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Stop playing games with green policy

2010-03-12 16:51 BJT

There are Americans saying they are afraid that China may get ahead in new energy competition. There are Chinese saying they are convinced that "a great number" of their own new energy projects are just for show, not really productive.

What's wrong here? People are disheartened to hear, from some central government officials at the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC), that, for example, some large wind farms being built in the northwest simply cannot last long enough to recoup their investment.

They generate wind power, but they don't resist sandstorms, we are told.

But what is the solution? Should China, now already the largest polluter in the world by many standards, play sitting duck and do nothing to go green?

Should it, having announced its non-fossil energy will make up 15 percent of its total energy supply, double its current share, just beat a retreat from its pledge to the world?

Should investors continue to put their money into new energy or should they, hearing the conflicting official opinions from Beijing, stop doing so?

Why are, in the event holding supposedly the supreme political power in the nation, some officials saying that the general situation of environmental protection cannot be worse, while other officials are saying that some new energy projects simply don't work? All of them are hired by the central government. Can't they be serious and coherent about what they are saying to the nation's lawmakers?

If the officials say, as some of them did, that some of the new energy projects, to which a lot of public and private funds are being directed, cannot be technically reliable, then it's their responsibility to make things work rather than just telling everybody that they don't work. They are the ones who are responsible.

If, as the officials seem to suggest, it is the local governments that have messed things up by commissioning the unworkable projects, it is also their responsibility to set up the national standards and to persuade the local governments to replace their projects with alternatives that will work and not cause a waste.

What also surprised the observers is the fact that almost immediately after a high-ranking national planning official announced that Chinese windmills cannot withstand sandstorms, some "renewable energy experts" told the media that they have already had "quite mature" technologies in sandstorm resistance.

They pointed to the reality that in some of the areas of highest record of sandstorm occurrence there are windmills that have been working for 20 years on a continual basis.

As one would reasonably assume, all the methods, to prevent sandy dust and salty mist (a common problem for wind farms in coastal areas) from getting into the wind turbine should belong to the low-tech area, and should not be a major challenge to any country that can produce cars and airplanes.

Even if there are still technical difficulties, it is also the responsibility of the central government to work with scientists to find out ways to deal with them.

Ultimately, China will have to do more, rather than less, in diversifying its energy resources. A harmonious society must have harmonious ties with nature. Increasing dependence on foreign oil is a nightmare even for a military superpower like the United States.

And wasting nature's renewable energy resources is, like any waste, a loss that can be translated into financial terms.

But why do we get the opinion that the northwestern wind farms don't work?

Why is a useful initiative (such as wind energy) often hijacked by the bureaucratic game of central government officials blaming local governments, and local government officials blaming central government?

This is a game that deeply hurts the nation's growth in innovative productivity. It makes poor sense both economically and politically.

The national planning officials should have brought to the NPC inspiring reports about what they have done and what they can do - by themselves and in cooperation with their local colleagues.

The author is business editor of China Daily.

Editor: Du Xiaodan | Source: China Daily