There are plenty of people that believe China will whoop our butts in clean technology.
Those people tend to turn it into a battle between the United States and China, where one of the two countries will win, and the other will be left behind.
Jonathan Woetzel, director of McKinsey’s Shanghai office doesn’t think it’s an either/or proposition. Says Woetzel, “China and the United States working as a group of two (or G-2) dedicated to climate change would boost [clean] technologies and deliver benefits that would accrue to all nations.”
The two countries can, and should, work together on three cleantech projects:
1. Electric Cars: Each country will have private companies battling to create the best electric car. However, the countries can help each other, and those private companies by:
- Setting coordinated product and safety standards across the two markets
- Funding the rollout of infrastructure
- Sponsoring joint R&D initiatives in select areas (such as new materials for car parts)
- Ensuring that trade policies support rather than hinder the development of a global supply chain for the sector
- Providing consumers with financial incentives to buy the new models.
2. Carbon capture and sequestion: Working together on clean coal projects would speed the development by doubling resources. Together the governments can “fund demonstration plants…set standards and drive down costs.”
3. Concentrated solar power: CSP uses mirrored solar panels which reflect heat that create steam that power a turbine. Without a joint effort between China and the US, Woetzel says CSP might not even have a future. Again, he says, “Setting common standards, coinvesting in pilot projects and R&D, and undertaking other joint initiatives are the way to get this started.”
While there’s fear of losing intellectual property ina collaboration, we’re already working with China. The DOE and China are spending $15 million for shared research facilities. Duke Energy has also signed up with Chinese power company China Huaneng Group to work on clean coal.
The DOE and Duke must be aware of the benefits from the collaboration, which Woetzel thinks outweigh the risks:
There are other benefits to joint action on clean energy besides reducing oil imports, cleaning up the air, and creating jobs. Cooperation on tangible actions that result in positive improvements for each country could help to foster trust between governments that have real differences on other political and economic issues. In addition, meaningful reductions in oil consumption by the world’s two largest importers of oil could ease pressure on future global supply and demand imbalances of the fossil fuel.
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