The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Solar Power Pollution Causes Riots in China

President Obama’s much ballyhooed green jobs don’t just move to China; they sometimes aren’t even green. The Chinese government has responded with violence as villagers protest against a polluting solar panel factory near Shanghai. From The Guardian:

Although solar is seen as clean energy in terms of carbon emissions, the production of many components is energy intensive and polluting. Toxic discharges from the factory killed large numbers of fish and regulators have previously ordered the company to suspend operations, according to the domestic media. […]

The clash highlights the difficulty that China faces as it tries to clean up its environment, reduce its reliance on coal and secure “clean tech” export business. The country is the world’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels with about 70% of the global market, but overseas rivals say this dominant position has been achieved through unfair subsidies, low wages and lax environmental regulation.

Yet another green panacea turns out to be flawed.  Whether the magic green solution is ethanol, electric cars, or now solar panels, it turns out pretty regularly that green policy interventions don’t work as planned.  With so many crack ups and “unexpected” complications on relatively simple green ideas, is anyone surprised that the public is so little interested in hugely complex and completely untested green plans to redesign the global economy in the interests of carbon reduction?

Oddly, environmentalists who are so sensitive to the dangers of disturbing the intricate patterns of natural systems, have no qualms at all about crude interventions in the delicate and complex economic ecology.  It’s a strange but persistent form of blindness that severely restricts the ability of the green movement to get anything constructive accomplished.

Published on September 19, 2011 3:22 pm
  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I am reminded of the unintended consequences of any interference in the free enterprise system. We see this in famine years, where the best farmers in good locations make windfall profits, which allow them to expand and grow more in the following years. And the interference by NGOs who ship in tons of food to feed the starving, which local warlords steal and sell on the local markets, depressing the prices, stealing the best farmers profits, and ensuring that next year will be a famine year as well. And so the NGOs with the best of intentions, are interfering with Supply and Demand, supporting corrupt warlords, and perpetuating starvation in the world’s poorest nations.
    The economy operates best when the burden of the Government Monopoly is lightest.

  • Corlyss

    Nothing is quite so satisfying as watching envirothugs almost come to blows about solar panel arrays in the logical locations, i.e., vast deserts like the Mojave. The one set of greenies wants them there, the other set objects to the environmental impact on sensitive desert ecosystems.