Last Wednesday’s New York Times had a troublingly familiar article, yet another example of how China, and not the United States,“increasingly dominates the manufacture of clean energytechnologies…including the production of million-dollar wind turbines.”Even worse, according to this article, “The United States is too reliant on China for minerals crucial to new clean energy technologies, makingthe American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for arange of green products — from compact fluorescent light bulbs to electric cars to giant wind turbines.”
The fact is, China is racing ahead on all cylinders when it comes to developing clean energy. This includes plans to invest “5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) in the next decade developing cleanersources of energy to reduce emissions from burning oil and coal;” a massive push for high-speed rail; and a “Green Leap Forward” that includes “mandatory efficiency improvements for the 1,000 biggest energy consumers,” “higher fuel efficiency standards than cars in the US will need to meet in 2020,” “closing down hundredsof old, inefficient factories and thermal power plants,” and “plans todevelop a smart grid – a super-efficient, flexible transmission networkthat helps to integrate widespread development of renewable energy – by2020 at an estimated cost of almost $600 billion.”
Meanwhile, the dirty energy lobby used the catastrophic CitizensUnited Supreme Court decision to buy a Congress that is now heavilypopulated with the foolish and the bought. These are people who can’tseem to get their heads out of 19th and early 20th century energy sources – coal and oil, in particular – and make the transition to a 21st century that will be dominated by clean energy.
Exhibit A is the proudly stupid Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who assured himself that climate change was nothing to worry about because the Book of Genesis has God’s promise never to destroy theearth again. Then there’s Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the next Speaker ofthe House of Representatives, who explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful toour environment is almost comical,” that “[e]very time we exhale, weexhale carbon dioxide,” and that “[e]very cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.”
If the new speaker could get his mind off cows’ behinds, maybe he wouldn’t be so proudly stupid, either. And there’s Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the incoming chair of the House energy committee, who has “questionedthe science of man-made global warming and called for Congressionalhearings to investigate climate scientists.” Former Senator George “Macaca” Allen has begun his 2012 Senate run with a launch of the anti-clean energy American Energy Freedom Center, underwritten by ExxonMobil. And there’s Senator-elect Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, who wants the U.S. to spend its time and focus opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), with its 1cent-per-gallon impact on the price of gasoline, and “develop[ing] thevast oil shale reserves in America’s western states,” with practicesthat permanently contaminate the nations’ drinking water supplies.
Soon-to-be Senator Toomey is the case in point of not getting it. His state’s citizens could be going back to work in clean energy, but theU.S. clean energy market hasn’t gotten the needed support from itsleaders.
As the New York Times reported: “The American manufacturing sector had been so weakened in recent decades”that the Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, “now ships theChinese [10-ton steel] frame [that keeps a wind turbine’s gearbox andgenerator aligned even under gale-force conditions] halfway around theworld for turbines that Gamesa assembles at its American plant inFairless Hills, Pa.”
There’s a reason far more Americans now see China than the United States as the world’s strongest economy. Theyhave “leaders” in Congress who serve dirty energy lobbyists while theypush U.S. economic leadership in clean energy technologies off ourshores as fast as possible.
That has real consequences. Paul Kennedy wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that without a strong economic base, there’s no possibility of maintaining a strong national security posture in the world.
At this moment of greatest economic need, we should remember what Thomas Friedman recently wrote: “There is no America B,” so we’d better make this one work a lot better than we’ve been doing, and not only for our sake.” America can only beserved by forward-looking, smart plans. America is certainly not servedby the proudly stupid, people who should not be rewarded for theirignorance, much less elected to Congress.