November 2, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: China must be a partner on ‘green energy’ plan


There was an important signature missing from the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy signed this week by the governors of Washington, Oregon and California, and the premier of British Columbia.

The dedication of Govs. Jay Inslee, John Kitzhaber and Jerry Brown, and Premier Christy Clark to a cleaner environment is already established. The action plan – are there inaction plans? – commits all to coupling that focus with a “green energy economy” that creates jobs and preserves resources for future generations.

The four states and provinces have some version of a “portfolio plan” requiring utilities to deliver significant and, in some cases, increasing shares of green energy to their consumers. By 2050, they want their targets set at the same level. But this is not groundbreaking stuff.

To shake things up, find that missing signatory: Lu Hao, newly appointed governor of Heilongjiang province in northeastern China.

The air in his capital, Harbin, was so polluted last week visibility fell to less than 40 feet. The airport and highways were closed, as were schools. Particulate levels were 20 times the threshold for unsafe air set by the World Health Organization.

All 11 million residents were warned to stay home.

A translated copy of the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy should be on Lu’s desk.

As opponents of proposed West Coast coal ports have argued repeatedly, some Harbin pollution will eventually end up in the Northwest airshed. Supporters of coal exports don’t disagree, but claim cheaper, cleaner U.S. coal would help the Chinese reduce particulate levels. We remain unconvinced that closing Washington ports to coal exports will deny the Chinese the American coal they want, if they want it.

Ports in British Columbia are expanding to do the job if a Washington port will not. Thanks, Premier Clark.

Export argument aside, this looks like a chance to engage Lu and other Chinese governors even if, at least initially, only as a courtesy. Coincidentally, Inslee will be in China to address a biotechnology gathering Nov. 12. Harbin is not on his agenda – he’s traveling south once the Beijing conference concludes – but some outreach to his Heilongjiang counterpart might be worthwhile.

Separately, Sen. Maria Cantwell has sponsored three U.S.-China Clean Energy Forums and is supporting an effort to reduce Chinese import duties on polysilicon like that produced in Moses Lake for the production of solar panels. A company in Harbin produces hybrid buses equipped with – solar panels.

Chinese provincial governors have nothing like the autonomy of their American and Canadian counterparts: Lu was appointed by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. The party’s propaganda outlets are already suggesting Lu is a rising star.

All the more reason to build a relationship now.

Instead of simply reiterating the environmentalism of the U.S. “Left Coast,” how about action that reaches out to China’s almost right coast (Heilongjiang is slightly inland)?

It just takes 4,700 miles of visibility.

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