Is China Headed for a Crash?
June 22, 2010
Anyone who doubts the role of “Black Swans” in shaping the course of human events should pause to reflect on the decade just past.
Nice Wind Farm, But So What?
June 01, 2010
Dunhuang, China—Is there more to China's low-carbon efforts than renewable power? Well, yes, of course. A lot more. Yet that's all people here ever seem to want to talk about. Maybe that shouldn't come as a shock: The country gets a ton of warm, fuzzy press for its enormous new wind and solar farms, and it's true that the scale of construction out deserves an impressed whistle or two.
Who Needs Time Zones?
May 29, 2010
Out in Dunhuang in western China, it's still fairly bright out at 10 o'clock at night, thanks to the fact that there's only one time zone in the entire country—everyone is synched to Beijing time. No one I've talked to here seems to mind; freakishly late sunsets are just a fact of life. (The one exception is in the autonomous Xinjiang region in the far west, where people wake up for work two hours later.) And when I try to explain the logic behind multiple time zones, I realize I have no real idea why, say, the U.S.
China Journal: An Eco-Utopia In The Desert?
May 28, 2010
Jiayuguan, China—My first question to the mayor, naturally, is about the porpoise. On the outskirts of Jiayuguan, an industrial city of about 300,000 smack in the middle of the Gobi Desert, there's a 15-story-tall steel dolphin, standing erect, balancing a giant ball on its nose. After dusk, the structure is set ablaze in bright neon, its flashing flippers visible from miles away. "That's not a, uh, native species around these parts, is it?" Nope.
China Journal: Can 1,300 Coal Plants Be Wrong?
May 25, 2010
Shanghai, China—This week, I'm traveling around China trying to get a better sense for the country's energy and environmental policies (the trip is being sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation). On a very broad level, there are two big, contradictory facts about the country to consider. One is that China is working far more frantically than we are to rein in its greenhouse-gas pollution and promote cleaner energy sources.
You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.
China Takes Drastic Measures
May 05, 2010
A few years ago, I wrote about China's struggles to implement its own (often ambitious) clean-energy and emissions plans. Usually the pattern went like this: The central government in Beijing would make lots of nice-sounding promulgations—clean up the coal plants, make the buildings more efficient, build some wind turbines—but provincial officials, who have gained a lot of autonomy over the years, wouldn't always carry them out. Well, it seems that's still very much a problem. China, recall, has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity—the amount of carbon per unit of GDP—by 45 percent by 2020.
Bob Schieffer, Call The Fact-Checkers
April 27, 2010
Tom Friedman on Face the Nation last Sunday: The result is, Bob, right now in Beijing, they're high-fiving each other. Oh, yeah, baby. This means the Americans are going to be paralyzed on green tech, okay, for another couple of years. China is already leading the world now in wind production. China is already leading the world in solar production. I realize that I've never been to China, and Friedman goes there so often he probably has dishes named after him at a half-dozen Beijing restaurants. That said, do Chinese customarily greet good news by giving each other high fives?
April 21, 2010
The words most often used by the heads of oil companies to describe the boom are “revolution” and “game changer.” Industry historian Daniel Yergin calls it “the shale gale.” Admittedly, serious questions remain as to whether shale gas will pass the ecological test—critics say it can’t be extracted safely in proximity to groundwater, and the EPA is engaged in a two-year study of extraction techniques.
Don’t Be Evil
April 21, 2010
In 1981, Andrei Sakharov wrote an essay titled “The Responsibility of Scientists.” His argument was that scientists, who “form the one real worldwide community which exists today,” had a special obligation to speak out in defense of human rights. In part, his essay was directed to fellow Soviet scientists, whom he implored to take risks on behalf of principle—to “muster sufficient courage and integrity to resist the temptation and the habit of conformity.” Yet Sakharov did not let his colleagues in the free world off the hook.