Uh Oh! Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting Spells Trouble For GOP Energy Platform


I have a smart friend who could have her own career as a political writer, were she not pursuing a PhD in another field. Earlier this week, she observed:

“So… that joint press conference with the Presidents of the U.S. and China at the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting] was sort of a big deal.

If I were in charge of an oil or natural gas company, and I had not yet read the writing on the wall and made the switch to investing less in oil and more in renewable…I’d be freaking out right now. I’d be up all night trying to figure out how to divest from carbon-based energy sources and move to renewables ASAP.”

Her assessment of the summit echoes that of a highly credible source, New York Times Nobel Prize-winning economist and Op-Ed contributor Paul Krugman. In a piece published this week, entitled “China, Coal, Climate,” the celebrated thought leader writes, “It’s easy to be cynical about summit meetings. Often they’re just photo op… At best — almost always — they’re just occasions to formally announce agreements already worked out by lower-level officials. Once in a while, however, something really important emerges. And this is one of those times.”

Pundits and lay people alike seem to agree that while we shouldn’t expect an overnight turnaround in global energy policy, the oil and coal syndicate which controls the Republican party, and to a great extent, the conversation about America’s non-approach to climate change, is on notice. Just one little public display requires a shift from the world’s oligarchs from offense to defense. For the first time since the Carter administration, us “tree hugging hippies” have reason to hope that humanity’s high-speed chase toward Earth’s destruction might be derailed.

Baby steps will be taken, but taken they will be. No matter how vague the language or undefined the qualitative steps forward, as Krugman notes, “we have it straight from the source: China has declared its intention to limit carbon emissions.”

Although there is clearly more at stake here than politics, a move like this can fast track the seismic cultural shift Americans are currently experiencing with other issues such as marriage equality or recreational marijuana legalization. As little as 10 days ago, when less than half of the electorate limped to the ballot box to vote red in the midterm elections, the specter of evolution (pun intended) seemed wildly impossible. Headlines such as this followed GOP victory almost immediately: Republicans Vow to Fight E.P.A. and Approve Keystone Pipeline. The party of scientific repudiation announced that infamous climate change denier Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma will lead the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The situation looked bleak. “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel…” impotent.

Of course we’ll have to be patient and assess China’s follow through against its stated intentions. After all, not much time has passed since Hong Kong rebelled against the mainland’s revocation of promised free, fair and independent elections. And it’s not as though the United States has a blemish-free track records for the alignment of words and actions (a slavery infected “Land of the Free” comes to mind). But perhaps in the perverse way situations like this sometimes play out, China and America will keep each other honest. Neither country is a fan of being publicly embarrassed by the other. If the protection of a nation’s sociopolitical reputation is a motivator in upending decades of cynical energy policy, I’ll suppress a wish for better human impulses and concur with Krugman. It’s another long-term setback for the Republican agenda and “a good week for the planet.”

15 Replies to “Uh Oh! Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting Spells Trouble For GOP Energy Platform”

  1. Thanks for this article Becky! Without clean air, clean water, we will not be able to live a healthy life. Unfortunately the greedy nature and powerful interests around the world look at short term gain instead of long term health for ALL life! We ARE the caretakers of our planet, lets start acting like it…..NOW!

  2. I think its non-binding, biut I do know in certain areas China has demanded of new industry that they improve methods of acquiring energy. China is going forward with wind and solar as well. Why? It doesnt cost anything once you get it up and running. China is about cheap. They are not about buying oil forever like the koch wants us to be. They will still use oil of course, but like most of the world in ever diminishing ways

  3. Guess that is why Putin left early to get his planes flying over the Gulf of Mexico to see just how much clean and dirty oil is coming in and how much is going out. Perhaps the Chinese told him something else? How involved are the Koch’s in Russian oil?

  4. This may be non binding but China is not dumb, they know that the nasty smog that makes the chinese wear masks to go outside
    will not get any better by itself and if they want to keep up they must change.

  5. I can’t help but wonder what’s next for the American companies who attribute to China’s pollution problem because of China’s lack of regulations and cheap labor. The Republicans must be squirming and wondering the same. Outsourcing jobs ain’t gonna be that easy if China committs to reducing the carbon emissions along with the United States.

  6. The Chinese leadership has had the same epiphany the US leaders had in the 1970s – If the people can’t safely breathe the air or drink the water, they won’t be able to work. And if they can’t work the economy will collapse.

    Once the oligarchy in the US remembers this bit of wisdom – and conveys it to their water carriers in congress – we will no longer hear about dismantling the EPA.

  7. The problem with that is in their eyes we are serfs and if one dies there is always another to take their place

  8. If you don’t need oil and gas, you don’t need pipelines and fracking. Or invasions of land holding oil and gas. It removes electric power from coal, oil and gas from the list of ‘must haves.’

    The oil cartel goes the way of the buggy whip industry. Revolutions come in many shapes and sizes.

    Secondarily, the path is open for close, daily contact between the 2 countries. Contact not for competition, but cooperation. President Obama is removing China from the list of ‘Enemies of the State.’ Blows against the military-industrial colonial power base.

    We’ll look back at this as a turning point.

  9. One possible scenario is that the GOP says the deal is without treaty, thus ineffective and must be ratified by congress, which it has not. They will conflate it with the Keystone Pipeline and start impeachment for violation of the separation of powers doctrine. If they wanted, then, to succumb to Republican tactics, Dems would at that point say “it’s a myth…nowhere in the constitution do we find those words, ‘separation of powers doctrine,” &c.

  10. The Chinese agreement is an act of self preservation. Several experts in environmental health estimated in 2006 that 5-600,000 Chinese were dying premature deaths from air and water pollution. Now those numbers are estimated to exceed ONE MILLION! When you figure that there are 5-6 direct relatives of those dying unnecessarily you are building a large and committed environmental constituency.

    The Chinese leadership is mindful of the effect a sick and dying populace will have on their ability to rule.

    With the number of premature environmental deaths expected to hit TWO MILLION a year by 2020 and these gestures are window dressing on a problem that could collapse the government and the economy!

  11. President Obama’s climate agreement already paying off, as China announces cap on coal use by 2020
    The Chinese government announced Wednesday it would cap coal use by 2020. The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said the peak would be 4.2 billion tonnes, a one-sixth increase over current consumption.
    This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.

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