Hey U.S.A! Let’s win the Clean Energy Race!

 

Below is the text of my speech for South County Toastmasters delivered on April 5, 2016.

Question: Guess which country invested the most money in renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, in 2015?

According to a Bloomberg News article from January 2016, in 2015 ‘China was the biggest market for renewables, increasing investment 17 percent to $110.5 billion. That’s almost double the $56 billion invested in the U.S. By the way, all of Europe invested $58.5 billion.

Image Source for China: cryptocoinsnews.com

One area where the competition between the U.S. and China is fierce is wind power. The non-partisan scientific news website, ClimateCentral.org, had this headline from March 2016, China, U.S. Lead Global Boom in Wind Power.

This article reported, “China built more wind turbines than any other country in 2015, adding 30,500 megawatts of wind power capacity last year, a roughly 22 percent increase over 2014. China surpassed the European Union last year in wind power production capacity after having built enough wind farms by the end of 2014 to potentially power 110 million Chinese homes.”

As of right now, the United States is ahead of China total amount of electricity currently produced by wind. In 2015, U.S. generated 190 million megawatt-hours of wind power, powering about 17.5 million homes. China clocked in at 185.1 megawatt hours. However, with all of its new installations, China could blow past the U.S. this year with total electricity produced by wind. No pun intended!

Image from Brian Ettling taken just outside Great Basin National Park in May 2012.

That’s wind power, what about solar?  Fortune Magazine had this headline from June 2015, China is utterly and totally dominating solar panels.

The article states “China has emerged as the world’s largest market for solar panels.”

It then notes, “China has long been the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels…But now China is buying a lot of its own panels, helping give the country dominance in the global solar economy.”

Image from Brian Ettling of solar panels behind the Cold Strings Station Motel,
RV Park and General Store, Cold Springs, Nevada. May 2012

In March 2014, Investment banking giant Citigroup, released a report titled, “The Age of Renewables is Beginning.” This is because of the explosive growth that has been happening for years with solar and wind energy.

We are now in the Age of Renewables and China has every intention of winning this race.

Yet, within the United States, you will often hear this argument:

We should not take any action on climate change until China cleans up its pollution.

That argument reminds me of this joke. One morning, a mother is cooking breakfast for her two sons. The kids are very hungry and impatient. One boy yells out, “I want the first pancakes!”
The other responds, “No, I do!”
This argument continues on until the mother has had enough of this fighting. She calmly says, “Boys, if Jesus was here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancakes.”
The older brother then glares at his brother and shouts, “You be Jesus!”

Image from Brian Ettling of his nephews Andrew and Sam.

Yes, let’s be honest, if you follow the news, we all know that China has a serious problem with pollution. Air pollution in China is killing up to 4,000 people each day. China’s air pollution has cut life expectancy by an average of 5.5 years in the north of the country.  The Mayor of Beijing said this just one year ago, “At the present time… Beijing is not a livable city.”

China Daily, the widest print English-language circulation newspaper in China, had this editorial in February 2014, “[The government’s] inaction in the face of the heaviest air pollution in a month flies in face of their own promises and their own credibility.”

Image Source: usatoday.com (Ng Han Guan, AP)

Thus, there is a lot of pressure on the Chinese government to reduce their carbon pollution.  You may not know this, but China is taking action on climate change.

The latest news is that for the second straight year, coal use in China has declined. China is looking to the future. China’s President Xi Jinping stated,

“Green and sustainable development represents the trend of our times.”

With all of their investments in renewable energy that I mentioned in the beginning of my talk, China intends to beat us.  As Americans, we should be very concerned. How concerned should we be?

Brian Ettling with former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis. January 2014

 

In November, 2010, my friend, conservative Republican South Carolina Representative Bob Inglis had these blunt words for his fellow conservative Republicans in Congress in one his last speeches in Congress:

“I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues — especially conservatives here — whether you think (climate change) all a bunch of hooey…the Chinese don’t. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century.

They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that’ll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.

As a result, we may wake up in several years and say, ‘Geez, this didn’t work out very well for us.’”

Sufflolk County Community College Professor Scott Mandia with Brian Ettling, August 2012.

As Americans who love our country and want to be #1 in the world, let’s not let that happen. As my friend, Scott Mandia, professor of meteorology at Suffolk County Community College in New York, explains, in his climate change talks:

“America is great because when we are faced with a challenge and especially with a threat, we collectively take action and we usually do quite well. The energy revolution is akin to the Internet revolution. I want America to take the lead. If we do, we create jobs, we sell products to China instead of buying them, we have cleaner air and water, greater national security, and energy savings put money directly into our pockets.

Imagine it is the Olympics and the event is the Clean Energy Race. The US track team has always won the big events before and appears to be in the best shape to win again.

However, after the starting gun has fired, the American runner is just jogging while China, India, and others are sprinting. Don’t you want the American to win? There is still time for her to step it up but the window of opportunity is getting shorter every year because she is falling farther and farther behind.”

As Scott likes to ask his audience: Which you rather have, China selling renewable energy technology to the United States, or the U.S. selling clean energy technology to China?”

I think the answer here is very easy:

Hey U.S.A! Let’s win the Clean Energy Race!

 

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