US and China to Create Cooperative Clean Energy Research Center


Photo via the NY Times

This is big news. The world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases have just made a groundbreaking agreement to cooperate on developing clean energy technology. The $15 million research center will have headquarters in both the US and China, and marks a step towards improved relations between two countries who have very different ideas about climate change. Perhaps most importantly, it could speed the process of developing better clean energy technology for use around the world. China's renewable energy sector is surging--it's already become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels, and its six planned wind farms will generate an unprecedented 10,000-20,000 megawatts each. In other words, we could stand to learn a thing or two. But the research center is set to focus on a few specific areas. From the AP:

the center will focus on coal and clean buildings and vehicles, said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. It highlights potential U.S.-Chinese cooperation in an industry that Washington says could create thousands of jobs.
Big hurdles remain, however--namely, the disagreement on whether China should have to adopt emissions reduction targets along with rich, developed countries. Which is why the research center is a step in the right direction, not the definitive solution.
Stephen Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke were in Beijing to lobby China to promote private-sector development of solar, wind, biofuels and other clean energy. Locke appealed to China to avoid trade barriers to clean technology. Some companies say Beijing is trying to build up its industry by shielding companies from competition, shutting foreign competitors out of wind power and other projects. "We need to empower U.S. and Chinese entrepreneurs and innovators to create and collaborate free from artificial trade barriers," Locke said in a speech to an audience of American businesspeople.
The center should go a ways in discouraging protectionism, though it's interesting that China's biggest draws at the moment--wind turbines and solar panels--aren't listed as part of the center's agenda. It should be interesting to see how productive the project is, and if it does indeed accelerate the exchange of information on green technologies. Needless to say, it'll be an intriguing spot to watch.

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