My colleague, Yanmei Lin, has completed the third edition of the Environmental Law Newsletter (环境司法电子通讯第三期草稿). This edition, available only in Chinese, examines civil liability for polluters as it pertains to chromium pollution and does so in the context of the pending case of Friends of Nature v. Luliang Chemical Company － a potentially groundbreaking case brought in Yunnan Province. Yanmei introduces and compares the Friends of Nature case to a US case from 2003 involving chromium slag, Interfaith Community Org. v. Honeywell International. Updates on China environmental courts and hot topics in China’s environmental law field are also covered. You can download a copy of the newsletter here and the full contents are translated below.
Special Case Study
Analysis of civil liability in chromium residue cases
- Friends of Nature v. Luliang Chemical Company, Luliang Peace Tech Company, Chromium Slag Pollution
- Interfaith Community Org. v. Honeywell International
Environmental Court Updates
- Summary of domestic environmental protection tribunals and organization
- Summary table of international environmental courts
- Review of major events in 2011
- Top ten US environmental law events of 2011
- Updated list of public interest environmental cases in China
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Shaanxi bans disposable chopsticks
The regulation prohibits the use of disposable wooden chopsticks on the grounds that making them wastes forest resources. Food and beverage businesses will not be allowed to provide the utensils to customers from Dec 1 onward.
Power prices get a hike, while thermal coal prices get capped
Bloomberg - China, the world’s biggest energy user, increased electricity prices for the first time in six months and said it will cap the cost of power-station coal in an attempt to reduce outages in coming months.
James A. Baker Institute: The Rise of China and Its Energy Implications
Scholars at the James A. Baker Institute at Rice University just recently released a compilation of studies on the energy implications of China’s rise. While these issues have gotten a lot of attention already the deserve even more. A noteworthy study in the collection is the implications for global oil supply and prices in light of increased demand for cars in China. All the studies can be found the Institute’s website.
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Several recent news items raise major questions about the future of trade and clean energy cooperation between the US and China, and inevitably the world.
First, the US-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC), established in 2009 during Obama’s visit to China, continues to put some meat on its bones with at least some ostensible agreement on how to handle intellectual property that comes from the $150 million joint project.
US Gov – The agreement protects American and Chinese researchers, scientists and engineers by ensuring their intellectual property rights to the technology they create. It also defines how intellectual property may be shared or licensed in each country. Participating members in each project may gain compensation on favorable terms, depending on their level of involvement in the final product.
“This innovative and enhanced framework for protecting intellectual property is an important step for the Clean Energy Research Center and collaborative research,” Chu said. “With both the U.S. and Chinese governments supporting these agreements, we are freeing our researchers to offer their best ideas and encouraging innovative thinking.”
It is still early in the cooperation, but considering the heretofore difficulties that the US and China have had regarding IP issues, this small bit of an agreement may be at least one small step forward.
The second news item goes directly to IP issues again and the tendency of foreign corporations that target China’s markets to sell China the rope that China will eventually use to hang them with – and that is the tone of this WSJ article entitled: Good for GE, but Is It Good for the US?
, which examines GE’s latest joint-venture with China’s AVIC (aviation corp) and how the deal might threaten US leadership in avionics.
WSJ- China watchers are anxious about this venture. Avionics— the “brains” guiding navigation, communications and other operations on an airplane—are at the pinnacle of American know-how, where the U.S. is still highly competitive. It’s also technology the Chinese military covets. GE says it has built protections into the venture, but the debate can get heated.
“To suggest that there are going to be firewalls that will stop this technology from going to the Chinese military is approaching laughable,” says Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. “The fact that GE would say that is shocking.”
You could substitute many industrial companies for GE in this equation, because over the last 30 years most have struck their own difficult bargains with China’s many state-owned companies. China is the world’s fastest-growing major market, and in return for access the country frequently demands technology or other know-how. China then absorbs that technology and uses it to battle global competitors, selling products that are often heavily subsidized by China.
That has happened in a range of industries, including autos, electronics and energy. Siemens now competes internationally against Chinese high-speed rail companies that sell products partly based on technology gleaned from an earlier joint venture with the German firm.
Finally, we are left with an article that alleges that the US may soon file a WTO complaint against China’s “unfair” subsidies to solar panel manufacturers.
Bloomberg - Solar manufacturers including a unit of SolarWorld AG (SWV) are preparing a U.S. trade complaint against China, as they seek to counter low-cost, subsidized imports, according to people familiar with the matter.
The case, which would be filed at the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, would be one of the largest targeting China, with political implications as both nations race to develop clean- energy technologies.
The companies say that China’s subsidies to solar companies violate global trade rules and provide those manufacturers with an unfair advantage, according to the people, who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because no complaint has yet been filed. …
The volume of imports from China sped up as prices fell. China sent more solar panels to the U.S. in July of this year than in all of 2010, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data supplied by SolarWorld.
All of this begs the question of how global governance and state governments should balance IP and domestic economic concerns, with the promotion of affordable clean energy technologies? Unpacking all of this is more than I can do on a Friday afternoon, but it should make for good discussion at any weekend get together.
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