What China’s 2 GW Solar Plans Say About US Energy Policy

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

You’d think we’d get tired of China kicking our collective ass, after, oh, the last three decades.

But you would be wrong.

Apparently our leaders (cough, cough) don’t have a problem with our economy perpetually shedding jobs like a Husky sheds fur in June. Perhaps it’s because Congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats have so much loot from corporate donors padding their posteriors. Maybe they don’t feel the boot on their butt the way working stiffs do.

The hardest recent blow came yesterday and was duly celebrated by the media: A US-based company announced plans to build the world’s largest solar power plant. In China. At two gigawatts, the planned facility would have a generating capacity more than three times greater than the current #1 (in Spain).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of solar power and renewable energy in general. I publish an online news service on solar power, after all. And I certainly don’t have a problem with China going solar in a big way. The GHGs this project will eliminate helps the whole planet.

I don’t even have a problem with the American company, First Solar, building more manufacturing plants in Malaysia and China. That’s where the markets are, so it benefits everyone to build the panels nearby.

But, here’s my problem: The Chinese are going great guns on solar precisely because their government embraces policies to help renewable energy achieve “grid parity” — that is, economic competitiveness with polluting, global warming, catastrophically risky, disease-inducing, death-hastening sources of energy.

And we don’t. Simple as that.

A final kicker (pun very much intended): The Chinese are using capitalist measures (incentives) to overcome the market’s failure to internalize the true costs of burning coal.

We, on the other hand, have allowed industries to usurp the role of government and make command-and-control decisions that affect millions of workers and their families, the very air we breathe and the water we drink.

Call it government or call it industry, centralized power is still a bitch.


The full story of the enormous solar plant in China, including the SEC documents that spell out the details, is located here.







Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend