I keep wondering, where is all the alternative energy research and development? I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I can’t help feeling that the West is not pursuing the subject with appropriate vigour. When I visited Kuwait in 2002, it struck me that here was a country with buckets of oil money and not much else — except, you know, wind, tides, sunlight and vast empty spaces. If I were Kuwait, I thought at the time, I’d be working and investing my ass off in order to own energy production once the oil starts to run out.
What brought this to mind was the concurrence of a story about an exhibition of ecofriendly cars in Shanghai (google “Habo Shanghai” after that yahoo link dies) and this entry on WorldChanging about a meeting between Kofi Annan and Lu Yongxiang, the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences:
…this would be of only passing interest except for the comment from an unnamed Chinese official:
“China will send experts to train local technicians in African countries, and will also host training classes and sponsor African experts to learn in China about agriculture, water power and renewable energies“. (Emphasis mine.)
China is clearly making renewable energy technologies a big part of its thrust to be a global power. Africa and other poor areas are terrific test-beds for Chinese renewable R&D, as system which would not be competitive in western markets can still find eager users. As Chinese renewable technologies get better, expect to see their target audience move from African aid to global consumers.
It seems a bit unscrupulous to be using poor nations as testing grounds, but then if the new tech is provided as aid any benefit it brings is a net plus. The strategy makes sense, and also makes me wonder how the world’s power balance will start to shift once dwindling supplies finally force us all off the fossil fuel teat.