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Green Hops: Drought, Cars and International Partnerships

Its been a busy few weeks since our last Green Hops, so GLF is gonna pack in the updates over two posts consecutive posts.


The “worst drought in half a century” affecting eight northern and central provinces dominated the past week’s news.  A 90 percent drop in average rainfall since last November will affect 11 million hectares of wheat crops and create a drinking water shortage for 4.4 million people and 2.2. million livestock.  RMB 187 billion of emergency funds have been earmarked.  As stop-gap measures, authorities are diverting water from the Yangtze and Yellow River to drought-ridden areas, as well as shelling the sky with pellets to induce rain, Beijing Olympics-style.  The water diversion measure has been able to get half of the wheat lands irrigated, but is rather ironic given that a recent study shows that 82% of China’s whopping 3.57 million square kilometers of degraded lands (equivalent to the size of 10 Germanys!) exists in the Yangtze River and Yellow River valleys.  The water scarcity woes of northern China have been well described on this blog by Christine Boyle.  The World Bank also chimes in with its own comprehensive list of policy recommendation to address water scarcity. Read the full story

By Julian Wong Jan.23.2009
In: automotive, policy, smart grid, transportation, uncategorized

Electrifying Singapore: Drivers and Roadblocks

The Green Leap Forward travels to Singapore to look at three start-up companies–Zeco, AmpleMotion and The Green Car Co.–trying to make Singapore’s electric transportation dreams come true, and ponders the road blocks that lie in the path towards a renewable electron economy.

Singapore and the Renewable Electron Economy Proposition

The electrification of Singapore’s transportation has received growing interest ever since it was reported that an international panel of experts pegged Singapore as an ideal place to launch an electric vehicle (EV) network.  For anyone who’s lived here, it really doesn’t take an expert to recognize that the island-state has a number of things going for it:  a contained urban area (the longest east-west stretch is just over 40 km and north-south stretch about 20 km), one of the most efficient and reliable electrical grids, sophisticated IT sector, ambitions to remain at the forefront of maintaining its already world-class transportation infrastructure, and a top-down policy environment which will ensure rapid deployment of a complicated and ambitious system once there is buy-in from the top.  Moreover, the potential of sunny and tropical Singapore to harness its hitherto mostly untapped solar resources to feed into its grid completes the puzzle of the vision for a “renewable electron economy,” whereby everything in the economy essentially works of electricity generated by clean renewable power. Read the full story

Green Hops: Green Car Washing; Pearl River Delta; Solarizing Qaidam Basin


In the wake of more bad (good if you are for green) news in China’s auto sales trends, GLF is observing an increasingly resonant cacophony of green washing in the auto sector…

Small is beautiful” seems to be the message by industry analysts to Chinese auto makers.  The government agrees, as evidenced by the new tax breaks given to cars with smaller engines.

Haifei Automobile Group joins the electric vehicle race and sets its sights on launching the Haifei Saibo electric vehicle in the U.S. markets later this year.  Lithium-phosphate battery maker China BAK is getting government support for R&DGreentechMedia debates if the U.S. will move from Arab oil dependence to Asian car battery dependence.  Another angle is if both the U.S. and Asia moves towards South American lithium dependence.

Beiqi Foton Motor (SHSE: 600166) established China’s first manufacturing and R&D base for new energy vehicles in Beijing.  The base covers an area of 1,000 mu (around 66.67 hectares), with a total investment of Read the full story

Green Hops: Autos, Nukes, Agro, Recycling Woes

Energy Price Reforms

NDRC announced that it would be removing price caps on coal from next year in a move towards a more market-driven price mechanism.  This move comes at an opportune time when coal prices have dropped by 30 to 40% since the summer, but GLF points out an earlier post (see finding #4) on a recent MIT coal report that suggests the upstream coal industry has already moved towards a de facto market price system.  Although the NDRC move “is a step in the right direction,” Huang Shengchu, president of Beijing-based China Coal Information Institute says in this interview that government macro-control is still needed to protect the rights of various coal stakeholdres in their contractual dealings with each other, accerlarate industry consolidation of the many small and inefficient mines and to set up a coal price index.

Separately, the proposed auto fuel price reform kicked in earlier than expected.  So it turns out that the answer to our confusion (see earlier post) of how the government proposed to hike up taxes and keep fuel prices even was that they would adjust the base fuel price downward, predicated on Read the full story

Pacific Bridges: Steven Chu and John Holdren May Shape U.S.-China Energy Relations

GLF has been traveling and getting a little caught up on side projects, but let’s play some catchup.  Let’s pick things up with two specific appointments by President-elect Obama which have implications for U.S.-China energy relations–one being the 1997 Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. Steve Chu of Lawrence Berkeley Labs (LBL) as the new Secretary of Energy, and the other being Dr. John Holdren, physicist and energy technology policy professor at Harvard and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center (whom yours truly had the pleasure of meeting in the copy room as a policy intern there way back in 2003) as the White House science & technology adviser.

Besides being a director of LBL, Dr. Chu (pictured right) is also a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at Read the full story

By Julian Wong Dec.7.2008
In: automotive, energy efficiency, oil, policy, transportation

More Petroleum Price Reforms: Move towards the Market and Higher Fuel Tax

The auto industry is front and center of the current financial-energy tsunami.  Detroit is in big trouble, and in need of a life-line.  Chinese automakers are faring better (and some have them tipped to be Detroit’s white knights), but the shakeout  in China has played itself out in petroleum price reforms.

On Friday (Dec 5), the NDRC announced further proposals for energy price reform in the petroleum sector that would come into effect January 1 by indirectly linking domestic fuel prices to international crude oil prices as well as substantially increasing fuel taxes.  The NDRC curiously maintains that the moves will not impact prices at the pump (see FAQ by NDRC, in Chinese only), however, the feeling is that more details to the proposal needs to be released for this claim to be assessed.  Ostensibly, the fuel tax hike will be offset by the recent pullback in crude oil prices, resulting in minimal increases in pump prices in the near term.

The Proposal

In order to align retail fuel prices, Read the full story

Green Hops: Poznan Preview, More Electric News, Green Capital

We’ve gone more than a month without a “Green Hops” update…what a crime!  We atone for that oversight here…

Climate Change and International Cooperation

A “high level” summit in Beijing on international technology transfer and climate change held on November 7 and 8 provided a preview of the international climate change negotiations that have kicked off in Poznan, Poland today.  A blogger’s review of the Beijing summit can be found at China Green Space (the young author of which is a personal friend and has been getting some recognition lately).  Basically, it is more of the same–China wants free capital and free technology from developed countries.  This is the same position as what can be found in the recently released China Climate Change White Paper, which Read the full story

JUCCCE Clean Energy Forum--Closing Summary

The following is the complete transcript, modified and supplemented for completeness and readability, of the closing speech that the author of this blog (pictured below) delivered on November 11 at the JUCCCE Clean Energy Forum in Beijing.

We are at war.  A world war.  But unlike World War I or II, this is not a war about military tanks, but it’s a war about gas tanks.  This is not a war about military strength, it’s a war about political strength, and innovation.  This is not a war about conquering territories, its about conquering our addiction to fossil fuels.  And unlike the first two wars, we are all fighting from the same side.  We are engaged in a global energy and climate war.  We have essentially, through our reckless consumption of the earth’s natural resources, provoked an unanticipated response in the world’s climatic system.  We have essentially pitted Mother Nature against Mother Nature, and we are all caught in the middle.

So what now?

We need a serious restructuring of the way we organize our energy system, implement new rules and policies, and adopt new ways of using energy.  We need to, as Rob Watson says, change transform “ego-nomics” into “eco-nomics,” and we do this by appropriate adapting human laws to the immutable laws of nature.

So how do we get there?  How do we achieve the innovation to meet the energy-climate challenge?  We need an smart and well informed mix of regulatory and market mechanisms.  There is no single silver bullet, but I believe that over the past two days of discourse, we have collectively started forming a framework for the array of solutions, a full complement of many green bullets to get the green revolution under way.  I see three themes emerging from our discussions:  Read the full story

David Tyfield [Part 1 of 2]: Low Carbon Innovation in China

Dr. David Tyfield (pictured right) of Lancaster University in the UK is a critical realist of science and innovation policy.  Cross-trained in molecular cell biology, philosophy of social sciences and the law, Dr. Tyfield brings an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing current trends in international collaboration in low carbon innovation.  The Green Leap Forward had the opportunity to interview Dr. Tyfield before a live audience of about forty attendees at an event hosted by the Beijing Energy Network on October 29 in Beijing.  This the first of two posts summarizing the hour long interview, with this first post focused on questions posed by The Green Leap Forward, and the second summarizing the Q&A session that was opened to the audience.

The Green Leap Forward (GLF):  Here at The Green Leap Forward, we’ve previously talked about the need to look at innovation beyond just the technological, calling for disruptive systems over mere disruptive technologies.  You similarly have an expansive view of “technology” and “innovation” beyond the way the media narrowly construes it.   How would you define these terms?

David Tyfield (DT):  I don’t think its just the media, but its the main thinking behind a lot of policy.  We would want to distinguish between technology and innovation, where technology is just new kinds of machines.  Innovation on the other hand is a much bigger issue than that and its not just the technical issue of introducing new machines.  My background is in looking at science and innovation from a sociological political economic angle, which means we treat innovation as a social process. that means innovation is not just a question of great minds coming up with great ideas, not is it just about R&D spending.  Its a much bigger process.   In fact, a lot of important innovation does not involve technology at all.  They can be social innovation, the kinds of processes or new kinds of organizational forms.  For instance, the joint-stock company or limited liability company is a form  of innovation.

Another important issue that we are interested about innovation is that once we start looking at it as a social process then we can start to recognize that there are many different possible trajectories of technological change, therefore there is also a question of choice between them. So there is a question of direction, and not just a question of how much innovation is happening but in which direction.  And that opens up, in effect, all kinds of important political decisions that can be easily swept under the carpet.

In terms of the implications for low carbon innovation, this is very important.  Because if we just limit our our consideration of innovation for low carbon to high technology, not only are we setting ourselves for some pretty difficult tasks, we also exclude ourselves from all sorts of other possibilities which could have profound influence on a shift to a low carbon system.  In terms of what we mean by low carbon definition, therefore, the “low carbon” bit does not just refer to more efficient use of greenhouse gases. Its actually  about any kind of innovation in this broader definition which contributes to a shift in social system that actually has, altogether, a lower carbon consumption. Read the full story

Green Hops: Walmart, Geely, Smart Grid

Climate Social Responsibility.  At its firs global supply-chain summit in Beijing, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, launched an ambitious program dubbed the “Global Sourcing Responsibility Initiative” that will require its Chinese suppliers (which may number up to 20,000 according to China Daily) to abide to potentially costly energy efficiency targets, to be verified by third party audits, among other environmental and social goals.  The program will be expanded worldwide by 2011.

A new report by the Carbon Disclosure Project suggests that major Chinese companies lag far behind their foreign counterparts in carbon-risk awareness and carbon reporting.  But China Mobile (the world’s biggest wireless operator with 420 million subscribers), Broad Air Conditioning (the world’s leading manufacturer of low-energy air-conditioning units) and Suntech (the world’s third largest solar energy company) are not among these companies as they have just joined the Climate Group’s global climate coalition.  As members to this coalition, the three companies will make ambitious emissions reduction commitments beyond what is currently required by law.  China Mobile, for instance, has set itself the target of reducing its energy intensity by 40%, double the national target, reports The Guardian.

Auto & TransportationGeely, China’s first independent auto maker, is looking to follow BYD Auto’s footsteps to export its electric vehicles (EV) technology.  Read the full story