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Ensuring and Enhancing U.S. Competitiveness While Moving Toward a Clean-Energy Economy

Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

SOURCE: CAP/Lauren Ferguson

CAP Action’s Julian L. Wong testifies before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

Chairman Boxer and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify. I am Julian Wong, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I will describe China’s plans to build a low-carbon economy as a strategy for economic growth, something I am pleased to share with you after spending most of last year in China as a Fulbright Scholar, actively researching China’s clean energy initiatives.

In the U.S. debate over clean energy policies, China has been used as a scapegoat for domestic inaction. Yes, China remains heavily reliant on coal, and yes, it has surpassed the United States as the largest annual emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. But U.S. total cumulative emissions in the atmosphere are three times more than China’s and U.S. per capita annual emissions are still four to five times that of China.

China was slow to acknowledge the threats posed by climate change. But once once it did, China acted swiftly and decisively to both reduce emissions growth and seize the economic opportunity to create a new pillar of prosperity via the production, deployment and sale of clean energy technologies. China’s Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, repeatedly said that the development of new energy sources represents an opportunity to stimulate investment during its economic slowdown, achieve stable export opportunities, all while building international economic competitiveness.

So what has China done so far? Let me describe three aspects of China’s green leap forward.

First, energy efficiency is now a pillar of China’s growth policy. China plans to reduce their energy intensity by 20 percent from 2006 through 2010. There are now efficiency benchmarks for many industries, including thermal power, steel, and cement. This will reduce over one billion tons of carbon dioxide per year starting 2010 compared to business-as-usual—equivalent to taking 200 million cars off the road.

China’s fuel economy standards today are higher than the U.S. standard in 2016. As a result, China is now a leading innovator in several technological sectors, including advanced efficient coal combustion and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Second, China has national targets for clean electricity production, leading to the emergence of innovative technologies. It plans to produce 10 percent of its electricity from low-carbon sources by 2010, and 15 percent by 2020.

China’s total wind energy capacity doubled in each of the past four years. This year it will surpass the U.S. as the largest installer of new wind capacity. China is also the world’s largest supplier of solar panels, with 40 percent of the world’s market share. Of the world’s top ten solar companies by output, three are Chinese while just one is American.

Third, China has new industrial zones dedicated to the manufacture of low-carbon technologies. For instance, the city of Baoding in Hebei province is an emerging leader. When I visited Baoding last December, I was amazed to see factory after factory of wind and solar component manufacturers. There are now over 150 low-carbon companies in Baoding, which contributed to 12 percent of Baoding’s GDP in 2007. Baoding plans to increase this to 40 percent by 2050. Baoding is not an isolated example. Together with Tianjin and Jiangsu, these cities are the future of China’s low carbon economy.

The United States won the race to the moon, but we’re losing the race for a sustainable Earth. We’re not only behind China, but also Germany, and even India in some respects, which recently set the world’s most ambitious solar energy target of 20 GW by 2020.

Opponents of clean energy policies often cite costs. This confuses cost with investment. When the temperature rises, when increased droughts and floods wreak havoc to our food production, when our rivers run dry—those are the true costs of inaction. When we spend money fostering innovation in clean technologies and developing the talents of our workforce—these are investments that will provide returns many times over and truly enhance our economic competiveness.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act provide a historic opportunity to turn the corner and regain global economic leadership. It sets clean electricity and efficiency standards that will spur new investments while saving consumers money. It proposes an independent Clean Energy Deployment Administration, or Green Bank, an idea that the Center for American Progress helped shape, to finance emerging clean energy technologies. The bill provides funds to help U.S. manufacturers retool plants and retrain workers to produce the components of the clean energy economy. Jobs installing and operating new technologies will stay within the United States and cannot be outsourced. The bill puts a price on carbon pollution so that clean energy investments are more attractive.

President Obama said that, “The nation that leads the world in creating a new clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.” Americans look to the Senate to seize the clean energy economic opportunity, and reestablish our leadership.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

CAP Action’s Julian L. Wong testifies before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)