In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|June 18 - June 25, 2009
• See Letters page
• Jim Hightower
Reducing CO2 emissions in China
by Paul Danish
American and Chinese delegations held three days of talks in Beijing last week looking for answers to global warming both sides could agree on. They might as well have spent three days opening fortune cookies for all the good it did.
The talks started with the Americans telling the Chinese (in so many words), “Now that you guys are a big-time international, industrial power (and the world’s largest producers of CO2), it’s time for you to step up to the plate and set specific targets for cutting your CO2 emissions and specific dates for meeting them. We’ve got a bill in Congress right now that aims to cut our CO2 emissions 17 percent below our 2005 levels by 2020. It would have a lot better chance of passing if the People’s Republic of China got with the program.”
The Chinese spent several nano-seconds reflecting on this, and then replied (in so many words), “Esteemed and venerable foreign devils (and Number One Borrowers), on behalf of the Chinese people, who have waited 3,000 years for their share of the pie, we would like to suggest that you take your most interesting proposals and put them (entirely for safekeeping, of course) in a place where the sun don’t shine — like at the bottom of a coal mine. By the way, since your dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere for the past 200 years caused the problem in the first place, we think you should cut your own CO2 emissions 40 percent below what you were putting out in 1990 by 2020. And while you’re at it, why don’t you pledge 1 percent of your annual GDP to helping developing countries (like us) reduce our CO2 emissions. After that, we’ll talk.”
Coincidentally, nearly identical sentiments were being voiced by a number of other developing countries at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn, Germany, which was considering proposals to be included in a successor to the failed Kyoto treaty.
Afterward, the most optimistic thing a U.N. official could find to say was this gem: “Parties are not agreeing, but they’re disagreeing in a very polite and civil way.”
In other words: The Third World, led by China, isn’t going to lift a finger or spend a dime to do anything about global warming.
In other words, it’s time for a Plan B.
Fortunately, I have one — a plan to slash China’s output of greenhouse gases without requiring it to accept compulsory targets, or slow its economic growth, or sign some silly-ass bourgeois international treaty, or do anything except issue a few building permits.
Here’s how it works.
You know that $1.2 trillion we owe the Chinese? Instead of paying it off in dollars, we should pay it off in nuclear power plants.
The U.S. government should buy nuclear power plants, which produce electricity without producing greenhouse gas, stamp on them, “This plant is legal tender for all debts, public and private (some assembly required),” and ship them off to the People’s Republic of China.
A new nuclear power plant costs roughly $8 to $10 billion and has a generating capacity of 2,500 megawatts of electricity. So $1.2 trillion would pay for 120 of them with a cumulative generating capacity of 300,000 megawatts.
By way of comparison, the combined generating capacity of all the coal-fired power plants in the United States is about 336,000 megawatts. The latter burn about 1 billion tons of coal a year. So paying off the Chinese with nuclear power plants would put a pretty big dent in the growth of Chinese coal use.
What’s more, it would probably put a big dent in our coal use as well, because if we were to create the industrial capacity to build 120 nuclear power plants for China, we would almost certainly build a bunch for ourselves.
Manufacturing a couple hundred plants would allow the use of mass production techniques, which would drive down costs. And building all those plants would be a handsome little on-going economic stimulus package.
Would the Chinese go for a deal like this? Why not? The alternative is being paid back with (soon-to-be-inflated) dollars. The Chinese have made it abundantly clear that they’re worried sick by that prospect — to the point of working with Russia and other countries to create an alternative currency to the dollar for international trade. Odds are nuclear power plants will hold their value better than Federal Reserve Notes over the next few years.
And if the U.S. were to pay off its China debt at the rate of a nuclear plant a month over the next 10 years, it would end up spending $120 billion a year on the Chinese nukes. That works out to about 1 percent of the current U.S. GDP — which is what the Chinese want us to spend on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Third World.
back to top