Is China the Goldman Sachs of Energy?


[Data souce: World Bank through modified Google Public Data chart]

Yesterday, while listening to the news that the Chinese economy had surpassed the Japanese (unsurprisingly, ahead of schedule), it occurred to me that China is slowly becoming the Goldman Sachs of the XXI century energy battles.

It might sound machiavellian, but from a strategic point of view it makes perfect sense for China to choke the world (both literally and figuratively) while at the same time becoming the leader on the same technologies that will be able to clean the air later on (EV industry sample here thought EV World). When the inevitable transition from dirty to clean energy finally occurs, they will be in an enviable position to lead the world from a hole, in great part, of their own making.

It is genius, and very similar to the current economical conundrum, where the same Wall Street experts that created the current mess are the only ones who know how to fix it. The result? Record profits on the way up, and record profits on the way down.

I say this without passing judgement. Goldman's mandate was to maximize profit without breaking the law, and so they did. On the same vein, the Chinese government's goal is to lift their country out of poverty, if only for its own survival. In the case of Wall Street, the regulators that were supposed to lean against the bubble were outgunned and outnumbered. By the time they understood the issue, it was too late and the world economy went into tailspin.

In the case of China, energy, and the environment, it is not too late, but both the US and the EU should continue to show initiative and lead by example. Until a realistic price for carbon is set (so that powerful, lasting market forces can take over), the Green Economy in the West is in danger of being rolled back and considered nothing but a passing fad, as politicians give up (climate legislation in Washington) or are superseded by the angry unemployed (anti-AB32 in California).

In the mean time, something tells me that the Chinese government will not stop.