Maximum Harm
Daniel Quinn · 3,691 views today · People have lived many different ways on this planet, but about ten thousand years ago there appeared one people who believed everyone in the world should live a single...
The Left Deserves Better Than Jill Stein
Kate Aronoff · 2,125 views today · Stein’s Green Party run doesn’t offer a plan to win, or to build power. The Left is capable of so much more.
Incredible Photographs and Witness Statements from Charlotte and Baton Rouge Protests
Mankaprr Conteh · 2,084 views today · On September 20, a black father named Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by an officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It is not clear if he was armed...
How You Can Support Standing Rock
Thane Maxwell · 1,742 views today · This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.
Yemen's Forgotten War and Famine Fuelled by Weapons from The West
3 min · 1,640 views today · The world has forgotten the war in Yemen but you'll remember these shocking images of its starving children.
Kids Killed by Guns: America's Daily Nightmare
3 min · 1,139 views today · On an average day in America, seven children and teenagers will be shot dead.Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost on one random day - 23 November 2013. Ten children...
This Satirical Trump Vs. Bernie Debate Is Both Hilarious and Highly Disturbing
44 min · 1,117 views today · Comedians James Adomian (Bernie Sanders) and Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump) bring two of the most controversial candidates in history, head-to-head, or rather bald-to-toupee...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,036 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Olympian John Carlos on the Power of Protest
3 min · 1,031 views today · 1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos protested racial inequality by raising his fist in a Black Power salute on the medal stand. He has some advice for athletes like Colin...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 979 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 918 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 813 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 643 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 605 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Obama Admin Takes Aim at China’s Renewable-Energy Subsidies