Today (my Friday which is now ending here in Wuxi (pronounced woo-shee), China) I had the pleasure of speaking at the 3rd annual International Renewable Energy Conference. I attended the same conference in 2010 as an invited guest. I was honored to be asked and as usual in China I was treated with such great respect and courtesy – something that no longer surprises me but still impresses me.
The focus of the conference was solar energy which offers a contradiction in itself since the sun did not shine during the 2+ days I spent in Wuxi. My Hong Kong friend Tom was in Beijing this week and texted me that as he landed in Beijing the haze was so thick the pilot could hardly see in front of him.
And there is a major contradiction. That a developing industrial country like China relentlessly building and that has factories spewing coal smoke into the air seemingly 24/7, would at the same time have such a large an dedicated group of scientists, intellectuals and business people trying to drive the country to ‘Go green’ – and do it fast.
What I find also to be contradictory is that the Chinese government is supportive of these conferences and the initiatives promoted by its growing anti-global warming community. As with most things when it comes to governments and development, money plays a significant role in driving behaviors and outcomes. China’s coal-burning factories burn cheap fuel and in an increasingly competitive world economy will be slow to change to cleaner burning and non-fossil fuels. That combined with the dust and sand that blows off of the Gobi desert makes Beijing one of the smoggiest cities in China – but not the smoggiest – http://bit.ly/tYLErr. That distinction may be awarded to Xi’an or Galin.
China builds many buildings complete with solar panels mounted on the roofs whether they are industrial or residential. China is a leader in producing and using highly efficient LED lights – and more than once I heard someone say that they notice in the U.S. they see energy saving-lights on outside during the day. Kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?
Buildings in China are warm when it’s warm outside and cold when it’s cold outside. This is in part due to a government conservation requiring people to sweat inside even if there is air-conditioning or freeze when it’s unusually cold as many places in of southeastern China do not have central heating as wintertime temperatures rarely dip below 40F or 9C.
Obviously there are many other contradictions in China when it comes to social and political issues that are well-publicized. I believe China wants to and is doing the right things to move toward a green economy but any expectation that they will shut down factories for good (as China did for a month or so before the 2008 Beijing Olympics) is completely unrealistic No country would throw away its development any more than China will.
I will end on one note of over-consumption and that comes in the form of the photo of the aftermath of tonight’s post-conference banquet. The food was very good but never-ending. In a way that’s a type of contradiction too.
Do you feel the U.S. has its own contradictions?