China and US team for clean energy

Enter the Dragon.

China will play an integral part of a wide-ranging clean energy collaboration involving U.S. government agencies, the private sector and institutions of higher learning. Project members will research clean coal and electric vehicle technologies.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the announcement Thursday. The project, dubbed the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, will receive a total of about $100 million over the next five years. Half comes from the Chinese and another $25 million from the U.S. government. The balance will matched other partners.

A consortium led by the University of Michigan will head up vehicle research, while another, led by West Virginia University, will focus on clean coal. Each would contribute a match to the federal contribution.

"The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center will help accelerate the development and deployment of clean vehicle and clean coal technologies here at home," Chu said in a statement. "This new partnership will also create new export opportunities for American companies, ensure the United States remains at the forefront of technology innovation and help to reduce global carbon pollution."

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao formally announced the formation of the center during the president's trip to Beijing last November, DOE officials said. At the time, Secretary Chu joined Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang and Chinese National Energy Administrator Zhang Guobao to sign the protocol launching the center.

The United States and China are considered the world's top energy consumers, energy producers and greenhouse gas emitters. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben said on David Letterman's Late Show this week that China's making a serious effort to get into clean energy.

"The Chinese are doing more than we are," McKibben said. He also said that if the percentage of Chinese families with cars reached U.S. rates, the world would be in trouble. As it stands, various sources peg automobile ownership by the Chinese in the single digits.
However, the Chinese are catching up -- fast. The blog Early Warning took data from the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics and said if current trends continue, Chinese automobile ownership will surpass that of the United States by 2017.

Here are details of the two China-U.S. programs, according to DOE:

Clean coal: West Virginia University will lead a consortium that includes the University of Wyoming, University of Kentucky, Indiana University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Energy Technology Laboratory, World Resources Institute, U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, General Electric, Duke Energy, LP Amina, Babcock & Wilcox and American Electric Power. The consortium will develop and test new technologies for carbon capture and sequestration.

Clean vehicles: The University of Michigan will lead a consortium that includes Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Cummins, Fraunhofer, MAGNET, A123, American Electric Power, First Energy and the Transportation Research Center. The consortium will focus on electric vehicles.

The $25 million in U.S. government funding will be used to support work conducted by U.S. institutions and individuals only, DOE said. Chinese partners will be announced in the coming months by the Chinese government.

The announcement of another $12.5 million to a third winning consortium focused on building energy efficiency will be made this fall.

My use of Enter the Dragon is an overt reference to Bruce Lee's only U.S.-produced film and the only one that used his real voice in copies of his films released in this country. Lee left a mark on an entire generation and the industry, and it's possible China may do the same with clean energy.

There's always Return of the Dragon, which brought us Chuck Norris. Keeping this analogy, Norris would represent this country. And nobody messes with Chuck Norris.