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 energy technologies…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, making the American economy vulnerable to shortages of materials needed for a range 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 cleaner sources 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 hundreds of old, inefficient factories and thermal power plants,” and “plans to develop a smart grid - a super-efficient, flexible transmission network that helps to integrate widespread development of renewable energy - by 2020 at an estimated cost of almost $600 billion.”
Meanwhile, the dirty energy lobby used the catastrophic Citizens United Supreme Court decision to buy a Congress that is now heavily populated with the foolish and the bought. These are people who can’t seem 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 the earth again. Then there’s Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, who explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical,” that “[e]very time we exhale, we exhale 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 “questioned the science of man-made global warming and called for Congressional hearings 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 1 cent-per-gallon impact on the price of gasoline, and “develop[ing] the vast oil shale reserves in America’s western states,” with practices that 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 the U.S. clean energy market hasn’t gotten the needed support from its leaders.
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 the Chinese [10-ton steel] frame [that keeps a wind turbine’s gearbox and generator aligned even under gale-force conditions] halfway around the world for turbines that Gamesa assembles at its American plant in Fairless Hills, Pa.”
There’s a reason far more Americans now see China than the United States as the world’s strongest economy. They have “leaders” in Congress who serve dirty energy lobbyists while they push U.S. economic leadership in clean energy technologies off our shores 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 be served by forward-looking, smart plans. America is certainly not served by the proudly stupid, people who should not be rewarded for their ignorance, much less elected to Congress.