China and the United State should put aside debating politics and focus on the benefits that cooperation on energy can bring, experts say.
US and China are too focused on political debate, said Nora Mead Brownell, director of the board at the National Grid.
“We’ve had a history of cooperation on many important issues. And I think it’s critical for the business community, for the entrepreneurial community to get together and define solutions in a way that do not get to a place where we’re facing political debates over such critical, important decisions,” she said in remarks at a forum on Sept 26 in New York where leaders discussed the halt of China-US cooperation since the financial crisis in 2008.
“We’ve seen much to our great surprise the discovery of shale gas in the United States. It is a source of enormous value, value that I think can be shared in the world market,” she said, “but it’s also potentially a source of contention and political debate unless we all look to the future and the larger, greater good in which we can all share.”
Brownell joined a panel discussion on competition and cooperation on energy between US and China, part of an all-day event held by the China Europe International Business School and Chengwei Capital at the Metropolitan Club in New York on Sept 26, titled China-US Cooperation: Opportunities in Times of Mirror Image Rebalance.
Brownell, once a former commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said that instead of talking about political rhetoric, China and US need to realize that both countries have “absolutely identical” goals, which is to use innovation and technology to benefit generations to come.
“I see that more in an opportunity in business and economic and market-driven discussion than I do by allowing people who don’t think about these needs and face the issues that we face everyday, as we think about what is the next best thing to do for the market,” she said. “I don’t think the great innovators of either of our worlds ever sat back and said, ‘I’m doing this and I want it to not be available to everyone. I’m doing this because I just want this for the advantage of a few.’ Great innovators think, ‘How can I change the world for everyone?’”
Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar Inc., said that politics is a dominating theme with US-China when it comes to solar energy, particularly with solar panels.
“When there’s a change, some companies choose to adapt. Unfortunately, there are some companies-and I won’t mention the name, but everyone knows it-they refuse to change, and they decide to challenge,” he said, referring to the US arm of German solar manufacturer SolarWorld AG, who filed a petition against Chinese solar panel manufacturers for dumping their products in the US and receiving subsidies from the Chinese government.
Qu said that Chinese manufacturers becoming more competitive than US ones in the area of solar panel production is creating more jobs in the US, particularly in the downstream market, which includes installation and lease financing.
“So for the job creation, it’s actually a plus, because most of the jobs, and statistics say that around 150,000 to 200,000 solar jobs are in downstream,” he said. “Why would US choose to risk the 150,000 downstream jobs for 300 upstream jobs? The answer is politics.”