Policy: Environment & Energy

Al Gore praises China for banning new coal plants

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Beltway Confidential,China,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Coal

Former Vice President Al Gore praised China for banning new coal plants and implementing cap-and-trade in certain areas of the country.

Gore made the comments during his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Wednesday while responding to a question regarding his opinion on China's smog problem.

“[The] Chinese Communist Party values stability, but public protests, demonstrations and serious unrest are beginning to threaten stability and what they call the ‘Mandate of Heaven,' ” Gore said.

The “Mandate of Heaven” is a political theory in China that divine authority would bless a just ruler and condemn an unjust ruler, allowing for him to be overthrown.

Gore goes on to praise the new president of China for hampering the coal industry.

“The good news is that their new president is seemingly determined to take action,” Gore said. “They have just banned any new coal-burning plants in three heavily polluted areas, and have implemented cap-and-trade in five cities and two provinces -- as pilot for a nationwide cap-and-trade for the whole country by 2015.”

Wonderful. There are areas of China that are heavily polluted, such as Harbin (which Gore mentioned), where banning additional coal plants might be necessary, but moving toward a cap-and-trade system will only slow China's growth, increase energy prices and do almost nothing to reduce pollution. But that fact seems to escape Gore.

"If they follow through, this will be a HUGE deal for global carbon pollution reduction,” Gore said. “And since folks literally are ‘holding their breath,’ maybe they will follow through. The bad news is that they are still increasing the amount of coal they burn.”

If China keeps increasing the amount of coal it burns, cap-and-trade will do nothing to reduce pollution, but it will hurt the economy. Gore is putting the idea of less pollution ahead of the actual needs of the Chinese economy.

China needs to reduce its pollution for the sake of its people, but crashing its economy will have an even more adverse impact.

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