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Should the US compete or work with China on clean energy?

There are widespread fears about the U.S. losing its ‘green’ touch. Figures for the previous year indicate China is fast emerging as the planet’s new renewable energy powerhouse. Not only did it replace the U.S. as the largest spender on clean energy in 2009 (for the first time in five years), but China is also the current world leader in the production of solar panels and installation of wind turbines (studies by the Pew Charitable Trusts). In terms of total amount of installed renewable energy too, the world’s most populous country is all set to overtake the U.S. Thus there is every chance that unless it changes its policies to leverage more investment, the U.S. could miss out significantly in the clean energy arena.

It is good to see federal policies in place for combating the issue. Already, $90 billion of the Recovery Act funding has been set aside to build a clean energy economy. As to whether the U.S. should compete or cooperate with the Asian giant on clean energy, critics differ in their opinions. The Clean Energy Trends 2010, a report released by Clean Edge (a research company), says “no one country or region will lead in all clean energy sectors.” According to the report, China has some major pollution issues that are big enough to stand in the way of a truly green future. However, this hasn’t stopped many American technology companies from opening bases in China. There are also talks of deals with Chinese firms to license Chinese technology.

President Obama’s recent visit to China and his announcement of the new U.S. – China Clean Energy Research Center jointly with President Hu Jintao seem to suggest peace rather than war. According to the U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, 37.5 million USD will be set aside in the next five years for the development of this ambitious institution. An additional $75 million will be put in by China.

Green energy is undoubtedly the future of the planet. Cooperating in this front would mean the development of cost-effective renewable energy technologies and new export opportunities for the U.S. For the Chinese, this might mean a broad partnership on cutting down carbon pollution. Apart from such definite advantages to both nations, collaboration between the two world leaders in clean energy will be a positive step towards the greater good and a greener tomorrow.

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