by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Many experts foresee a green trade boom
between the United States and China due to their enormous energy demand, but
when that will come and how large it will be remain unclear.
Energy experts differ so widely in their opinions on the issue that those
who look forward to a boom consider its potential "huge." Others, however, are
more cautious in their outlook.
"It's going to be huge because it has to be huge...there is no choice but
for the sector to become enormous," said Julian L. Wong, a senior policy analyst
at the Center for American Progress.
Wong cited the International Energy Agency's forecast that 26 trillion U.S.
dollars will be needed by 2030 to meet global energy demands.
With both China and the United States planning cuts in carbon emissions,
the two -- the world's largest energy consumers -- can play leading roles in
developing renewable energy equipment and technologies, experts say.
For its part, the U.S. announced recently that it would provide tax credits
worth 2.3 billion dollars to companies manufacturing clean energy equipment. The
move falls in line with U.S. President Barack Obama's goal of making America the
world's largest renewable energy exporter.
Jing Su, director of the U.S.-China program at the American Council on
Renewable Energy, said America could provide technology to help China convert
its infrastructure to lower carbon platforms.
"Many low carbon zones and cities (in China) are being planned," she said.
"(Green) technologies for mass transportation, building efficiency and power
generation are greatly needed."
China is calling for more technology transfers from the U.S. and Senator
John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said recently that the United States
would push toward that goal.
"If the U.S. is willing to engage fully with China in bilateral cooperation
or joint research and development, it will mean a transfer of technological
assistance," he said.
Wong called the recent launch of a joint U.S.-China research project to
produce more fuel-efficient motor vehicles and buildings an important first
step, despite its modest 15-million-dollar budget.
"I see great potential to link China's great demand to build
transformational infrastructure (using) technologies here in the U.S.," she
Su went even further to predict a close partnership between the United
States and China.
Su said technology such as carbon capture and sequestration -- the process
of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to mitigate the effects of
greenhouse gasses -- would require collaboration from both countries to bring it
This is the "key component" of the solution to climate change in the short
term, she said.
Nicholas Hope, director of the Center for International Development at
Stanford University, described green trade opportunities as "limitless." He said
solar energy could become a significant power source.
"I don't think we've exhausted the technological capacity of solar," he
Some major U.S. investors have taken interest in China's emerging solar
energy sector. Investment banks Goldman Sachs and CDH Investment announced in
December that they would pour nearly 100 million dollars into the Himin Solar
Energy Group, a China-based solar module manufacturer. The funds are earmarked
for research and development as well as boosting the company's growth.
China is gaining ground in the solar industry. China-based Suntech, fox
example, is on its way to overtaking Germany-based Q-Cells to become the world's
No. 2 provider of photovoltaic cells behind U.S.-based First Solar.
But some U.S. solar firms fret that they can't compete with their Chinese
counterparts because the latter have access to cheaper electricity and less
Wong warned that some issues over protectionism and tariffs could arise,
but said there is more to gain from the free flow of goods and knowledge than
from erecting walls.
The green energy partnership will not necessarily be a one-way street,
either, Wong said. Some new technologies could also flow to the United States
from China, the world's leader in advanced coal combustion, she said.
The two countries, Su said, need to move beyond lip service and begin
developing tangible plans for action in their green energy cooperation.
An agreement signed at the recent U.S.-China Strategic and Economic
Dialogue calls for deeper ties on clean energy technology but provides little
information on what shape that cooperation would take.
Details may emerge in December at the UN Climate Change Conference in
Philip Levy, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute,
however, said it remains unclear how large the market for green technology will
be and whether it will dominate trade in other products.
"I'm not sure we are all going to forget about oil and go for green
technology," he said. "When you look at the United States and China, it's very
ill-defined how big the market is going to be."
A U.S. "cap and trade" bill -- companies buying permits to emit carbon with
the government setting limits on emissions -- won't take effect until well into
the future as lawmakers are still pushing it through Congress. That may mean
U.S. demand for green energy could remain low for years to come.
Also unknown is the cost of saving energy for U.S. factories aiming to cut
carbon emissions. Some companies may find it cheaper to purchase pollution
permits than shell out large sums for new carbon-reducing products, Levy said.
Despite high hopes, alternative energy is still not as efficient as fossil
fuels and it remains unknown when, and if, that efficiency will improve.
"It's hard to say whether this will be a giant booming market or whether it
will be (a) small boutique market," Levy said.