Want to be on top of alternative energy? Learn Chinese

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October 3, 2009

By Bob Difley

solar arrayThe shift away from fossil fuels to alternative fuels like bio diesel and diesel fuel made from algae–which is now being tested in airplane jet engine–as well as the the expansion of alternative energy sources like wind and solar to power the coming electric vehicle age is exemplified by the opening of a giant solar energy center by Silicon Valley based Applied Materials, Inc. and the government’s decision to invest up to $60 billion annually in alternative energy.

Wait a minute. It seems that Applied Material’s solar center will not be providing jobs and energy in Silicon Valley, or even in California–or anywhere in the USA. Instead, it will be in Xian, China. And the government’s $60 billion dollar investment in alternative energy, that’s the Chinese government, not the one in Washington, D.C.

Not only is China where the alternative energy action is, but analysts predict that in as little as two years China will be the world’s largest consumer of solar energy. Β And by 2013 their clean technology sector could top one trillion dollars annually.

“If the US doesn’t get serious, China’s going to own this industry,” says a spokesman from Applied Materials. “The get that these are the industries of the 21st century,” says Silicon Valley tech investor Alan Salzman (whose investments include Tesla Motors, BrightSource Energy, and Solazyme). “The level of support for green tech there is breathtaking. It exceeds anything done here on a state or federal level.”

Other green tech innovators s are considering moving to where the actions is–to China. And so is investment money–including Warren Buffett–who has recently increased his holdings in a large Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, where electric vehicle start-ups are growing like weeds. It seems the rest of the world is getting a big jump on us while our government still diddles around with trying to get clean tech bills through the legislature.Β If we Americans don’t get serious about alternative energy, we will quickly lose whatever advantages we have on the international market.

Brazil is far ahead of us in replacing fossil fuels with ethanol. Denmark is powering a great part of the nation with wind power. Spain and Germany are way ahead with solar power. Will we wait until we are too far behind to catch up?

navistar_electric_truckHow does all this affect RVers. Take Navistar, that owns Monaco Coach, for example. They announced that they will be building an all-electric delivery vehicle in Elkhart. Delivery vehicles are the precourser to building RVs, which with their Monaco division, would be a natural fit. But how long do you think they will concentrate on trying to develop a new market in the US, i.e. electric RVs, when they can probably sell more easily all the product they can make, as well as finance expansion, just in China. If you were Navistar’s CEO, what decisions would you make? Think about it.

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  2. Bilmo

    Just had breakfast with a couple from China. They both spoke flawless English and said that English is now manditory in Chinese school and that nearly all young Chinese speak English. guess they are smart enough to know that we are too lazy to learn to speak a foreign language. It will make it easier to take us over when we can’t pay our debts to them!

  3. Kriilin Namek

    Setting us for a fall, how, by practicing capitalism? And about our big strong American brother who will defend us…just what do you think fighters and tanks run on huh, love? Besides, defense has been continental in North America since 1945, and I’ve been inside Cheyenne Mountain. All I’m saying is that we’re gonna sell our commodity to someone, if its not America its someone else.

    And while I’m on the topic, here’s where you got the uranium for the Manhattan Project and the military hardware that doesn’t burn gas:


  4. gmas

    Canada will pull it out of the ground as fast as China will buy it….

    and y ou want us to WHAT??? canada… Sounds to me like your setting yourself up for a fall… and will once again …depend on the people you find difficult … to again defend you against the people that your selling it too… when you cut them off… they will come visit… you know that.. don’t you…

    Talk about blood oil… only thing is .. how much you going to bleed before saying OPS big time? when china goes to war with ya.. using your oil to make you bleed?

  5. Kriilin Namek

    A Canadian’s perspective:

    Ah yes China, I bet the toxins produced by the Chinese manufacture of those “green” solar cells will be dealt with responsibly, lol. China, with the wonderful green Three Gorges Dam project, displacing over a million people:


    While your president fellates every third world tin-pot dictator in the M.E. China’s industrial might keeps growing, and Iran’s close to The Bomb.

    When the time comes to beat ploughshares back into swords, America won’t know how. I hope its after my lifetime.

    p.s. To you foreign (I mean Europeans AND Americans, I’m neither) haters of Canadian tar sands oil, enjoy your “blood oil” from the M.E. Canada will pull it out of the ground as fast as China will buy it. We’d rather sell it to our American friends, but this option is becoming increasingly difficult.

  6. gmas

    Bob.. you won’t need to know the pledge of aligence … in china either your with ’em or your off to the salt mine… where no one cares about if you do or don’t know politics…

  7. gmas

    Min…. do you know Bob? He is looking for someone to teach him the new national lang… too funny πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

    begining to wonder if he knows much about RV’n

  8. GMAs

    Bob… next flight that is going to be testing the bio fuel is next tuesday. They are looking for pax… you should be on that flight… oh ya the other one got up to about 100 ft and flamed out.. something about it wasn’t quite what they thought it to be…

    This one is going to be run on corn syrup… so it should flow…

    You know that bio jet fuel was tested by several of the people at United Airlines… at San Francisco…. then the mechanics found out that it meaured about 180 proof… yep they ran out of hooch so they went out and drained about 5 gallons out of the jet and brought it in…

    Gave some to mike’y and he thought it was good.. so the rest got drunk on it…

    Next morning the chief mechanic noticed that mike’y was not their… suddenly a cell phone rang.. sure enough it was mike’y … who said… he was was in New York.. when the chief asked .. how he got their.. he said… he went outside to light his cigar.. and passed gass at the same time… next thing he knew he was in New York… πŸ˜€

    Ok so that was not funny… can we get back to RV’n… and leave obama to change our world for us… you know the next war we have will be with china…hmmm…

  9. Ronald

    Bob, Bob, Bob,

    Here you go again, drinking the koolaid of promoting how those dang communist’s are beating our capitalist butts at technology!! Don’t you know by now that our problem is our Socialist/Nazi/Communist government getting in the way of our holy Capitalists and creating all the road blocks to their research and development for future technological needs?!? Get our government bureucrats off the tax roles, and let our capitalist businesses back to doing what they do best, raping our environment and our pocket books!! Besides, what in h**l DOES this have to do with RVing!

    Keep up the good work!!

  10. Good article It’s too bad that china sends all their stuff to the U.S. and we buy it and try to use it !!! Quality of their products SUCKS What happend to the made in the good old U.S.A, products NAFTA??? Or some other foreign deal ??? I feel sorry for the KIDS now days all the things that we had as kids are long gone and forgotten!! I had a blow out on a china made tire that was only 3yrs old this weekend it was what came on my fifthwheel and will try to find a good maker of trailer tires here in the good old USA. MONEY MONEY MONEY Talks and CHINA has OURS !!!!!!

  11. Dennis Linsley

    The real problem with moving to alternative energy sources is cost. Not to the user but to the supplier. Based on the current availability of energy (coal, oil etc) they are unable to compete using alternative sources. Even Nuclear power is not cost effective to industry. None of it will be until we begin to run our of carbon energy sources (note natural gas is a partial carbon energy source). And then it will be too late to build the non-carbon infrastructure. That’s where government comes in, they lead, suggest, reward and sometime demand change when it is really necessary – like Right Now! It is not the loss or the cost which is driving this. It is the very real threat of global warming. China knows they need more and more power every day as their economy expands. They also see the hand writing on the wall and as Communists they can force the issue. Here the government can only offer a swift kick in the pants. Perhaps they need to warm up their leg.

  12. Carl Spitz

    If China is so commited to solar why did they just take a large investment in a Canadian oil sand project? Solar has its places but large vehicles is not one of them.We should let the private sector do what they do best and keep government out of it they are the problem not the solution. Any time the government does something it cost 2 or 3 times more.

  13. George

    Baloney, Jeff. Communism has nothing to do with vision to see the possibilities in a new technology. Here, we have too many corporations throwing roadblocks in the way, via buying legislators, in order to keep the status quo, no matter what the ultimate cost. Anyone who doesn’t see that, in my opinion, is not in touch with reality. We all know that the free market has only our best interests at heart. That’s why things are so rosy right now.

  14. Ron

    As far as building an all electric RV. It wasn’t that long ago mobile phones were the size of a brief case. A computer that has the memory of a lap-top would’t fit in a 12’x12′ room. They will be built if there is a market for them.
    Its all about economics ” Money talks & BS walks”

  15. Joeseph

    That Navistar delivery truck looks no bigger than a van. How are you going to build an RV off of that?

    Electric just is not suited to large vehicles, longer trips (miles) and a lot of weight. The batteries weight too much, take up a lot of space, and get too expensive very quickly. Have there been any successful gas/electric hybrids in the US that are bigger than a small sedan? No. Have there been any successful all electric vehicles that are bigger than a small sedan? No. It’s the laws of physics, not a lack of investment or a conspiracy by big oil.

    If electric RV’s were even a pipe dream, then companies like UPS and FedEx would be all over that technology. Electric delivery vehicles are suited for lots of stop and go driving in densely populated areas. That doesn’t sound much like an RV to me.

    We are getting out behinds kicked in a lot of new power areas by foreign countries. Try to get a new nuclear plant built here, or a natural gas pipeline (for clean Natural Gas trucks, busses, and even maybe RV’s) built here. The same people who want to save the planet from carbon will line up to stop the construction of no or low carbon energy plants. Go figure!

  16. Tom Amrozowicz

    and France and Japan are far ahead of us with nuclear power. With GE supplying reactors to France.

  17. Francis X. Schilling

    Thanks for the article, Bob. For those who don’t care about vanishing cheap oil supplies (be they Canadian or Bulgarian) or the huge amount of US debt already held by the Chinese I am sure this is a don’t care. For those of us who live in the *reality* of an oil supply that will continue to decline in quantity as well as in ease of extraction, a future of soaring prices is inevitable. Even optimistic estimates are loathe to go out more than 40 years and long before that prices will put gas and diesel well beyond what anyone can conceive of today.

    Of course, the head in the (tar) sand types don’t really care what the future holds since most of them will be off this rock by then if I read the average age of the majority of RVers correctly. Hell, I’m one of those old b*st*rds, but I choose to give a damn about future generations and what sort of world they inherit. When you couple our insatiable energy consumption with an economy that produces less and less and imports more and more (from places like uh … CHINA!) the handwriting is on the wall for all but the pathologically entrenched ideologues.

    Letting China take the lead in any emerging energy technology is a bad idea and a long-term recipe for failure. Unless, of course, you’re fine with that …

  18. Vegasdan

    We will all need to learn Chinese soon enough as our IOUs to China approach 1 trillion dollars. China might be investing in alternative energy, the fact is they, not us, are one of the worst polluters on the planet.

  19. Steve White

    The Chinese introduced the Yuneec e430 electric Light Sport Airplane at Oshkosh this year. A play on the word “unique” and other manufacturers are planning on using the Yunecc engine in both American and European designs. Performance is still not the same as internal combusion, but not far behind either. That ought to get somebody’s attention. It was the hit of the show. It is early days, but the Chinese have the jump on us.

  20. Tom

    I agree with Jeff, besides I don’t see an exploding RV market in China, they just don’t have that kind of freedom. We also must remember the largest supplier of our foreign oil is Canada, hardly a threat to our security.

  21. Howard

    Foreign oil dependence is the single greatest threat to the U.S. security. Energy independence should be our number one goal. This isn’t rocket science, it just requires leadership with commitment.

  22. Jeff

    Bob, The reason that China is investing 30 billion in this is because they are Communists. If there was a viable cost effective solution here in the states, we would be on it! Or should I say the free market would be all over it. In Spain “green jobs” have reduced employment opportunities.

    All that being said, not sure how this applies to RV or camping.. or are you just getting on your soapbox again? Believe the rhetoric that Obama spews.. For those of us that live in reality, “green jobs” will be a reality when the free market decides it is cost effective enough.