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China is spending nearly three times as much on clean energy as the U.S.

Whether it's the smartphone market or high-speed rail, China has either surpassed the U.S. or is expected to surpass the U.S. in many sectors.  According to a new report [PDF] by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, clean energy is no exception to this trend; 2012 marketed the first year China assumed the title of king of clean energy, bumping the U.S. down the stack.

The U.S was clean energy's "biggest loser", according to the Pew report, with American clean energy investment (which excludes research and development spending) falling to $35.6B USD in 2012 -- a 37 percent plunge.  That fall helped trigger an 11 percent decline in global spending, which dipped to $269B USD in 2012.

Meanwhile in China the opposite was happening.  Owing to the strong growth, Asia's clean energy sector grew 16 percent as the global market contracted.  Buoyed by China, clean energy investment in the sector soared to $101B USD last year -- 42 percent of the global total. 

Clean energy spending
Fueled by China, Asia became the top clean energy region in 2012. [Image Source: PRC]

The Pew report comments:

The competition among countries for clean energy leadership is resulting in a reshuffling of the old order. In 2012, China advanced its position as the epicenter of clean energy finance, attracting $65.1 billion in investment, 20 percent more than in 2011 and an unsurpassed 30 percent of the G-20 total.  It garnered 25 percent of all solar energy investment, setting a one-year record with $31.2 billion invested. China also accounted for 37 percent of all wind energy investment ($27.2 billion) and 47 percent of the investment in the “other renewable energy” category ($6.3 billion) that includes small hydro, geothermal, marine, and biomass.
All told, 23 GW of clean energy generating capacity was installed in China in 2012.

Although the United States invented many of the leading clean energy technologies, it continues to underperform in investment and deployment relative to the size of its economy and its history in the field. 

China has been spending big on nuclear, wind, and solar power installations.

China windmills
Chinese windmills turn on a hillside. [Image Source: Thinkstock]

Aside from China, developing nations also showed strong growth.  Nations outside the pack of the world's twenty richest nations -- the so-called Group of 20, or G-20 -- saw roughly $20B USD in green energy spending, a 50 percent rise.  Solar and other technologies are increasingly being considered to provide low-cost power in remote regions.

Speaking of solar, that's one bright spot amid the general decline in investment.  With heavy investment in small, residential projects, solar only declined 1.6 percent to $76.8B USD in 2012.  A record 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of solar power was installed in the U.S. last year.  Residential solar saw a 42 percent growth.

The U.S. and others have long cited China as the world's biggest polluter. Now it can revel in the distinction of being the "greenest" power-producing superpower.

Source: Pew Research Center [PDF]

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By RedemptionAD on 4/23/2013 12:16:58 PM , Rating: 5
Yet another blatant sign that the USA is becoming a shadow of it's former self, and DC is swimming down the river denial.
1. Economy= China
1. Green Energy= China
1. Total Debt= USA

By Ammohunt on 4/23/2013 12:55:22 PM , Rating: 3
Not to mention china has the worst pollution in the world they need to come up with alternative sources of energy to survive.

By yomamafor1 on 4/23/2013 2:27:14 PM , Rating: 4
And we don't?

USA used to be the largest contributor of green house gases, and still is on the basis of per capita.

The only reason China has worse pollution is because of their population and their relatively smaller land mass compared to United States. Furthermore, EPA has done a relatively good job in reducing pollution. After all, it wasn't that long ago when Los Angeles was covered in smog.

I don't understand why majority of the American kept their head in the sand, thinking that the days where everyone drives big cars / trucks with big engines are coming back again. They're not coming back. With the rise of China and India means perpetual increase in fuel prices. That's not going to change.

USA has always been known for our technical advantage, even if it is shrinking by the day. Shouldn't we use that technical advantage and develop other way of transport, so when even residents of China and India can no longer afford cheap fuel, we can jump in and sell that technology?

By 91TTZ on 4/23/2013 3:26:50 PM , Rating: 3
The only reason China has worse pollution is because of their population and their relatively smaller land mass compared to United States.

That's not the only reason. They also have hardly any emission controls on their factories.

By Solandri on 4/23/2013 4:35:34 PM , Rating: 5
The only reason China has worse pollution is because of their population and their relatively smaller land mass compared to United States.

No, it's because they get the vast majority of their energy from coal, which is by far the dirtiest and worst energy source available. China's coal consumption almost equals that of the rest of the world combined. Put all that coal pollution into 6.4% of the world's landmass and you get a very, very dirty country.

Also, while U.S. energy consumption per capita is higher, energy intensity (consumption per $ of GDP) is lower. In other words, the U.S. is more efficient, and gets more useful stuff done/made per unit of energy consumed. That's really the metric you want to minimize, not energy consumption per capita or overall energy consumption. Despite consuming more energy, a farmer who burns 2 units of energy to produce 3 bushels of corn is preferable to a farmer who burns 1 unit of energy to make 1 bushel of corn.

And if you're curious, Europe and Japan are about 2/3rds that of the U.S. (i.e. more efficient), but that's partly because of their higher population density (less energy used for transportation).

USA has always been known for our technical advantage, even if it is shrinking by the day. Shouldn't we use that technical advantage and develop other way of transport, so when even residents of China and India can no longer afford cheap fuel, we can jump in and sell that technology?

You have to understand exactly what's going on. The U.S. isn't falling behind. Developing countries are catching up. The long-term steady state of all this is there will be no technological nor economic difference between the U.S., Europe, China, and India. We will all be equally advanced (differences caused by politics aside).

While its advantageous for us to try to stay ahead technologically during the transition, I think it's a misguided way to interpret all this. As the rest of the world catches up technologically, the advantage will become smaller and smaller. If your motivation rests upon that advantage, your motivation will likewise become smaller. A better goal is to do stuff simply for the sake of improving technology and the economy, not so our country can beat out another country in some pen!s-measuring contest.

By Belard on 4/27/2013 5:00:00 AM , Rating: 2
Its not a WASTE.... dirty energy is NOT free. It costs money to mine, drill, transport oil and goal. Hint, OIL reserves are running out... why the hell drill in the ocean if there is plenty of oil on land?! The cost of off shore drilling is far more than land.

The Wind will always blow and the sun will always shine... its a WASTE to not USE IT!

By retrospooty on 4/23/2013 12:50:53 PM , Rating: 3
The US govt. is failing in one major way... Spending too much money. Spending more money on green energy is not going to help that. They needd to be spending less in ALL areas, including the money pit that is green energy.

RE: The sky is falling... I mean the USA is falling.
By Mint on 4/23/2013 5:48:38 PM , Rating: 2
If your goal is to increase unemployment, sure, you can do that.

The private sector isn't going to create demand out of thin air. Today it has cheap, idle, plentiful capital and labor yet is barely hiring as fast as population growth. What do you think is going to happen when people/companies dependent on gov't employment/contracts lose income/revenue? More layoffs.

By KCjoker on 4/23/2013 5:59:33 PM , Rating: 2
It would get worse before it gets better. However that's far better than the alternative which we are doing now. Right now we just going further and further down. Rip the band aid off and get it over with.

RE: The sky is falling... I mean the USA is falling.
By Mint on 4/23/2013 8:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
There's no indication that it will ever get better. The current trajectory is ugly, but it's better than making it worse.

The bandaid has already been ripped off. Private debt growth has been a crutch for the US economy for 25 years before the recession. Whatever high income earners didn't want to spend/invest was put in bank accounts (or near equivalents), and it was the banks' responsibility to lend all of it back out so that the economy didn't stagnate.

It too much now. The banks have proven they can't lend that much without screwing up, and even if they were less greedy/deceptive, IMO it's an impossible task anyway. Even with with near 0% interest rates, people with money continue to save as opposed to consuming.

Without more consumption from those who can afford it, there will be no reason to ramp up hiring for current production and no reason to ramp up investment for future production. That's the bottom line.

Lower gov't spending and does nothing to solve this fundamental demand issue in the short or long term; in fact, it makes it worse.

By shaidorsai on 4/27/2013 8:14:04 AM , Rating: 2
Your line of reasoning is the exact reason the economy in the US is not recovering. Government does not create jobs or stimulate the economy. Every dollar the government grabs from someones paycheck shrinks the economy in the private sector through loss of spendable income by the person who actually earned the dollar. Government taxation and spending is a drain on every aspect of the economy with no benefit to anyone but government workers. There is no expansion of the private sector, nor will there be, until government stops stealing private cash and lets the people who earned it go out any buy products they need.

It is absolutely mind boggling that people buy into this ridiculous idea that government taxation and borrowing (debt) is somehow going to make anything better. Nothing will get better in the US until government spending and taxation are both reduced dramatically.

By Flunk on 4/24/2013 9:12:06 AM , Rating: 2
Have you seen the chart of where funding goes? Military is where the cuts need to be, it's the biggest expenditure by far and a lot of that money goes to pork-barrel projects.

By lelias2k on 4/23/2013 1:44:17 PM , Rating: 1
Pointless to say this to the average American, who has had his head so far up his ass for the past 30 years that he can't see all the crap happening right in front of their eyes...

By NovoRei on 4/23/2013 6:42:30 PM , Rating: 4
Welcome to the capitalism where interests are driven by corporations, politicians are puppets and the people are alienated (by food and entertainment).

The difference being China has a poor population which was not spoiled yet as US and the latter has not found (or does not want) a way of living similar no Norway.

By BRB29 on 4/23/2013 10:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
You can look at it that way. The reality is China is on the rise and US is stuck at the same level. If you look at GDP, inflation, etc... we are actually doing pretty good compared to most countries during this past recession. China prospered because they use the recession to their advantage. People wanted inferior(cheap) goods and China was there to provide. Then they intentionally inflate their currency to help all their businesses increase profits.

The wording for this article is kind of deceiving. It says green energy "investment". That doesn't mean China has more clean energy. The other factor is China is reluctant to import oil for their industrial growth since they are inflating their currency. That means they have to pay other people for oil and end up paying more because their currency is worth less.

China also have way more people than the US. It would make sense that they would invest more.

Per capita income, gross GDP, % of skilled labor, etc... they are nowhere near the US.

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