[p2p-research] American Solar Action Plan & China as a green leader
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Aug 15 00:45:36 CEST 2009
Global warming and accessible energy supply are the essential challenges of
our age, and solar is uniquely able to meet them both:
* Sunlight is a huge, nearly ubiquitous resource many thousands of
times larger than our energy demand.
* The Plan can be generalized worldwide, so the US can show the way for
others to adopt it.
* Means of storing solar energy have been developed and can make
possible 24/7 operation.
* Solar electric conversion technologies are nearing economic
viability, and the near-term goal is to establish a ten-year national solar
deployment plan to bring solar technologies to lowest cost through the
attainment of optimized mass manufacturing scale.
* The transportation sector can be transformed by electric and hybrid
electric vehicles, allowing solar-generated electricity to become the fuel.
All the pieces of this world-changing plan actually exist and have been
described in the January 2008 Scientific American. We believe it is only a
lack of awareness of the opportunity and of its efficacy that prevents the
Plan from being immediately adopted. As Mark Twain once said, “Once you lose
your ignorance, it’s hard to get it back.” We want to be the organization
through which this loss of ignorance is accomplished.
The technology is ready. On the following pages we present a grand plan that
could provide 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its
total energy (which includes transportation) with solar power by 2050. We
project that this energy could be sold to consumers at rates equivalent to
today’s rates for conventional power sources, about ﬁve cents per
kilowatt-hour (kWh). If wind, biomass and geothermal sources were also
developed, renewable energy could provide 100 percent of the nation’s
electricity and 90 percent of its energy by 2100. ... A vast area of
photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess
daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to
be tapped during nighttime hours.
Personally I feel that plan is conservative (and by 2100 technology will
have so far advanced that any technical issue with energy of the present day
would seem laughable). They only want US$400 billion over 40 years. That is
trivial. With the recent banking bailout of trillions in one year, why not
just spend US$4 trillion next year? There is little question in my mind that
printing so much money for green energy this year will paradoxically only
strengthen the dollar. :-) In one year, the USA could become a world leader
in something positive again. It might give the US dollar a new lease on
life, as it seems in a pretty precarious situation right now.
As it is, the USA seems to be ceeding that leadership opportunity to China:
"China’s green leap forward"
Facing dire pollution and wanting to be in on what may be the next
industrial revolution, China positions itself to be a leader in green
technology – with major implications for the rest of the world.
Behind the notorious clouds of filth and greenhouse gases that China’s
industrial behemoth spews into the atmosphere every day, a little-noticed
revolution is under way. China is going green. And as the authorities here
spur manufacturers of all kinds of alternative energy equipment to make more
for less, “China price” and “China speed” are poised to snatch the lion’s
share of the next multitrillion-dollar global industry – energy technology.
Chinese factories already make a third of the world’s solar cells – six
times more than America. Next year, China will become the largest market in
the world for wind turbines – overtaking America. This fall, a Chinese firm
will launch the world’s first mass-produced all-electric car of this
century. And where are American utilities buying the latest generation of
“clean coal” power stations? China.
The Chinese government thinks of renewables as a major strategic
industrial option” that will help fuel this country’s future growth, says Li
Junfeng, deputy head of energy research at China’s top planning agency. “We
will catch up with international advanced technology very quickly.”
China will likely remain the world’s worst polluter, emitting more CO2
than any other nation, for the foreseeable future. Its reliance on cheap
coal to generate the bulk of its electricity makes that almost inevitable.
At the same time, however, “this country is installing a one-megawatt
wind turbine every hour,” points out Dermot O’Gorman, head of the World Wide
Fund for Nature in Beijing. “That is more encouraging than the one coal
fired power station a week” that normally dominates foreign headlines.
Indeed, China is pushing ahead on renewable technologies with the fervor
of a new space race. It wants to be in the forefront of what many believe
will be the next industrial revolution. If it succeeds, it will hold
far-reaching implications for the planet – affecting everything from
Detroit’s competitiveness to global warming to the economic pecking order in
the 21st century.
“The rest of the world doesn’t even realize that we are very likely
ceding the next generation of energy technology to the Chinese,” says Todd
Glass, an energy lawyer with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati in San
Still, the country has plenty of reasons to attempt to be the world’s next
green-energy power. For one thing, it has few natural energy resources of
its own. Plus, its pollution problems are so severe that it has little
choice. The country’s outsized reliance on coal is literally a matter of
life and death: 750,000 people in China die prematurely each year because of
air pollution, a World Bank study in 2007 found (though the Chinese
government insisted the bank cut that statistic from its final report). Only
1 percent of the population breathes air that would be considered safe in
“China sees [green technology] as an enormous market that is not claimed
or controlled by any one nation, and there is an opportunity for them to do
it,” says Carberry. “The combination of urgency; the enormous needs; a
focused, systematic planned government; an army of engineers; and access to
capital may define China as the platform for the green-technology industry
So much going on in the world...
But that does not seem to be a peer initiative. That sounds more like a
focused state initiative. How can we turn renewable energy more into a peer
or local initiative? Or maybe it is happening by itself?
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