Power In Numbers

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of energy today. I guess it’s never far from mind, what with all the switches and buttons I push in the average day, but headlines brought it to the forefront.

As you may have heard, there was another tragic mining accident in China yesterday. This year alone, the article states, more than 2,700 people have been killed in Chinese coal mines (it was 6,000 last year). To put this in perspective – the latest figures show about 2,100 U.S. casualties in Iraq in the nearly three years of occupation there. This has got to make working in a Chinese coal mine possibly the most dangerous job on the planet.

It could be asked why anyone would check the “Coal Miner” box on their guidence counsellor’s Guide To A Healthy Career Path survey, but the reason is simple: poverty. At about 20,000 RMB per year (approx. 4.5 RMB or $0.30 CAN/hr.) the income offers a salary to many of the roughly 900,000,000 people living in China’s impoverished countryside.

The other headline that caught my eye today was Canada not meeting its targets for the Kyoto Protocol. I mean, WTF, Canada as a country has little enough in the way of cultural identity – but the one thing we’ve always been good at maintaining – aside from diggin’ the Hockey – is that we’re tree lovin’, free healthcare givin’ people. Now we’re not meeting our environmental obligations and if Harper has his way, healthcare should be privatized by January 24th.

So… all of this got me thinking, or rather re-thinking, about China’s biggest problem, and the world’s biggest opportunity. Clean power sources. Basically, it’s long been touted that the fossil fuel and automaker lobbyists in the US negate the country from taking any real steps towards innovative clean power becoming commonplace in the market. However, best I know, China isn’t so tied up in such things and seems more fearful of not having enough fuel than most nations. Couple this with a burgeoning marketplace ripe for such products that can tack on their signage “Will Save You Money!” and you’ve got a winner.

hondahybrid.jpgTake the hybrid car for example. Though true, most of China’s population is more in the market for a bicycle or bus pass than a car, there is a huge growing industry here for personal automobiles. Why doesn’t the CCP make a law stating that all cars bought in China must be hybrids. Considering most the cars bought here seem to be by the rather rich upper crust, this would force them to at least buy eco-conscious luxury items. And if you get an entire country that MUST buy these cars, two wonderful things happen, the cars get cheaper for everyone and car manufacturers start creating them in force.

This is just one example, and I’m sure there’s a plethora of logistical problems with this idea – but the point is the concept. We keep excusing developing nations like China and India for being ‘behind’ in the sources of power game and allowing them consessions for pollution to afford them the ability to catch up. But isn’t developing nations going through all the growing pains (and global problems they’ve caused) that the now ‘developed nations’ went through a bit like China not using antibiotics because it hasn’t been invented by a Chinese person yet? If the technology exists, why don’t the developing nations act as a springboard.

I just don’t buy that China couldn’t afford investment in long-term clean energy sources. I suppose that’s, in part, what the Yangtse River’s (长江/Chang Jiang) Three Gorges dam and windfields in Xinjiang are all about, but it’s just not enough – or rather, not as much as it could be with a little more foresight applied to it.

I guess this is the one thing I do agree with about the American stance towards Kyoto. One of their main reasons for not signing on is that it doesn’t make India and China responsible enough, which in their opinion negates the efforts of the other nations. This might be true, but c’mon, the US is the BIGGEST producer of greenhouse gasses. Kind of avoiding the issue there, non mon frère?

Anyway… there’s my 10 cents (plus the lazy Tuesday interest rate).