Friedman’s column makes the crucial point that being at the forefront of energy transformation is not just about heading off the consequences of global warming, it’s about being a global leader in the energy technologies which will dominate future markets:
inevitably some young Chinese would say: “Hey, you Americans got to grow dirty for 150 years, using cheap coal and oil. Now it is our turn.”
It’s a hard argument to refute. Eventually, I decided that the only way to respond was with some variation of the following: “You’re right. It’s your turn. Grow as dirty as you want. Take your time. Because I think America just needs five years to invent all the clean-power technologies you Chinese are going to need as you choke to death on pollution. Then we’re going to come over here and sell them all to you
And he reports that China is indeed getting the point already:
China is increasingly finding that it has to go green out of necessity because in too many places, its people can’t breathe, fish, swim, drive or even see because of pollution and climate change. Well, there is one thing we know about necessity: it is the mother of invention.And that is what China is doing, innovating more and more energy efficiency and clean power systems. And when China starts to do that in a big way — when it starts to develop solar, wind, batteries, nuclear and energy efficiency technologies on its low-cost platform — watch out. You won’t just be buying your toys from China. You’ll be buying your energy future from China.