China Halts Protectionist Wind Subsidies; Becomes World's Biggest Energy Consumer

China has halted certain wind power equipment subsidies challenged by the U.S. in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute, according to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk.

The U.S. challenged the Special Fund for Wind Power Equipment Manufacturing subsidies at the WTO following an investigation initiated in response to a petition filed by the United Steelworkers (USW).

The subsidies took the form of grants to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers that agreed to use key parts and components made in China rather than purchasing imports. The U.S. estimates the grants provided to Chinese companies since 2008 could total several million dollars. The USTR says the size of individual grants ranged between $6.7 million and $22.5 million.

"Subsidies requiring the use of local content are particularly harmful and are expressly prohibited under WTO rules," says Kirk. "This outcome helps ensure fairness for American clean technology innovators and workers. We challenged these subsidies so that American manufacturers can produce wind turbine components here in the United States and sell them in China. That supports well-paying jobs here at home."

The U.S. held WTO consultations with China on Feb. 18. In those consultations, the U.S. argued that the subsidies provided to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers under the Special Fund program were prohibited because they were conditioned on the use of domestic over imported goods. Following those consultations, China formally revoked the legal measure that had created the Special Fund program.

"The Steelworkers Union petition and the Obama administration’s pursuit of our complaint on the Special Fund provisions brought the Chinese to the table with a commitment to end this program," Leo W. Gerard, president of the USW, said. "That’s good news for our members, U.S. companies and American workers."

China Surpasses US as World’s Top Energy Consumer

In other China news, the Asian superpower increased its energy consumption by 11.2% last year, bumping the US off its inglorious perch as world biggest energy consumer.

China now accounts for 20.3% of global demand compared with 19% for the U.S., according to figures released by BP PLC in its 60th annual Statistical Review of World Energy.

Demand for energy is increasing more quickly in developing countries (7.5%) verus developed nations (3.5%). As a result, it’s crucial that power generation technologies in developing nations leap-frog dirty fossil fuel technologies to meet the growing demand with clean, renewable sources.

Due to the recession, global emissions sagged briefly in the latter part of 2008 and throughout 2009. But in 2010, as economies recovered, global energy consumption and emissions rose at its fastest pace since 1973, putting the planet back on a swift track towards dangerous climate warming.

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