Inhofe: Playing Up China’s Green Energy Status Is 'Pretext for Imposing That Statist Vision on the American Economy'

By Chris Neefus | December 8, 2010 | 2:34pm EST

Sen. James Inhofe (R--Okla.) (AP photo)

( – A report released today by the minority staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), details how little China relies on green energy, and says the notion that the Asian nation has an exemplary clean energy record is being pushed as a pretext for more top-down control over the U.S. economy.

“The lament that America is losing the ‘clean energy race’ to China is a mere pretext for imposing that statist vision on the American economy,” Inhofe said on Wednesday referencing the report. “China’s command and control system offers alluring possibilities for those who oppose the free market. But a government-directed economy, as with those that preceded it, will fail the test of time.”

Asked whether the senator and staff meant that the Obama administration was using China’s alleged green energy achievements to push statism, Inhofe's Press Secretary Matt Dempsey said Inhofe would probably characterize it as “the environmental left” that was pushing the issue. He also suggested that the move was hypocritical because China “pursues coal and nuclear power, things that environmentalists supposedly don’t like.”

The report, The Real Story Behind China’s Energy Policy And What America Can Learn from It, is focused around the claim that non-hydro renewable energy sources in China make up a scant 0.6 percent of that Communist nation's energy portfolio, while fossil fuels provide 87 percent of China’s energy.

Because China has a 15 percent renewable energy target, the report states, the country relies largely on hydropower.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, China will have “seven-and-a-half times more hydroelectric capacity than the United States has or currently expects to have by 2020.”

In April 2010, China also broadened its definition of “non-fossil-fuel sources” to include nuclear power. The Environment and Public Works Committee staffers on the minority side cited an official in China’s Energy Bureau of National Development and Reform Commission as saying that “nuclear [power] should contribute up to six percentage points” of the goal.

But the report says these avenues, along with clean coal, are rejected by environmentalists as “green” sources of energy.

(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

“This definition is uncomfortably broad for many environmental activists: they deplore hydropower because of dam construction; denounce clean coal as an oxymoron; oppose emissions-free nuclear because of waste issues; worry that tidal energy harms marshes and mud flats; and stop solar power because of concerns over endangered species and offshore wind farms because they are aesthetically distasteful,” the report reads.

“America,” however, “has an array of clean energy technologies that are readily deployable,” the report reads. “Their development can create thousands of jobs, provide affordable, reliable electricity, and keep America’s manufacturers globally competitive, especially with China.”

“But environmentalists oppose nearly all of them,” reads the report.

Nuclear power has recently been in the news because South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley, a Republican, criticized the Obama administration in September for allowing plans to halt on developing Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. Her state has contributed more than $1 billion to the project, which has now been dropped, forcing South Carolina to store its waste on-site.

“If the feds want to renege on the promise to keep Yucca open, they must refund the $1.2 billion our state has spent on the facility,” said Haley in a statement. “We want our money back.”

In his own statement accompanying the report, Sen. Inhofe warned, "America can't be lulled into thinking that China is launching a green energy revolution. The reality, which policymakers here must understand, is that it's much bigger than that: China is launching a global energy revolution, the basic makeup of which entails consuming coal on grand scales, and purchasing vast quantities of oil, gas, and uranium the world over, including from dangerous, anti-American regimes.”

The report notes that China is investing in oil development in nations as far flung as Cuba, Iraq, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, and Argentina.

“Surely, China recognizes that wind and solar power contribute to energy security, and undoubtedly they do, but when considered against the backdrop of China's fossil fuel use, they are, as in the United States, a sideshow,” said Inhofe.

Jon LaCour, manager of the Wygen III coal-fired plant in Wyodak, Wyo., looks at pollution control equipment added to the recently completed plant. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

"This report hopefully will serve as a wake-up call, which is effectively this: we can't sit back and let our abundant resources sit idly in the ground, while China rapidly develops its own, and those of other countries, and grows apace,” he said. “Coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, as well as solar, wind, geothermal -- let's develop them all, and let's innovate and deploy, of course where its makes sense and in a manner that's good for consumers and the economy.”

“With Communist China on the rise, we can't afford any other course,” said Inhofe.

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