Across the globe, states race to achieve an environmentally-friendly society. Faced with looming petro-problems – climate change, rising petroleum prices, political struggles and rampant pollution – countries can no longer linger and idle. The “green race” has begun in earnest.
Systematic oil dependency is the status quo. According to the 2008 CIA World Factbook, America consumes over 20 million barrels of oil daily, more than double that of China. In industrialized nations, nearly all sectors require oil. This wide-spread reliance confines oil-swilling nations to utter enslavement on an unstable political product.
Oil’s environmental crimes are well documented. Recent oil spills, such as BP’s catastrophe in the Gulf Coast, are habitual. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, dioxins, nitrous oxide, methane and other toxic gases blanket the earth with a mantle of filth.
Confronted with such flagrant abuses, governments have embarked on a green journey. However, it seems that conventionality, in both politics and technology, is being contested. Burgeoning beasts from the Orient, such as China and Japan, tenaciously threaten America and Canada’s traditional superpower status and overwhelm Europe’s paltry programs. As the legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist, John Doerr, claims, “We're in an Earth race with other nations … And we are not winning."
Why is winning important? As Vicky Sharep, President and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, declares, environmentalism “can lead to more integrated supply chains, spin-off economic opportunities, and have a multiplier effect on job creation.” The future is green, and everyone wants a Crayon.
Six days into office, U.S. President Barrack Obama declared: “America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.” Backed by $90 billion in clean energy stimulus investments, carbon cap-and-trade schemes across 23 states, and eco-friendly vehicle tax incentives, the war against CO2 is well under way, says journalist Camilla Cavendish. However, America’s climate change dalliances are crushed by China’s gargantuan clean-tech ventures. China surpasses the U.S. in general green spending by 10 to 1.
For once, it seems America’s sacrosanct capitalism may obstruct development. Doerr notes, “Many U.S. investors were reluctant to plough enough money into big solar, wind, and other clean energy sectors until they knew what technologies government policy was going to favor.” Now, they are adamant devotees, but the bandwagon is rapidly filling up.
Canada struggles with mediocrity. As ranked by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Canada’s apathetic ranking of six out of twelve in emissions, energy, policy and institutional sectors place it decidedly within the second tier.
Renewables are a thorny problem. The landmark ecoENERGY program was denied 2009 funding and faces bankruptcy. The Canadian Wind Organization advises that “the program’s expiry could kill or delay ‘shovel-ready’ projects that would nearly double Canada’s wind capacity.” Canada recognizes that change is necessary, but as Andrew Mayeda, writer for Canwest News Services, says, “Canada need[s] a coherent government policy” – which, unfortunately, is lacking.
Hampered by the EU’s muddled parliamentary procedures, most of Europe – exempting successes like Germany, France, Denmark and Spain – struggles to go green. According to Reuters, the European Commission’s 5 billion euro/year plan for the Strategic Energy Technology initiative is only half met. Europe can claim a revered devotion to climate control, but in terms of R&D, emissions and innovation systematic investment, Europe generally languishes behind competitors.
Enter China. Mayeda declares, “No country in the world is spending more than China, which has earmarked 218 billion for green stimulus.” Over the next decade, China will reputedly spend 660 billion in green development. China, says the APRA-E, “overtook the United States in new installations and in manufacturing of wind turbines last year, nearly doubling its wind generation capacity.” Solar power is a similar story. Doerr claims, “China grew its … solar industry to nearly 50% in the fourth quarter of last year … The United States went from 43% to 16%.” Doerr continues, “China's growth in renewables is astounding.”
Rather than going green with envy, many propose a symbiotic relationship between clean-tech competitors like the U.S. and China. As Doerr states, “[The Earth race is] to see who can invent the technology so that men and women can stay on Earth.” Phrased as such, partnership is welcomed.