Photo Credit: US Army
Okay, so I just finished writing about how it turns out China leapfrogged us last year to become the world leader in installed wind power. I also derided the media (myself included) for harping on the "China's going to eat our lunch" narrative until we're blue in the face. But I'm going to do it all over again -- because I was just reminded of this: China spends 1/6th the amount the United States does on its military, and spends twice what the US does on funding clean energy. Now, which nation appears to have its budget priorities in order?I'm not even going to bother answering that. Especially considering that a large-but-impossible-to-quantify amount of defense budget expenditures are used to militarily secure petroleum exporting regions -- this is just backwards: According to the Institute for Policy Studies, for every $1 the US spends on climate security (funding cleantech like renewable energy or high speed rail), it will spend $42 on the military. And that's down from years past. In 2008, it was 1:91.
As for China, its ration is more like 1:2 or 1:3 -- for every $1 it spends on clean energy, it spends $2-2 on military. And what does this translate into in the real world? Growing dominance in solar and wind manufacturing, for one. More installed renewable energy, for another. And then there's this, from the Guardian: "While China is already boasting "All aboard!" on a network of sleek passenger trains that zip 200 mph and beyond between major urban centres, the United States is still fussing about where to install a single high-speed rail line for a proposed California project."
The Guardian also has the six-million dollar question: "Can America ever catch up?" And the answer:
Yes, says Washington research fellow Miriam Pemberton. But it means taking a $100 billion-dollar bite out of the defense budget annually. But prospects for that look dim. Many key leaders in a Republican-majority House have declared the Department of Defense off limits--even as they claim to be wielding hatchets for slicing away "waste" to lift the country out of economic doldrums.And that about sums up what the foreseeable future looks like in terms of US energy investment: Stalemate. Even if the budget hawks could be persuaded to chop Defense spending, it's unlikely, given the political atmosphere, that any of it would be reallocated to clean energy. It's so far-fetched, in fact, that Pemberton calls such an idea "a fantasy."
More on China, the US & Clean Energy
China Leading Clean Energy Race (Video News)
US and China to Create Cooperative Clean Energy Research Center
China Invested $34.6 Billion in Clean Energy Last Year vs. $18.6