Our individual efforts to stem global warming seem mighty inconsequential when China is burning billions of tons of coal.
As we reflect back on the past year and look forward to a greener 2011, it is tempting to believe that environmental awareness is gradually and inexorably growing, as reflected in recent Green Prophet reports about recycling initiatives, solar projects, electric cars and other positive developments. Maybe that’s why it was so disappointing to read the following headlines in the Washington Post yesterday: China has seen the future, and it is coal and SUVs lead U.S. auto sales growth despite efforts to improve fuel efficiency.
Columnist George Will writes in the article about China:
Cowlitz County in Washington state is across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore., which promotes mass transit and urban density and is a green reproach to the rest of us. Recently, Cowlitz did something that might make Portland wonder whether shrinking its carbon footprint matters. Cowlitz approved construction of a coal export terminal from which millions of tons of U.S. coal could be shipped to Asia annually.
Both Oregon and Washington are curtailing the coal-fired generation of electricity, but the future looks to greens as black as coal. The future looks a lot like the past.
Half of the 6 billion tons of coal burned globally each year is burned in China. A spokesman for the Sierra Club, which in recent years has helped to block construction of 139 proposed coal-fired plants in America, says, “This is undermining everything we’ve accomplished.” America, say environmentalists, is exporting global warming.
The article about SUV sales suggests that the green revolution has yet to truly penetrate the soul of American consumers:
If U.S. consumers are in the midst of a green revolution, the news hasn’t reached car buyers.
With the end of the recession, bigger vehicles have made a comeback, sales figures show, and it has come at the expense of smaller, more-efficient cars.
“You have about 5 percent of the market that is green and committed to fuel efficiency,” said Mike Jackson, the chief executive of AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the country. “But the other 95 percent will give up an extra 5 mpg in fuel economy for a better cup holder.”
It is indeed frustrating to think that our small steps toward a cleaner environment in the Middle East have only a marginal impact when considering the huge and growing coal-burning economy in China and the American addiction to gas guzzlers. Nonetheless, as we usher in the year 2011, we must resolve to keep up our green advocacy. As the Talmudic saying goes: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”
Here are some happier reports from the Green Prophet: