Breaking Free From China?

We have been writing for a long time about the fact that transitioning from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy is catastrophically bad policy, not only because those forms of energy are intermittent and therefore inadequate, but also because China dominates the market for wind turbines and solar panels. Going “green” means turning over our economy–our lives–to the Chinese Communist Party.

This issue has been a dark secret if you rely on liberal news outlets for information, but now a glimmer of reality seems to be breaking through. I haven’t seen this reported domestically, but the Guardian has the story: “Breaking from China’s clean energy dominance ‘imperative’, US and Australia say after new climate tech deal.”

In a joint press conference in Sydney, the US energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, and the Australian climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, announced a “net zero technology acceleration partnership”, including an initial focus on long-duration energy storage and digitising power grids.

They said the agreement was motivated in part by the need for a clean energy and critical mineral supply chain that did not depend as much on China, which is responsible for about 80% of solar energy technology manufacturing. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it is expected to reach 95% by 2025.

Why might that be? It’s because Chinese solar panels are made in large part by slave labor, i.e. Uyghurs. It is hard to compete with slave labor on price. Also, Chinese factories are fueled by coal, giving them another price advantage. If we really want to have a domestic solar panel industry–I don’t, but let’s assume the Biden administration does–one obvious solution would be to impose heavy import duties on Chinese solar panels. But that would expose the ridiculous cost of solar energy, and, anyway, tariffs are Trumpian.

Granholm compared the risk of relying on China for clean technology to the west’s over-dependence on Russian fossil fuels – a mistake that sparked a global energy crisis after it invaded Ukraine.
“We’ve seen what happens when we rely too much on one entity for our source of fuel, and we don’t want that to happen – so to diversify those energy sources and to link up with partners is part of our energy security.”

Of course, the U.S. was never reliant on Russia for energy, at least not during the Trump administration. A sensible policy would be to maximize production of U.S. oil and gas so that our allies can rely on us, not on the Russians and not on the Chinese. But that approach is not on the table.

In this article, at least, the focus is on solar energy, but China dominates the market for wind turbines, too. More important, China controls the market for processing the minerals that are needed for these products, no matter where they are manufactured. No word on how, exactly, the U.S. and Australia will ramp up mining on an unprecedented scale to avoid this bottleneck.

The press conference included a brief reference to “long-duration energy storage,” which of course would be required to make wind and solar energy even remotely viable, if prohibitively expensive. But no such storage capacity exists, and it is not on the horizon. And–by the way–what country do you think controls the minerals and mineral processing that are necessary for the giant batteries the “greens” contemplate? Yes, that’s right. China.

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