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Let’s Look Beyond the Haze

I was in Beijing last week and noticed the smog, of course, but as China grapples with Olympics and air quality I also saw something much more important. China is serious about energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases. In recent months, the Chinese government has closed over 21 gigawatts of the dirtiest, most inefficient power plants. They didn’t do this just for a temporary clean air benefit around Beijing – – it was done permanently all across the country. They also closed inefficient foundries, furnaces, and cement makers in huge numbers.

I was in Beijing last week and noticed the smog, of course, but as China grapples with Olympics and air quality I also saw something much more important. China is serious about energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.

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In recent months, the Chinese government has closed over 21 gigawatts of the dirtiest, most inefficient power plants. They didn’t do this just for a temporary clean air benefit around Beijing – – it was done permanently all across the country. They also closed inefficient foundries, furnaces, and cement makers in huge numbers.

The government is in talks with major manufacturers, provincial leaders, and experts from places like California’s Energy Commission (the agency that is largely responsible for making the Golden State 40% more energy efficient than the rest of America) to squeeze out all of the inefficient machinery, power generators, and heating/air conditioning equipment. They’re also doing the obvious – – one official told me that the government will replace 2 billion incandescent light bulbs in the next year with more efficient ones.

It looks like China has learned a lesson that we are slowly grasping in the US – – that efficiency is the cheapest form of energy supply and is good for the environment and economy simultaneously. The big difference is that too many US businesses still resist state and federal efficiency or renewable energy policies in the misguided belief that a short term cost is harder to bear than a long term benefit. Maybe after the Olympic fever subsides, it might be useful for execs from some of those entrenched businesses to take vacation in China and see/hear for themselves.

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About the author

From his youth in Australia to career experiences in Europe, Africa, China and across the United States, Terry has developed expertise in business, farming, education, non-profit, the environment, the arts, and government. A United States Coast Guard-licensed ship captain, Terry has long been drawn to the undersea world, starting in the 1960s with a family-run tropical fish breeding business in Australia and continuing with studies on conch depletion in the Bahamas, manatee populations in Florida coastal waters, and mariculture in the Gulf States with Texas A&M University. On land, Terry managed the largest sheep ranch east of the Mississippi, assisting the University of Minnesota in developing new methods of livestock disease control. Terry also managed a multi-million dollar real estate company, owned a successful recreational services business, and assisted the West African nation of Nigeria with the creation of their first solid waste recycling program. In 1993, Terry founded the Santa Monica BayKeeper and co-founded additional Waterkeeper programs in five California watersheds

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