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Digital Afro Media
China's Renewable Energy Rush: Good or Bad?
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Category: GREEN

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This week China promised to join the International Renewable Energy Agency in efforts to switch the world to wind, solar and hydro power. But some have questioned how helpful Chinese investment in renewable energy technology will actually be.

Over the weekend, the air in Beijing and thirty other Chinese cities turned toxic. Off-the-chart readings of tiny pollutants that can penetrate the lungs has had hospitals reporting a surge in patients with respiratory diseases.

[Dr. Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada]:
“That’s because of their heavy reliance on coal. I think there’s been a huge push for economic development based on coal because it’s cheap. But we’re now seeing the hidden cost of that. The cost of human health, the cost to the environment.”

China is the world’s biggest coal producer and consumer, using on average 3.6 billion tons of coal per year in the country. But it’s also the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy.

According to this report on green energy technology investment, China came in top for 2012. It put in $52 billion in renewable power, placing U.S. in second place.

[Dr. Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada]:
“It’s been driving down the cost of renewable energy, which is going to make them more accessible. Chinese investments in solar power have for instance probably driven down the cost by about 40 percent in the last three years. And they’re projected to drop another 40 percent in the next three years.”

But economic expert, Dr. Frank Tian Xie, says there could be a catch. He believes the Chinese regime may be more concerned about profit than the environment.

[Dr. Frank Tian Xie, University of South Carolina Aiken]:
“Even though they are making so called green energy products, such as solar panels, they’re really not coping with the environment but actually continuing to damage the environment. That’s why Chinese products can sell, including solar panels to the U.S. market and the European market. And they’re priced so low that it drives all the Western competitors out of business.”

According to its latest Five Year development plan, the Chinese Communist Party wants to harness 75 GW of energy from new wind and solar farms by 2015. This could replace about 37 coal-powered plants.

It’s still too early to tell if that goal will be met. As for this toxic air, Beijing has ordered people to stay indoors and be “patient” during what China’s incoming premier Li Keqiang called a “long-term” cleanup.

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