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In this photo taken on Nov. 10, 2011 and released by China In this photo taken on Nov. 10, 2011 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a worker fixes a solar panel at a factory in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liang Xiaopeng)  

China slows solar, wind expansion undermining White House green PR strategy

Photo of Christopher Bedford
Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

The Chinese government dealt the public relations strategy of green technology advocates in the Obama administration a blow last month when Premier Wen Jiabao announced that the state-run economy would stop expanding its wind and solar industries, choosing instead to focus on nuclear, hydroelectric and shale — or fracking — as the energies of the future.

“It is getting tougher and tougher for the Obama administration to argue that somehow we’re in this big race for green power worldwide when the rest of the world seems to have decided that the race isn’t worth winning,” Daniel Kish, the senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller.

President Barack Obama, whose administration has held up solar and wind energy while stunting shale and snubbing hydroelectric, has deployed nationalist lingo, holding the specter of global Chinese green technology dominance as a driving motivation behind the administration’s expensive and embattled green energy subsidy programs. In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama said, “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.”

By halting wind and solar industry expansion, Kish told TheDC, “China’s just doing what every other country in the world other than the United States is doing. Years back, the president used Spain as an example [of green energy competition] … then Germany, then China.”

Spain’s green energy subsidies were found to have a cost of 2.2 jobs for every one created; and in Germany, the government announced this year that it is scaling back its subsidies. “It’s too damn expensive,” Kish explained, “and someone’s got to pay for it.”

Regardless of American and European drives, in China the focus has always been on hydroelectric and nuclear energy, with just a bone thrown to wind and solar — though that bone has been heavily-publicized by the Chinese government’s newspaper, China Daily, which is distributed for free in Washington.

Currently, the Chinese government has 14 nuclear power plants, with 25 more under construction. Although the Obama administration has allowed construction to begin on a two nuclear plants, it stopped completion of the Yucca Mountain depository that was intended to store nuclear waste. The administration has yet to propose an alternative.

Though nearly $15 billion had been spent to opening the facility, which had promised to solve the disposal problems of states across the country, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid teamed up with the administration to halt the plan and ensure that “Congress will not appropriate a single [further] dime” to the project, leaving America’s spent nuclear fuel storage system effectively suspended.

And the plants the U.S. does operate are old — in a 2012 article, The New York Times reported that, “Of the 104 plants now operating, ground was broken on all of them in 1974 or earlier.”

China is also the largest producer of hydroelectric power on the planet. In 2010, approximately 17 percent of the domestic electricity they used came from hydro, and their plans to expand by 2015 are “equivalent to building about seven more dams the size of China’s Three Gorges Dam, currently the largest in the world,” according to the Worldwatch Institute. (RELATED: Former Interior Dept. adviser: Administration’s report on dam removal ‘intentionally biased’)