China, the United States, and India are the most prolific greenhouse gas emitters in the world – in that order. To prevent the earth’s temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius, those three key players will need to begin adopting renewables en masse.
Longtime followers of energy sector news will remember a time just a few years ago when China could now be considered a viable leader for the anti-climate change movement due to its voracious coal diet.
But the nation’s coal consumption has been in free fall since 2013, and new analysis shows the calculated collapse of the coal regimen. In the meantime, new liquified natural gas import facilities and solar panel factories led greenhouse gas emissions in the Asian nation to fall for the first time in 2016. No longer dogged by its coal reputation, Beijing began to position itself in a leadership role for Paris climate accord signatories months before U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the agreement.
The National Geographic reports a 35 GW increase in solar power capacity – equivalent to Germany’s entire power supply – in just 2016. The progress can be calculated in hourly increments, according to Greenpeace. One new wind turbine and soccer field full of solar panels are installed in China energy 60 minutes. Given Beijing’s $360 billion budget for green technologies through 2020, the quick adoption rate does not surprise.
China’s communist regime controls domestic wealth and resources, so any nationwide campaign to go green must be recognized and sanctioned by Beijing.
Evaluating the U.S.’ Dedication to planet Earth is a little trickier though. Though Trump kicked off June with his “Pittsburg, not Paris” argument against the Paris Accord, hundreds of cities, states, industry bigwigs, and corporations have vowed to contribute to American commitments fight climate change.
Only one week ago did U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley clarify that President Donald Trump does believe the “climate is changing” and that humans are part of the equation. Federalism sees the virtue in allowing states and cities to be laboratories of democracy. Leading the development of international green policy, however, requires strong political will at the federal level – which the U.S. lacks. Related: Nigeria To Return 20% Of OPEC Cuts To The Market
In terms of pure numbers, the United States has grown its solar power capacity seventeen-fold since 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Capacity totals 30 GW total, compared to 1.2 GW nine years ago. Chinese panel supplies, which caused a 60 percent drop in costs, made the sun’s energy accessible to the mass market. Elon Musk’s Solar City created the knowledge base to help consumers determine whether the panels would be right for their homes. Now, just over 200,000 Americans work for companies that build, install, and service photovoltaic technology.
The American Wind Energy Association reports roughly 80 GW of active turbines in the United States through the end of 2016, with Texas, California, and Iowa dominating the sector due to land availability.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi argues that his nation’s vast countrysides have made it difficult for electricity to reach all citizens. A Bloomberg article from January says 240 million people still live without electricity in the Asian country, and the cheapest way to deliver the 21st century to those impoverished areas would be to increase coal usage. Modi’s plan allows a boost in domestic coal production, while installing 50 percent more wind and solar power than the U.S. right now.
India and China prefer coal far more than the developed United States, which has built a robust oil and gas infrastructure since the industrial revolution. Trump’s calls for the return of coal in the U.S. excited votes in coal country, but utility companies have already begun adopting LNG and green power into their systems. The fossil fuel-era has seen its best days.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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