China, Economic Growth, and “Green Jobs”

The news about China overtaking Japan as the world’s second-largest economy is actually quite relevant to the US climate and energy policy debate, which promises to continue despite the scientific scandal and evaporation of political will to associate with a “global warming” or cap-and-trade legislation.

Thanks to a poll by Stanley Greenberg, the measure has been re-branded as “green economy” and “clean energy”.  But whatever you call it, and lame duck or otherwise, this latest excuse for central planning will be with us until it is unavoidably tied to serious political costs, like its forerunner the 1993 BTU energy tax, which according to Al Gore in a 2006 interview with the Financial Times led to the Democrat’s loss of Congress. Instructively, that experience originally prompted the re-branding to cap-and-trade.

Now, about  the relatively fading Japan, it is important to note that although it has been a persistent economic basket case, it nonetheless serves as one of President Obama’s models for stimulating an economy with “renewable energy” mandates (as we’ve documented in this space on numerous occasions, he’s not always the best-informed about these matters).

China’s relevance to our current policy debate is in part due to the ritual “but, China’s doing it…” line of — for lack of a better word — “argument” for why the US should impose all manner of global warming policies on itself. That deserves scrutiny.

For example, my representative, Tom Periello (D) — who in some circles is famous for insisting that mandating economic redundancy and inefficiency will “grow the economy”, a specific case study in economic illiteracy out of which I get some mileage in “Power Grab” — justified his then-recent vote for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill by telling a local Charlottesville radio station that we are hemorrhaging jobs to India and China because they’ve already done it.

Yeah. That was my reaction when hearing him say that, too. I was as surprised as the Indians and Chinese.

This was surely Mr. Periello taking more than a bit of rhetorical license with the fact that China is installing windmills as it seeks to get every conceivable joule or megawatt of energy it can to feed its emergence from poverty. But whatever the merits of the silly claims of lessons to be learned and followed from this — and please note that China is installing windmills because Brussels and EU member states are paying them to under Kyoto, to get “credits” in lieu of actually cutting European CO2 emissions — you might recall they are doing so without cap-and-trade.

So if our green advocates mean that we, too, can let Europe pay us to employ a bunch of windmill installers in these tough times, well, ok, let’s do what China did.  But otherwise China is not really relevant to the cap-n-traders who nonetheless invoke the Middle Kingdom at every turn, apparently for lack of any material argument.

With one exception. That is that China is growing economically thanks to increasingly providing access to reliable, affordable energy (neither of which terms describe wind or solar power, incidentally). China has been building a coal-fired power plant a week, a nuke a month, and plans a new coal mine every three months. They aren’t playing absurd global warming energy rationing games with their future and security other than a little fun on the side fleecing the frivolous Europeans, like a kitten with a ball of string (and, they hope, soon us as well).

So, upon reflection, is “China’s doing it!” really an “argument” you “green economy” and cap-n-traders would like to wed yourself to? Because I’m all for it. Let’s have that discussion.