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China's Green Tech Flop

If global greens are good for one thing, it is that as long as they are around the world will never run short of the ever-renewable resource of wishful thinking. Take these words, for example, from a Chinese CEO quoted in Tom Friedman’s NYT column last year:

“China was asleep during the Industrial Revolution. She was just waking during the Information Technology Revolution. She intends to participate fully in the Green Revolution.”

Unfortunately for green pundits and businessmen everywhere, intentions will only get you so far. The Chinese government appears to be reconsidering its preferential treatment for the developing electric car industry after concluding that progress towards a viable and popular product is lagging too far behind expectations. Like so many green policy ideas, it doesn’t work well in real life.

The “Chinese example” has been used by blue apologists and green enthusiasts to push the idea that government directed investment in programs like high speed rail and electric cars is something the US should also do.  But with the electric engine debate following China’s high speed train fiasco, the picture is starting to change.

China’s early flirtation with green technology increasingly looks like the same kind of subsidy-driven green policy flops western taxpayers know all too much about. Anyone who knows China knows that environmental issues are among the greatest challenges it faces; anyone who knows economics knows that subsidizing fashionably green tech diverts needed resources from more useful investments.

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