Joel B. Eisen


Commentators believe that programs in China promoting development of new renewable energy capacity have produced astonishing achievements in a short period of time. Evoking the "space race" between the United States and the U.S.S.R. after the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, observers contend that the United States and China are in a "greentech race" to secure international leadership in the development and deployment of renewable energy. As U.S. Energy Secretary Chu has put it, many believe this is a modern "Sputnik moment." This Article finds that China's programs and initiatives are indeed leading to considerable success, but, using three different metrics (growth of China's greentech industry, levels of government support and financing, and installed capacity figures), finds that claims that China is "winning" the "greentech race" are currently overstated. Continuing on to discuss the link between climate change and national security, the Article concludes that the "greentech race" metaphor is counterproductive, and the "race" rhetoric should be downplayed for two major reasons. First, it would hamper continued cooperation between the United States and China on climate matters, which is essential given the world's pressing needs to address climate change. Second, using a detailed description of the security threat posed in each situation, the Article finds that the national security background to the growth of renewable energy is considerably different from that which prompted the growth of the United States' space industry after the Sputnik launch, and concludes that the "race" metaphor is an inappropriate fit to the present situation. Finally, the Article finds that the most productive response to concerns about the growth of renewable energy sector in China would be stronger programs and initiatives to encourage the renewable energy industry in the United States.