In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovation meme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”
But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:
INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.
China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.
Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will have little impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:
“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.
“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.
China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.
“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”
Insee’s office called ThinkProgress and noted that Inslee’s interview with Greta Van Susteren actually took place last August. As such, it is unclear whether Inslee borrowed Inglis’s phrase regarding China eating America’s lunch, which Inglis iterated in November.