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China confronts global warming dilemma

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The first goal is for China to derive at least 15 percent of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020. (The government since has talked of a more informal target of 20 percent.) The second is to reduce energy intensity per unit of GDP by 20 percent over a five-year period.

Experts have been impressed with China’s green ambitions. Julian L. Wong, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., notes that China’s installed wind power has doubled in each of the past four years.

John Doerr, a prominent American venture capitalist, and Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, enthused in a recent Washington Post column: “China’s commitment to developing clean energy technologies and markets is breathtaking.”

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has compared China’s clean energy investments to a “new Sputnik.”

Yet even as it pursues alternative energy, China will likely continue to be one of the world’s leading polluters. Carbon-intensive coal, which is abundant and easily mined with cheap labor in China, is expected to supply about 70 percent of the country’s energy over the next 10 years.

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