The Washington Post’s recent article on the “The rise and fall of the U.S. wind industry, in one chart” showed the correlation between the federal wind production tax credit (PTC) and annual installations of wind. When the credit is allowed to expire, installations plummet. When it is renewed, a boom period ensues. This has resulted in an uneven, “saw-tooth” pattern of wind growth that among other things generates anxiety about the future of the market. How, might you ask, does this compare to China – where wind capacity doubled for four of the last six years? Here’s one chart:
Try for a moment to imagine how many different materials there are in the technologies that you use every day. Most cell phones, for example, contain materials like indium, gallium, silicon, tantalum, lithium and nedodymium, which probably didn’t make your list. Moreover, new and complex technologies necessitate the use of increasingly exotic materials; an “exotic” material being located in a zone of the periodic table at which you have probably never looked (neodymium is perhaps one of them!).But why should we care about some elements that many of us didn’t even know existed? We should care because the supply of many of these so-called “critical materials” is constrained or difficult to predict, often due to scarcity, political instability in the countries where they are produced, or environmental concerns related to their extraction. Without action to resolve the issues affecting critical element supply, the technological progress we currently enjoy may be interrupted. Continue reading
New cars are being put on the road in Chinese cities at an unprecedented rate, causing new traffic congestion challenges across the country. Furthermore, Chinese cities are typically denser than their Western counterparts, the driving skills of newly licensed motorists are often poor, and illegally parked cars clog shoulders and sidewalks. All of these factors give Beijing in particular the dubious distinction of the world’s worst commute. They also add to the city’s traffic-related woes as smoggy skies hinder visibility and contribute to respiratory health issues for residents.
This week, MIT will host a presidential energy debate with senior advisors for the two candidates — Joseph Aldy (Obama) and Oren Cass (Romney). This post is part of a ScienceWonks series to raise awareness of the debate and critical issues facing our nation’s energy future.
Rhetoric about “getting tough” with China on trade is heating up during this election season as both parties try to articulate credible strategies for kick-starting the struggling U.S. economy. Not surprisingly, some of the most prominent recent examples of U.S. administration trade actions against China have been in the increasingly profitable clean energy sector, which totaled $263 billion globally in 2011. The U.S. is right to watch what China is doing on energy policy – and should continue to advocate for a level playing field – but perhaps in China’s impressive support for this industry there are also some lessons for a comprehensive U.S. national energy strategy. In this post, I will debunk some of the myths and miracles of China’s energy policy, making a case for U.S.-China cooperation (and healthy competition).