Juan Cole

Here’s how Joe Manchin just positioned China to dominate green energy in the 21st century

Coal baron Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has succeeded in blocking the part of President Biden's Build Back Better bill that would have moved the U.S. electricity grid quickly to green energy.

This development is very bad news for the earth, since human beings burning coal, petroleum and natural gas contribute the bulk of the 6.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide that the United States farts out into the atmosphere every year, and which is causing the earth rapidly to heat up to uncomfortable levels. Although the U.S. only has 4% of the world's population, it is responsible for 20% of global CO2 emissions. And that is just today. Through modern history, only Britain has been more of a carbon hog than America.

Although we have poisoned the atmosphere with greenhouse gases that do not permit the sun's heat to escape back out into space at the same rate it used to, we have a cushion. The world's oceans absorb carbon dioxide. They will take in all the extra CO2 industrial civilization has put up there. There are two downsides, though. The oceans will become more acidic and that will kill a lot of marine life. And, the oceans have a limit to how much carbon dioxide they can absorb. If we exceed that limit, then whatever CO2 we put up there afterwards will stay in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, keeping the earth hot.

We're near to exceeding the limit?

We're near to exceeding the limit.

In fact, one man, Joe Manchin, likely just single-handedly put us over the limit. We needed to green our electric grid as soon as humanly and technologically possible. Manchin won't let us do that. The average surface temperature of the earth is not going to rise only 2.7° F. (1.5° C.). It is going to be more, and it is going to be for millennia.

It is hard to get people to understand what we're doing to the earth and to our children and grandchildren by burning coal and gas for electricity and petroleum for transportation. They are, typically, however easy to mobilize if someone points to an attacking enemy on the horizon.

So let me just point out that Manchin and the Big Carbon corporations that fund him are weakening America's economy and infrastructure in the face of China.

China's President Xi Jinping has just announced, Bloomberg reports, the world's largest wind-and-solar farm. This gargantuan facility will generate 400 gigawatts when it is finished, and 200 gigawatts of capacity will be built by 2025.

You know how much solar capacity the United States now has? 100 gigawatts. And how much wind? 125 gigawatts. So by 2025, if China's plans are realized, just this one facility in the western desert will match the entire wind-and-solar capacity of the U.S. as it now stands. And then by a few years later it will double it. One facility.

Not only that, but researchers from Harvard, Tsinghua University in Beijing, Nankai University in Tianjin and Renmin University of China in Beijing have found that China is on the cusp of a tipping point. By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage everywhere in China will be cheaper than coal. Indeed, solar plus battery is already cheaper than coal in 3/4s of the country. Especially given drops in the cost of battery storage, the paper concludes that China can get 43% of its total power from solar at less than 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2060, making the Communist Party's current plans for decarbonization by then plausible. Coal is usually figured at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, and solar plus battery is already less than that.

Harvard Engineering School's "News and Events" quotes one of the co-authors, Chris P. Nielsen, the executive director of the Harvard-China Project, as saying that most people now understand that decarbonizing is key to fighting the climate emergency. He adds, "Not as many realize that decarbonizing the power system is the linchpin, especially as more sectors become electrified, and that accommodation by the grid of renewable variability is the toughest part of the puzzle. It's a huge breakthrough, and not just for China, if storage can make solar power grid-compatible at a competitive cost."

The power system must be transformed, that is the provision of electricity. That is exactly what China is pushing full speed ahead on, and which Manchin just foiled in the U.S.

So what happens if you green the power system?

Shi Chen, the co-first author of the paper told "News and Events:"

"Our research shows that if costs continue to decline, especially for storage, there could be opportunities to power vehicles, heat or cool buildings, or to produce industrial chemicals, all using solar energy. This would extend the climate and environmental benefits of solar energy far beyond the power sector as traditionally conceived."

Far beyond the power sector. He is talking about a quantum leap in China's industrial infrastructure.

Furthermore, if you solarize the whole electric grid and use panels plus battery storage to power cars and for cooling and heating buildings, you will put enormous demands on your research and development teams to make cheaper and more efficient solar panels and batteries. China's massive push in this direction will position it to be the market leader in the essential technology of the future, a technology in which it already has an edge. China dominates some 60% of the global solar panel market and is the major producer and consumer of electric cars. We could all be driving Chinese electric cars because their companies got the benefits of massive public investment and consumer buying.

The United States, having been derailed from any similar push by Mr. Manchin, won't be putting nearly as much money into the green energy sector and risks being left in the dust by Beijing.

In game-changer, ICC will take up Israeli war crimes and apartheid in Palestine

On Friday, the International Criminal Court found that it had jurisdiction to consider war crimes and crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories.Israeli politician Abba Eban once quipped that Palestinians never lost the opportunity to lose an opportunity. But Palestinians have carefully, methodically created this opportunity to be heard in an international tribunal. It is the ruling Israeli right wing about which one can now quip about missing opportunities.

Israel has egregiously violated the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of people in occupied territories by flooding its own citizens into the Palestinian territories, by stealing Palestinian land from its owners and building squatter settlements on it, and by using disproportional force against Palestinian demonstrators at the Gaza border.

The court will also look into war crimes by Hamas, which was elected in 2006 and retains control of the Gaza Strip.

It has been impossible for anyone to stop Israel's repeated and serious crimes against the Palestinians because the United States backs them to the hilt and is deeply implicated itself in keeping Palestinians stateless. (The "two-state solution" long since became geographically impossible, and invoking it and an alleged "peace process," as the Biden administration does, is just a way of keeping the Palestinians from enjoying any human rights).

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cynically called the ruling "anti-Semitic," in the ultimate debasement of a term that has otherwise been central to human rights struggles.

Filistin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) quotes Rami Abdu, head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, as saying that the International Criminal Court announcement that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories represents a victory, won by many sacrifices, for justice, freedom, and ethical values in the world. It is, he said, the fruit of a Palestinian struggle that has lasted decades to win recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

As a result, he said, Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes from various generations will gain the right to seek justice after decades of occupation and to see the perpetrators tried in the Hague. He cautioned, however, that "the decision does not mean the end of the road, and the task will not be easy. The hope is that the Biden administration will adopt a different course from its predecessor, and will refrain from putting any pressure on the court."

In spring of 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a pretext for being able to target justices and staff of the International Criminal Court with sanctions because they were looking into alleged crimes by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. These outrageous and ineffectual sanctions have been lifted by the Biden administration.

The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute circulated to U.N. member states in the late 1990s and finalized in 2002. The United States and Israel refused to sign or to recognize the court's jurisdiction. Some 123 countries have, however, ratified the treaty and so incorporated it into their national law.

The court can take up cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and apartheid committed by officials in the signatory states. It can apply sanctions to individuals in those governments after trying them. It does not sanction states but individuals. So far its cases have been entirely from Africa.

But the court's hands are usually tied with regard to non-signatory governments. It cannot move against their officials unless the United Nations Security Council forwards a case to them. Thus, when the murderous regime of Muammar Gaddafi attacked civilians in winter-spring of 2011 during the Arab Spring youth revolt, the Security Council referred the case to the ICC. Its justices considered evidence against Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif Gaddafi, as well as interior minister Abdullah Sanusi. Arrest warrants were issued by the court for these individuals on June 27, 2011.

The state of Palestine led by Mahmoud Abbas had little hope of the U.N. Security Council asking the ICC to look into Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, since the United States almost always uses its veto to protect Israeli officials from sanctions for their illegal occupation policies in the Palestinian territories that they grabbed beginning in 1967.

The Palestinian David very carefully and with foresight therefore moved to join the International Criminal Court. The first obstacle they faced is that court members have to be members of the United Nations. Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the eclipse of Labor in favor of the far, far-right Likud and its offshoots, Israel's policy against the Palestinian people has been predicated on preventing Palestinians from ever having a state. They are to be kept stateless and deprived of the basic human rights that come with citizenship in a state.

So, Palestine sought the same status at the U.N. as is enjoyed by the Vatican, of permanent observer state. The General Assembly can grant this status, and did so for Palestine in 2012. Permanent observer states cannot vote, but they are not voiceless and can attend sessions. Palestine's prerogatives were expanded in 2019 when the Group of 77 at the U.N. elected it their chairman that year.

In 2015, the state of Palestine (as the U.N. calls it) acceded to the International Criminal Court and recognized its jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

This is like three dimensional chess on the part of the Palestinians. Because they now have what is called in the law "standing." They are a permanent observer state at the U.N. and they are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Now just one step was left, which was to take to the ICC those Israeli officials operating in the Palestinian Territories in such a way as to violate the Rome Statute. Palestine did not hurry to do so, hoping that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu would see the legal peril and become more reasonable. But Netanyahu kept stealing their land and urging Trump to cut their funding (which he did), and by 2019 the Palestinians concluded that they had nothing left to lose by filing a claim.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared a delay while she sought reassurances that the court had jurisdiction over Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

A little over a year later, she has been assured that it does, given the recognition of the Palestine Authority as the government of those region in the Oslo Accords.

As Mr. Abdu said, this step is more the beginning of something rather than its end. Netanyahu will attempt to obstruct the workings of the court. But this is a great day for the international rule of law, and all believers in human rights should rejoice.

Bonus Video: From 5 months ago: "Palestine takes Israel's war crimes to ICC" | News Bulletin | Indus News

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008). He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles.

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