In this post Rien discusses the paradox that pervades so much of the high tech and cleantech world; the world that is supposed ot bring us a green and clean future free from the polluting industries of the “old” industrial paradigm. AND yet, so much of cleantech (and high-tech) depends in often critical ways on rare earths. Rare earth mining and refining is a very dirty business that has lead to some pretty horrible pollution, mainly in the Chinese regions in which it is mostly sourced from. This post focuses on a major new refining operation that Australian mining giant Lynas is trying to open in the country of Malaysia; an operation that is being opposed both by Malaysian activists and by some Australian Green Party activists as well. It forces us all to ponder this paradox and ask ourselves just how green is the green economy?
A new study that is sure to create some controversy proposes that the world can provide for all of its energy needs, including electric, transportation, heating/cooling energy needs using only wind, water, and solar power by 2030.
The way it is looking right now it sometimes seems like China is going to leave the US in the dust in the post fossil energy economy. Recent signs point to an increasingly green thinking China that is getting serious about greening its economy and making it much more energy efficient and one has a serious long term plan (and potential) to green its economy. Its wind and solar sectors are growing at a breakneck pace and are poised to continue doing so and within a few years — if this growth rate continues — will propel China into a world leading position in solar and wind energy production. In updated news the Pew Charitable Trusts has reported that China is now spending almost twice as much as the US is on investments in investments in clean renewable energy. Last year (2009) U.S. clean energy investments reached $18.6 billion, while China invested $34.6 billion in their clean tech energy.