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China Is Winning Global Race To Make Clean Energy 346

Posted by timothy
from the comparative-advantage-oh-noes dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines, has leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels, and is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China."
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China Is Winning Global Race To Make Clean Energy

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  • by Krakadoom (1407635) on Monday February 01, 2010 @05:54AM (#30979108)
    The OP is comparing a natural ressource only present in specific places with something that is easily manufactured anywhere. So, dependence on chinese wind turbines - hardly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jabuzz (182671)

      With oil you need to buy more every single day, which is what creates the dependency.

      Once you have purchased your cheap Chinese wind turbine and/or solar panel that is that. Sure they don't last forever, but once set you could easily say to a China screw you and not buy any turbines or solar panels from them for a decade without problems. That is neglecting the fact you could manufacture them elsewhere if need be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by aliquis (678370)

      And if they do something good just copy it and steal the IP.

    • by rikkards (98006) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:27AM (#30979576) Journal

      Let alone they don't have the EPA breathing down their necks to deal with the toxic crap that is a byproduct of solar panel manufacturing. I am sure if the US didn't have to worry about ensuring this stuff didn't get into the environment everybody would have solar panels on everything

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by lq_x_pl (822011)

        Let alone they don't have the EPA breathing down their necks to deal with the toxic crap that is a byproduct of solar panel manufacturing. I am sure if the US didn't have to worry about ensuring this stuff didn't get into the environment everybody would have solar panels on everything

        I don't have the points, somebody mod this up!
        It is as though the whole Cadmium-children's necklaces thing was just a bad dream! They are manufacturing a lot of solar panels and wind turbines, my hat is off to them. The byproducts of such manufacturing (and the industries busily manufacturing them) are often much less than 'green.'
        But they know that the west is buying this stuff up like candy.

        The Chinese are excellent businessmen, and that isn't said as an insult. I admire their ability to think in

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) *

        Let alone they don't have the EPA breathing down their necks to deal with the toxic crap that is a byproduct of solar panel manufacturing. I am sure if the US didn't have to worry about ensuring this stuff didn't get into the environment everybody would have solar panels on everything

        Sigh...How do you explain Denmark's success in not only using but also exporting windmills? It gets harder to explain when you consider Denmark's equivalent of the EPA has a few more teeth than the US version.

        In other words I think your post is toxic crap.

        • by feepness (543479) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:36AM (#30980844) Homepage

          Sigh...How do you explain Denmark's success in not only using but also exporting windmills? It gets harder to explain when you consider Denmark's equivalent of the EPA has a few more teeth than the US version.

          I think... and I admit I'm guessing here without having done any research... but I think that windmills aren't the same thing as solar panels.

          I understand I could be mistaken, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Hatta (162192)

            Maybe we could put solar panels on our windmills so we could generate green energy while generating green energy.

    • My dayjob is running a steel plate roller at a wind turbine tower construction company. I speak from first hand experience when I say they are NOT 'easily made anywhere'. Even if that were so, the tower sections are most definately not easily transported anywhere. It is a helluva lot easier to transport the flat steel plate than the completed sections, as there are so many restrictions on oversized loads on roadways.

      The contracts to supply towers go to the construction facilities near the project sites, pre

  • by Manip (656104) on Monday February 01, 2010 @05:56AM (#30979114)

    You cannot compare our need for oil to our "need" for manufactured goods. The former is a finite resource, you can only get it from a handful of places around the world, the latter will be sourced from literally whoever is cheapest. If China suddenly cut the west's supply of goods off I'm sure one of their cheapest competitors would happily step in to fill the void. Or if it got too expensive then they would be produced in the west.

    • by what about (730877) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:16AM (#30979214) Homepage

      Oil and wind/photovoltaic/nuclear share something, they are energy producer.

      Two issues at the table
      1) It would be OK to pay for energy to a foreign state if the money comes back to buy something (goods or services).
            It is NOT ok if the money comes back to buy companies, land or buildings since this just means selling OUR country (whatever it is) to buy energy. (selling you house is NOT the same as selling what you produce)

      2) It takes time to "acquire" technology AND production plants, if you are in a race and you lose out to the top runners it will be very unlikely
            that later on you catch up, you will be just left out of the race (there are now plenty of jobs for unskilled workers, it is that we still
            have enough money to "avoid" them, but this will not last long)

      I stand that there are advantages to global economy but as usual there are disadvantages, we better know the two sides of the coin before jumping to quick conclusions.

      In other words I suggest that at least 50% of needed energy should be produced in the country where it is used and it should be produced by companies based and staffed by the people of the country.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        Economics isn't like a foot race.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by aliquis (678370)

        I stand that there are advantages to global economy but as usual there are disadvantages, we better know the two sides of the coin before jumping to quick conclusions.

        And since when is an equal society a disadvantage? Who would really want to say that a majority of the people should suffer and be poor for the benefit of others?

        And the more advanced the poor countries get the more productive do they become. Which mean more items produced for lower prices.

        So in the end the people at large get richer and more equal.

        Oh the horrors! We deserve to be the only rich über elite!

        Lack of land, water and food will be a different story though. Better stop relying on the bigger n

        • by moeinvt (851793) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:35AM (#30980028)

          "So in the end the people at large get richer and more equal."

          Don't be too quick to drink the free trade Kool-Aid. That's a nice theory, but it doesn't work out too well in practice. The OP has a good point. We need to know exactly what we're getting into. Do you think NAFTA was good for the poor and middle class workers in the U.S.? Remember how it was supposed to "create jobs" for U.S. citizens? LOL. Well, the Mexicans must be getting rich then, right? Ask some Mexican farmers (ones not working at Burger King in Arizona) how well they're competing against subsidized agricultural products from the U.S. It's amazing that the globalists have managed to figure out a way to structure a trade agreement so tha the poor and middle class get screwed on both ends.

          "The protectionism crap is, well, crap."

          Depends what you mean by "protectionism". We've made a few fundamental decisions, many of them good, about how business is to be conducted in the U.S. Our society decided that companies can't spew pollutants into the air and water with reckless abandon. We enacted laws so that people don't have to work long hours at slave wages under hideous and dangerous working conditions. We have child labor laws, etc. It's insane to have unfettered trade with countries which have NONE of these protections in place. We should absolutely be slapping import duties on foreign goods produced in places that don't live up to similar standards. Putting tariffs on coconuts and bananas because growers in North Carolina can't compete is "protectionism". Putting an import duty on a manufactured good produced by child labor using business practices which despoil the environment is more than fair.

        • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:12AM (#30980542) Homepage

          My, what a curious idealistic planet you live on.

          On my planet, the rich people who make all the decisions are perfectly happy with the majority of other people suffering and being poor, as long as it increases the prosperity of the rich minority in any way at all.

          There's nothing particularly difficult about understanding this, and nothing special, or evil about the rich doing it. The vast majority of us peons would do the same given the opportunity. If not for yourself, then for your children. No? Don't you believe in evolution, and survival of the fittest?

          • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:56AM (#30982018) Homepage

            The planet the other person of course refers to, is the planet run by psychopaths and narcissists. Those who no longer see themselves as part of human society but as exploiters that prey upon human societies. In accurate terms they are in fact no longer a part of human society as a result of their genetic psychological dysfunction. That inherent mental disability that prevents them from being an effective contributing part of human society rather than a destructive corruptive burden upon human society.

            Obviously they represent a considerable problem that must be dealt with, so that human society (we are a group species, who evolve along with the society that we are a part of, we are not lone reptiles). In human terms survival of the fittest is based up the whole species not lone individuals. In evolutionary terms eliminating psychopaths and narcissist improves the collective quality of the human species and improves it survivability. It should be pretty obvious by now that if left to their own devices with out restraint, the psychopaths and narcissist, would blithely destroy the rest of humanity and planets ecosystem to further their own immediate ego (destroying their own progeny as well), so emphatically an evolutionary dead end. It simply remains upon society to remove that dead end before they remove us.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      In a long-run sense that's true, but depending on the technology, there can be long lead-times in starting up a competitor. If China comes to dominate the market so much that for a period of years nobody else is producing anything in quantity, then to suddenly switch to a non-Chinese supplier would take some years to ramp up the designs/expertise/factories. So it's possible to get into a situation where you're beholden to China for a number of years with no easy escape.

      (Easier than conjuring oil from thin a

    • by jamesh (87723)

      The former is a finite resource, you can only get it from a handful of places around the world, the latter will be sourced from literally whoever is cheapest.

      To make solar panels and efficient electric generators you need some pretty special minerals, ones you can only find in a handful of places around the world. Guess where one of those places is?

      Whatever happens, there are going to be some interesting times ahead!

    • by Rob Kaper (5960)

      Indeed you cannot compare. A billion citizen country has leapfrogged a country one third its size (the US), smaller ones (the European ones) in absolute numbers? The US and EU have 820 million citizens combined.. if China outproduces us by 20%, we're on par.

    • by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:43AM (#30979650)

      You cannot compare our need for oil to our "need" for manufactured goods. The former is a finite resource, you can only get it from a handful of places around the world, the latter will be sourced from literally whoever is cheapest. If China suddenly cut the west's supply of goods off I'm sure one of their cheapest competitors would happily step in to fill the void. Or if it got too expensive then they would be produced in the west.

      Too expensive? No, I don't think that's the danger. Too cheap is the danger. The most important asset a country has is its workers. We've seen decades of off-shoring and out-sourcing, resulting in huge proportions of unemployment within many cities. Many Americans are unemployed pretty much because someone else - somewhere - is willing to make a cheaper thing. The global economy is a complicated system, but I'd think it would be better to actually be the cheapest manufacturer, and sell the thing to others in exchange for other things you want. If all the best things are made elsewhere, what do you have left to trade? Wood? Ore? Maybe some corn? Right. Resources. Great.

      I could be wrong, but it seems to me that where the jobs are, that's where the prosperity is. At least in the long term.

    • by hey! (33014)

      Sure -- within limits.

      But you can't conjure the know-how and infrastructure to support a manufacturing economy out of thin air -- the industrial engineers who are current with the latest methods; the tool and die companies; the vendor and distributor relationships. Even though have some of the capacity, you can't scale that capacity up by an order of magnitude overnight. If Chinese trade suddenly disappeared, it would be a huge win for some businesses and for manufacturing workers, but it would take many

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Ah, the magical thinking of the economist!
      If there is nobody near you that can make a certain widget it takes time for someone that makes similar widgets to learn how to do it, design one, get the materials together and start manufacturing it. Time will eventually fix it but meanwhile people can't pay the rent or house repayments.
  • Congrats! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:00AM (#30979130)

    These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.

          Way to miss the point completely. As has been mentioned already, a wind turbine or solar panels can be built anywhere. Oil, however, can only be found in specific locations.

          What this DOES imply is that China will not be a customer purchasing Western manufactured "clean energy" equipment, which in itself is significant when you consider each wind turbine, for instance, costs several million dollars. The less technological equipment they purchase from the West, the more the balance of trade shifts in their favor.

    • by rumith (983060)
      The problem is that electricity produced by more expensive solar panels or wind turbines will be just that - more expensive. So whatever goods are produced at a factory using these power sources will be ultimately more expensive than the competition's (provided that the competitors use Chinese panels). Rinse, repeat several times to account for multiple manufacturing steps, and either you use Chinese power sources, or you get out of business.

      And no, taxing usage of Chinese power sources in America is not

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        I'm curious what the cost of electricity has to be to maintain an industry standard profit margin on an average windmill - once it's paid off. I mean there's maintenance and eventually you're going to have to repaint the thing, replace the generator etc, but what's the lifespan on the actual structure? Once you've paid off the farmer for the land usage rights, it's built, and you pay it off (in what, 20 years?) the paint, new generator(s) have got to be peanuts compared to what the initial installation cost

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by woolpert (1442969)

          Electricity in TX costs between 9 and 18 cents per kw hour

          Those are residential rates. Commercial rates are lower, industrial lower still, and wholesale - the market wind farms (and other generators) sell into - lower still.

          Once you've paid off the farmer for the land usage rights

          Many perpetual leases are written so that the grantee pays so long as they hold rights.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dunbal (464142)

        Not sure I agree with you. When you're considering "expense", you also have to take into account quality, life expectancy and maintenance costs too. And while goods from China may be cheap, in my experience, well, they've been mostly crap, too. You get what you pay for. For a disposable product, or something that has a short life-time like shoes or a TV, it's not that important. For industrial equipment it is very important. If you offer me a turbine made in China or a turbine made in Germany, I will tak

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That's what they said about Japanese goods a few decades ago, and about American goods a few decades before that.

    • When the US attacks Iran....a major exporter of oil to China.
      • by Dunbal (464142) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:36AM (#30979312)

        When the US attacks Iran...

              That will never happen. For all that the Iranian government has not exactly made friends in the West, I doubt that the Chinese would stay quiet. AND I doubt that the Russians would be happy with so much American presence on their southern flank. They stayed quiet about Afghanistan because the whole world was shocked by 9-11 and expected American retaliation. The Russians protested the Iraq war and Putin at the time (2003) called it an "error". Going into Iran, hmm, I think the Russians would side with China and take action.

              Laugh if you must. Perhaps you don't feel threatened by those two very large countries. I'm sure the British scoffed at the American Militia in the late 1700's too. Remember that Iran is a lot closer to Russia and China than it is to the US. Technology alone doesn't win wars. Ask Napoleon. Ask Hitler. Ask the Romans. The strategic outlook for going into Iran is bad bad bad, which is probably why it hasn't happened yet.

        • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:47AM (#30979354) Homepage Journal
          They stayed quiet about Afghanistan because the whole world was shocked by 9-11 and expected American retaliation.

          No, more than likely they stayed quiet because they expected America to end up in a long, protracted, bloody and costly war much like the Russians did 2 decades earlier.....
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            And the Russian achieved better results too, after they left many expected the Socialist regime to collapse, instead they lasted for quite some time inflicting heavy defeats on the 'freedom fighters', the Afghan army they trained successfully operated jets, tanks and other advanced equipment on large scale. Compare it top the Afghan army of today, illiterate, undisciplined mess of unshaven men in dirty uniforms (if any) with no supply and command and control capability. It won't last a week against the Tale
        • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:51AM (#30979368) Homepage

          Either that or there's nothing of any real value in Afghanistan and being there is helping to ruin the US economy. Win-win (for them).

    • Re:Congrats! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Goldsmith (561202) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:16AM (#30981422)

      That's not exactly the whole story.

      The alarm the NYT is trying to raise (I think) is that we're paying China to manufacture the few big "clean energy" installations we're making. It's not that they won't buy from us in the future, it's that we're not even buying from us right now. Just like computer parts *could* be built anywhere, but we end up buying from Taiwan, Korea and Japan, we end up buying energy equipment (right now) from China, Spain and Germany.

      When we spend $100 million on a new wind farm, why does $80 million of that go overseas for high-tech design and manufacturing? It's stupid.

      • Re:Congrats! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rrohbeck (944847) on Monday February 01, 2010 @12:53PM (#30983774)

        When we spend $100 million on a new wind farm, why does $80 million of that go overseas for high-tech design and manufacturing?

        Because US subsidies go into things like bio-ethanol and fossil fuels so there's nothing left to incentivize alternative energy?

  • No worries (Score:3, Funny)

    by arcite (661011) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:10AM (#30979184)
    The US will corner the market once fusion gets perfected in 10 or so years... (seriously! Quite laughing! I'm prognosticating accurately!)
    • Re:No worries (Score:5, Interesting)

      by malkavian (9512) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:03AM (#30979436) Homepage

      Maybe not. China has all the money to invest in research, and they're copying the "brain drain" that made the US pre-eminent in research by making a very cushy life for people that head to China to perform research.
      What could so very easily happen is that China leverages its huge resources, targets them at research into energy, and gets "first past the post" on fusion. Then patents it. As the US has been very into all its legalities and IP agreements on a worldwide basis, it'd find that the only way to obtain Fusion would be to contract the Chinese companies to do the work. Or license it at a huge fee.

      • Not likely. There is very little fusion or fission research coming out of china that I know of. The kind of knowledge which would be required to corner the market on fusion at least takes a couple of generations to build it and integrate into your society. Most of the fusion research Ive seen has been coming out of, The US, Germany Russia,Japan and South Korea. Distinctly little (if any) has come out of China. My guess the US had commercial fusion reactors tomorrow Russia would in ~10 years and china in 30+
  • by Glock27 (446276) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:16AM (#30979212)

    These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China."

    You missed the most important point in the source article:

    and is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.

    These aren't "renewable" technologies, nor do they need to be. What they are, though, are the only realistic way of producing enough energy to power our society going forward.

    The new generation of nuclear reactors is completely safe, and disposing of the waste products is a completely solvable problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by data2 (1382587)

      The new generation of nuclear reactors is completely safe, and disposing of the waste products is a completely solvable problem.

      And yet has not been solved in the past 40 years, as far as I know. Just sayin'

      • by Dunbal (464142)

        And yet has not been solved in the past 40 years, as far as I know. Just sayin'

              Oh that's easy. The Chinese will just put the nuclear waste in baby milk formula.... (ducking and running fast - please don't kill me China, it was a joke!)

      • by delinear (991444)
        Like most things, while there's no pressing need to solve the problem (small number of reactors, countries willing to take the waste at low cost) and the cost of solving it is non-zero, we tend to find workarounds. With more investment in nuclear and more reactors appearing, more investment will be made into solving the problem (be it improved means to clean and store waste, more efficient reactors that can burn more of the waste, a giant space cannon [boingboing.net] or whatever else we can dream up).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuoteMstr (55051)

        Define "solved". We know how to reprocess the fuel. We know how to bury it securely enough for any possible risk to be local and slight.

        The problem is that in the minds of critics of a certain age, the waste problem isn't "solved" until it turns itself into sugar-free gummi bears. For free. Immediately.

        We don't hold other kinds of industrial waste to nearly the same standard we hold nuclear, despite that waste remaining more danger for a longer time. (Ever hear of dioxin?)

        Now, you can have a coherent positi

        • by dbIII (701233) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:20AM (#30980640)

          Define "solved". We know how to reprocess the fuel

          No we don't.
          A bit of googling will show the French experience in attempting to do so and only getting a small fraction at vast cost. In the USA there were never attempts to get so far so don't let this decay into mindless nation bashing (plus there were people from the USA involved in the French efforts). You can't just walk up to a fuel rod with an angle grinder, everything has to be done remotely and it becomes horribly expensive, time consuming and wasteful.
          As for storing the high grade waste Synrock is a pretty good option and is only now starting to get used after more than thirty years of low budget research. The "nukes are clean" crap was counterproductive so very little effort has gone into the waste problem.

  • So much for this comment [slashdot.org], posted just yesterday...

    Note that even China doesn't build many nuclear reactors. The Chinese aren't exactly ecowarriors, so it can't have anything to do with considerations of safety or waste disposal. Nuclear power is a very cool, very complex technology. It's just very expensive to build.

    --Greg

  • by suzerain (245705) on Monday February 01, 2010 @06:58AM (#30979408) Homepage

    This will be a somewhat general statement, but I'm an American and the endless flood of stories like this is quite disheartening. I've left the USA now, because it seems to be in decline, but more importantly because no one seems to give a damn. Just today I read the article about China (where I currently live) leapfrogging the West in renewable energy products (which is clearly happening, despite the West's complaints), as well as an article on Cringely's blog [cringely.com] about upcoming cuts to NASA (which is probably the single most important government agency for the future of humanity).

    Then, I go over to facebook, and all I see are status messages from politically-minded friends, essentially acting like children watching a football game "Go Democrats! Fuck Republicans!" "Go Republicans! Fuck Democrats!", and no one seems to give a flying fuck about actually making changes that position the country for the future.

    Take China as an example. Like every other country, they injected a huge financial stimulus into their economy, but they are doing it with purpose. They're building new highways to serve parts of the country presently unserved; they're building bullet trains faster than those in Japan, Korea and France; they're upgrading their power grid to technologies surpassing that of any other country. When all is said and done, they will have used the downturn as an opportunity to improve their country's efficiency.

    Meanwhile, in the USA, they bailed out the oligarchy that runs the banking system, and then gave money to a bunch of aimless projects that just put band-aids on current infrastructure. There was no national call to action (for example..."we're going to put unemployed auto workers to work building an all-new high-speed rail system to link our urban areas" or "we're going to use this opportunity to completely replace our power grid, because we lose such a high percentage of power to inefficiency of the lines") that would have solidly improved the country for the long-term, improve its ability to transact business.

    Anyone to this site ought to understand that networks are important. The Internet, power grid, airports, train system, highway system...all networks, that allow society to function. In the USA, only the Internet and highways actually work well (the power grid is antiquated and incredibly inefficient, the air traffic control system is a dinosaur and most U.S. airports are shitholes comparatively speaking to the many other countries, and although highways work well, they depend on a resource that is finite and running out). When will Americans wake up and start pushing the country to actually upgrade the country's networked infrastructure; prepare the country for the future?

    I know this seems to be out of place here, but the fact that the USA is doing essentially nothing on the renewable energy front is just another example. After a while, it gets pretty disheartening.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      America won't wake up. They built this industrial power, much of it based on cheap wages (partially as a result of our own unions pushing theirs too high. Look at towns like the suburbs of Detroit and Flint, Michigan -- because unions are led from the top, there isn't an ounce of timely self-preservation when eaten from the bottom). In return, we gave the Chinese our technology, methods of production, and the rest in exchange for cheap junk now -- and are led to dream this will open up a huge market for

      • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:59AM (#30979708)

        Oh, not this right-wing crap again.

        Unions didn't cause the decline of our manufacturing sector. Germany and Japan have strong manufacturing sectors with high wages.

        The real problem is wealth disparity. More and more wealth is concentrated at the top, where instead of circulating in the real economy and increasing demand and creating jobs, it goes into dubious investments where it creates bubbles over and over again.

        Well, most of it: some of that money goes into campaign finance, and into convincing people like you to vote against their own interests. The labor union is one of the very few mechanisms we have to move wealth back into the real economy. Progressive taxation is another. People like you oppose both.

        Instead of demanding a decent wage for yourself, as you deserve (wages after inflation haven't increased in 30 years), you simply begrudge a few industries farsighted enough to still have unions for earning a decent living. It's masochistic.

        Yes, America is an unrecoverable tailspin, and unwittingly, you demonstrate why.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rolfwind (528248)

          It's no surprise that as car companies come into this country, they go more to the South and a wide swath away from the unions. I believe Mercedes-Benz opened a plant in Alabama in the 1990s for this reason.

          Walmart also is anti-union; when a man up in Canada started a union in a store up there, Walmart shut it down rather than deal with the possible spread of unions throughout its workforce and as a warning.

          However, Costco is very minimally unions, something like 10-15% of its workforce, and it always has

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by QuoteMstr (55051)

            It's no surprise that as car companies come into this country, they go more to the South and a wide swath away from the unions. I believe Mercedes-Benz opened a plant in Alabama in the 1990s for this reason.

            I'm no auto industry expert, but as I understand it, newer automakers are somewhat advantaged because they're not burdened by pensions for their older employees. That $80/hr figure for GM includes having to pay for the retirement of previous workers.

            Also, the south wasn't attractive because it lacked uni

    • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:36AM (#30979618)
      I'm an American and a few years ago, I went to Vietnam to visit with family (someone married Vietnamese in the family). While I was there, I saw something really interesting in terms of a cultural bias. The Vietnamese have a very strong tendency to favor cooperation over competition. That's the duopoly. The last I heard, their economy was growing at 8% a year.

      The Japanese also demonstrated this with their desire to build one of the fastest, if not *the* fastest internet infrastructures in the world. The goal became a matter of national pride more than how a few executives could figure out how to line their pockets and still deliver lousy service while derailing every other effort to improve matters for consumers.

      The Vietnamese and the Japanese are essentially descendants of the Chinese so they would share the same cultural value of favoring cooperation over competition. They have demonstrated this value over and over again with their resilience through wars, economic strife and growing pains.

      In America, the profit motive seems to have priority over all other concerns in business. The profit motive overrules the desire to cooperate hands down, every time, at the firm level, and often within the firm. This behavior stems primarily from the desire to avoid shareholder lawsuits over share value in publicly held companies. Another motivating factor, in my opinion, is that executives who have so much money that they never have to work again start to see economics as a game of monopoly. Instead of being satisfied, they strive to get more and more. The result is that there is less and less for the rest of us to earn. Which brings "the rest of us" to the point that we can't even buy the stuff we make here, and we're getting to the point where we can't even buy the stuff "the captains of industry" want us to import from China.

      Competition is not a sin. It's a part of life. But competition taken to it's logical conclusion is the decline of America. Until we get it that we're a team together and that there are bigger problems to solve than how to dominate a market, we're going to face a serious decline in our standard of living relative to other nations.
      • Competition is not a sin. It's a part of life. But competition taken to it's logical conclusion is the decline of America. Until we get it that we're a team together and that there are bigger problems to solve than how to dominate a market, we're going to face a serious decline in our standard of living relative to other nations.

        For every honest, well intentioned person using this line there are a thousand con men using it to prey on the good intentions of their victims.

    • by chrb (1083577) on Monday February 01, 2010 @07:53AM (#30979690)

      There was no national call to action (for example..."we're going to put unemployed auto workers to work building an all-new high-speed rail system to link our urban areas" or "we're going to use this opportunity to completely replace our power grid, because we lose such a high percentage of power to inefficiency of the lines"

      America seems to be somewhat unique in its hatred of such government-run projects - there are many people who have denounced Obama's proposed national high-speed rail network [wired.com] as "socialist" and it will be an uphill struggle to get legislation passed. The Chinese administration, in comparison, can decide to build those networks and immediately procure the funding without the legislative battle. Slavoj Zizek [wikipedia.org] has been proposing a very interesting hypothesis recently - that the Chinese have actually discovered a system that is more efficient, and more productive, than the capitalist liberal democracy that the rest of the world has moved towards in the last century. Maybe it will be a turning point in the development of our civilisation.

      Another interesting observation is that China is racing ahead with these projects, with economic growth expected at 8% this year, and yet has very little enforcement of patent or IP protection. Coincidence? The bullet trains are a great example of the lack of IP enforcement leading to rapid development, with Siemens technology finding its way into Chinese designed and manufactured trains.

      • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:05AM (#30979732)

        Our hatred of these projects is a recent thing too. The Hoover Dam wasn't met with this kind of derision. The Apollo Program wasn't met with this kind of derision (not until its last years, when the Norquist cancer started to metastasize).

        As for China --- it's an autocratic capitalist systems. Of course autocracies are more efficient than democracies. The problem is that they tend not to stay that way. Give China a generation or two, and assuming it doesn't transition to democracy in the meantime, we'll see a set of weak, ineffectual leaders who feel entitled to use their positions for personal gain.

        • by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:11PM (#30984882)

          China is not an autocratic system. It's an oligarchy or if your want to flatter them, an aristocracy. The communist party is basically a private club that runs the country by electing officials from within its own ranks to committees that perform various governance functions. The most powerful committee is the central committee but it is by no means autocratic. BTW, all of China's central committee members have engineering backgrounds.

      • The bullet trains are a great example of the lack of IP enforcement leading to rapid development, with Siemens technology finding its way into Chinese designed and manufactured trains.

        While I agree that increased synergism would be a benefit of reduced or refactored IP laws, this is not a good example. The R&D still had to be done, but the cost which was borne by Siemens is being treated as an externality by the Chinese. This is a typical behaviour of the destructive western style of capitalism.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        America seems to be somewhat unique in its hatred of such government-run projects - there are many people who have denounced Obama's proposed national high-speed rail network [wired.com] as "socialist" and it will be an uphill struggle to get legislation passed.

        The real wtf is that calling something "socialist" is a denouncement. Only in America.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Something happened in the USA.
      The corps got banking laws changed in the 1900, 1930's, 1970's 80's
      Bit by bit they where given total freedom to create cash.
      Their only goal was expansion, lower cost and fast profits.
      While the cold war was on it held together, the rush for raw materials and union free sweat shop deals in Haiti, China, South Korea, Asia.
      Grab the oil, sell it in US $, make the world buy US products in US $. Too poor, always aid to buy a factory, road, dam, power system, airport ect, in US $
    • There seems to be this pervasive 'If we're not #1 at <something>, everything is fucked.' attitude in American culture.

      Why should anyone be surprised that a country that houses a fifth of the world's population is gradually moving closer towards one fifth of the global influence and achievements? Why would it surprise anyone that gradually, over time, a country with four times the population of the USA will pass the USA on a global '<something>' ranking?

      And why would this be a reason to panic? Di

  • How about Norway (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tokul (682258)

    In order to win race you must finish first. I don't think that China can do that when Norway is already 100% green. Or maybe "green energy" does not include hydro power.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Or maybe "green energy" does not include hydro power.

      That's right, it doesn't. The ecological impact of hydro power is humongous.

      Wind is the #1 green power. Solar is probably #2, but thermal updraft (sure, it's solar too) has potential as well. Biodiesel-from-algae has the potential to get up there too, but it has a ways togo to be scaled up.

  • I'm not a fan of it in general it causes more problems than it solves (countries get into tit for tat issues). However, we NEED jobs in this country badly, good paying jobs for people being forced out of the auto industry and this is a perfect place to utilize their skills. It is also an insult to every American company that's been developing and building these things stateside. Buy American we develop the technology, buy Chinese and they develop technology.

    Also you're spitting on every soldier who's fou

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:10AM (#30979762)

    If you can dump the effluent from your factories into the rivers and if you don't need to give you workers protective gear, its amazing how financially compelling your argument to build in China becomes. Obviously China will outstrip the workers paradises in Europe, and nobody, least of all the Europeans, are going to complain about polluted rivers and skies in China.

  • by cenc (1310167) on Monday February 01, 2010 @08:43AM (#30980144) Homepage

    I am sorry, but saying the Chinese government have suddenly developed an environmental conscious is bullshit. I have lived there personally, and I know environmentalist that have tried to work with the government. They are only interested in saving face in front of the World.

    This is all about making products and money. If they thought they could sell blue widgets rather than solar panels for more money, they would. They will also likly dump the chemicals and waist from the manufacturing of the solar panels in to the rivers and lakes, while using the dirties coal powered energy to make them, making their workers sick with uncontrolled processes, and no one will even try to hide it.

    So while you are all feeling warm and fuzzy about your new solar panels, electric car, or whatever saving the Planet, stop and realize that it was made with some of the most environmentally unfriendly and unethical practices in the World in China.

    Try the rivers full of dead floating fish? How about the chemical spills that regularly kill thousands across China? Try driving by one of their coal fired power plants. Your eyes will be watering long before you see the plant. Has anyone on the East coast of China ever seen a star in their life?

    Talking about pollution in China is still officially a State secret that can make people disappear.

  • No Fear of China (Score:4, Insightful)

    by salesgeek (263995) on Monday February 01, 2010 @09:00AM (#30980372) Homepage

    In the long run, I have little fear of China. First, their oppressive government will eventually moderate or fail as the population becomes more educated and more connected to the rest of the world. Second, as China engages with other nations, they have quickly learned how taking shortcuts such as using lead paint on toys is not the path to success. Third, there is the lesson of Google, where China is learning that there is a high cost to forcing the private sector at private expense to do the government's bidding. Finally, China's public health issues and personal liberty issues are on a collision course with it's government ability to stay in power.

  • Fewer Luddites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hasai (131313) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:36AM (#30981736)

    Build a wind turbine in the US or EU, and it's "Agggh! You might hurt some birds!"
    Lawsuit-lawsuit-lawsuit....

    Build a hydroelectric dam in the US or EU, and it's "Agggh! You might hurt some snails!"
    Lawsuit-lawsuit-lawsuit....

    Build a solar panel in the US or EU, and it's "Agggh! You might shade some weeds!"
    Lawsuit-lawsuit-lawsuit....

    Build a nuclear reactor in the US or EU, and it's "AGGGH! GIANT ANTS!"
    Lawsuit-lawsuit-lawsuit....

    Folks in China don't seem to have to deal with as many of the "technology is baaaaad" types.
    I suspect it's because they have far more-recent memories of what it's like to freeze in the dark.

  • So what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeURL (890801) on Monday February 01, 2010 @10:46AM (#30981892) Journal
    I mean really...

    Over the years we have sent 100s and 100s of billions overseas for oil and that is essentially a consumable that leaves behind no capital infrastructure. A wind turbine is almost the exact opposite. It is a capital asset that actually continues to produce energy for at least 20 years (and probably longer with an aggressive maintenance schedule). If I have to choose between sending China money for plastic crap or money for wind turbines I'll choose the turbines.

    However, I'm not unaware that we also have an interest in being able to produce these "new economy" products locally. But it isn't like we can reverse 25 years of relative industrial decline overnight just because the politicos finally see something worth building in the US.

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