While President Trump is talking about retrenchment, President Xi is pushing to expand China’s international reach by investing over $1 Trillion to build a transportation and economic corridor across Asia to Europe. The economic benefits are already bearing fruit for General Electric with sales of $2.3 Billion in equipment to China with another $7 Billion in possible sales by next year.
Infrastructure investment has historically served as open platforms for economic and geo-political stability. Currently China has an overcapacity for the production of solar panels, steel and many other products. Utilizing these resources to build railroads from Laos to Budapest is the largest transportation and energy development project in history.
The One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR) may not have an acronym that spells success, but the pay off, if it is successful, will ensure that China can ship products and influence with ease. It envisions a Silk Road Economic Belt, encompassing railroads stretching from China to Europe to host trade and infrastructure, and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, establishing sea-based network of shipping lanes and port developments throughout Asia, Pacific and Africa.
GM, Ford and other companies are building technical development centers in China to piggyback on this huge marketing opportunity. China is committed transforming their transportation infrastructure to 25% electric cars by 2025. This will drive technological development and create new markets in alignment with the Paris Agreement.
The complexity of getting over sixty countries to agree to Chinese investment and Chinese owned infrastructure circumnavigating their borders is by itself a political and economic victory. The risks are high, but the long-term rewards can enable China to look back at Mr. Xi as a bold visionary who is building roads and bridges while Trump is obsessed in building a wall and renouncing Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest trade agreement in the world.
One of the architects of OBOR is Wang Huning, former college professor and now leading communist party official. He is well traveled and has had conversations with many American academics and government officials. Wang has never run a state ministry or governed a province, yet he is a key figure behind Xi’s centralized power through enforcing his theory of neo-authoritarianism. He became a top member of government in October 2017, joining the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee. The New York Times called him, “an ideologue focused on rivalry with the United States.” Exploring his past and following his footsteps will draw a path to the future of China.
Together, the 64 nations involved with OBOR account for 62% of the world’s population and 30% of its economic output.  To date, all these nations have consumed less energy and inserted less carbon into the atmosphere than the United States. As OBOR is rolled out the technology utilized will be modern and more efficient than legacy infrastructure in the western world.
The United States has no game plan to expand our reach, our markets or even recognize the Paris Agreement. Instead, within two months the Trump administration will implement an import tariff on all solar panels that will cripple the economics of the solar industry. This will put people out of work and increase our dependence on fossil fuels – an inverse policy of the Chinese, unsustainable and more expensive in the long run.
In Montana, the Northern Cheyenne Indians successfully fought the coal industry and embraced solar energy. Solar power, to the Cheyenne, embodied the worldview they were raised with, “You don’t take and take and take. And you don’t consume and consume and consume. You take what you need and then you put back into the land.”
Red Cloud, is a Cheyenne solar entrepreneur. He tells his students that deriving energy in a way that heals and protects the natural world is not just about employment. It’s a continuation of, “what the ancestors shed blood for, we always fought for-the earth.” He is training them not just to be technicians, but to be “Solar Warriors.” Reinvestment in renewable energy was seen a long-term solution to save money and protect the earth.
Our carbon footprint is an undisputable historical fact. If we put a price on our past consumption and the cost of climate change, the debt would bankrupt the United States. To pay off our injustice to the planet we would have to reabsorb our CO2 and find a way to keep the planet from warming, killing coral reefs and melting polar ice caps.
At Solar Forward we have common goals with the Cheyenne. We are also “Solar Warriors.” Our staff is constantly working to enable our clients to have access to affordable renewable energy by lobbying legislators and negotiating with stakeholders to keep our solar installation business alive. We only know how to slow the advance of global warming; we don’t know how to reverse it. And we don’t have clear support from our government.
At times I am jealous of the Chinese. Clearly their vision is bold and they have much work to do, but they have goals that are cleaner and more defined from top down. Trump is threatening to build a wall that might have solar panels on it. Offers a Trojan horse on Twitter, while China is building a modern beltway into the future, send a clear message that ignorance is bliss.
We only have one Earth. Our responsibility for the next four billion years is to insure Earth is healthy as long as the sun keeps sending photons through space for us to catch.
You can call us photon farmers, solar warriors or renewable energy capitalists; Solar Forward is trying to save the planet, one solar system at a time.
Mark Smith, CEO, Solar Forward