Study finds breaking away from China in clean tech carries far more risks than reward – ScienceDaily

A new study from the University of California, San Diego, published in Sciences.

The paper conflicts with common assumptions that cooperation with China presents significant national security and economic risks across the board. These risks have been backed by the policies of three US administrations and a majority of European governments, ranging from import tariffs to strengthening scrutiny of scientific cooperation. While some procedures may be warranted, the study shows that for many techniques, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.

“Tackling climate change in the United States and especially in the developing world is highly dependent on the presence of affordable and available low-carbon technologies,” said study lead author Michael Davidson, associate professor in the School of Global Policy and Strategies at the University of California, San Diego. University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “A major benefit of integration is making these technologies more affordable, as well as increasing innovation. Therefore, when introducing barriers to integration, we need to be objective about specific policy goals and how they might affect our ability to address the threat of climate change.”

Davidson and co-authors set out to investigate policymakers’ assertions that cooperation with China on low-carbon technologies could threaten US economic interests and national security. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, the paper details the risks involved in developing five key technologies that reduce CO2 emissions: wind, solar, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), batteries, and “green” steel.

“Our findings reveal that national security threats are silenced across various low-carbon technologies,” Davidson said. “For example, open research and development on batteries has been cited as a security concern because batteries can be used for military purposes, but they are not the same batteries needed to deal with climate change on a very large scale.”

The paper describes how solar PV panels and batteries present a higher risk of supply chain disruption due to the high concentration of manufacturing in China. To mitigate these risks, the study provides a new framework that calibrates responses based on conditions specific to sectors and technologies. For example, in contrast to the binary choice between open and local supply chains, the study identifies a range of situations where diversification can achieve policy goals of reducing risk.

Job creation has been used as a rationale for limiting trade with China. For example, the Biden administration decided to use the Defense Production Act to increase domestic manufacturing of solar energy, which would “particularly benefit the companies, localities, and workers that are being tapped to produce it,” the authors wrote. They noted that if it increases the cost of solar PV and slows its deployment, the legislation could create limited jobs and higher emissions.

The construction of photovoltaic panels is usually the least labor intensive part of the entire enterprise. There are usually a lot of people involved in project development, installation, maintenance and operation. These jobs are difficult to outsource; However, they are affected when the cost of PV increases.

To measure levels of both economic and national security risks for a given technology, the paper assesses the current degree of dependence on China across various technology components using industry and government data. Because these risks are difficult to identify, the study provides in-depth case examples that combine quantitative and subjective assessments, which are used to assign a risk level to each category, such as job losses, intellectual property violations, supply chain disruptions, critical infrastructure and more.

For most technologies, the “cure” of segregation is likely to be worse than the disease of “integration,” the authors wrote. “There are enormous benefits to having open supply chains and research environments, and policies intended to disrupt that or segregate must be based on a robust and objective assessment of risks and rewards. .”

The study, “The Risks of Separation from China on Low-Carbon Technologies,” was co-authored by Valerie J. Karpels of Carnegie Mellon University, Joanna I. Lewis of Georgetown University, Jonas Nam of Johns Hopkins University, and Alex Wang of UCLA. , Los Angeles.

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