By Kelley Cortright, Event & Communications Coordinator, Center for East Asian Languages and Cultures (CEAS)
While many in the West may picture China as a place of unhealthy air and unclean manufacturing processes, the Chinese government has in fact been actively increasing its pursuit of clean energy options, even as the U.S. backs away from what many see as the future of global energy. China’s growing adoption of clean energy, and its ever-expanding role as a global leader in new energy technologies and practices, are subjects of intense study for scholars of modern environmental policies.
One such scholar is Ryan Loomis, a current M.A. candidate at Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS). Loomis, whose thesis focuses on U.S.-China energy relations, was recently selected to participate in the 2018 Rising Environmental Leaders Program (RELP), which is run by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. This year-long program helps graduate students hone their leadership and communications skills, and exposes students to career tracks outside academia. The program includes a one-week “boot camp” in Washington, DC, where participants gain exposure to the realities of policy design and implementation and learn how to connect research to policy and people.
Loomis’ research focuses on how U.S. state governments are collaborating with their Chinese counterparts on clean energy, and whether or not the framework of agreements can be generalized so that other states can more easily adopt those channels. He is also interested in which states have signed these agreements, what kinds of successes they have had, and which state governments are going to play leading roles. He hopes to apply these interests to a job in a U.S. state government, and ultimately, to effect change through the political process.
Loomis believes that his time in the East Asian Studies M.A. program helped prepare him for RELP: “The language requirement improved my Chinese abilities, and the Stanford Global Studies internship that I did last summer in Shanghai—where my day-to-day included reading a lot of Chinese policy documents—helped me decide my research interest.” He says that the resources CEAS provides, including the flexibility of the overall program, allowed him to take courses that fostered an exploration and understanding of his varied interests, and ultimately led him to RELP.
Following his experience in RELP and his graduation from CEAS, Loomis expects he will continue to focus on U.S.-China relations, and he is optimistic for the future of energy relations between the two nations—especially at the sub-national level, where collaboration can be more nimble than at federal levels.
While more conservative states in America may be stereotyped as focusing too heavily on “unclean” energy like coal, Loomis sees changes coming based more on economics, not politics. “Interestingly enough, Iowa—a red state—is a signatory on the US-China Governors’ Accord on Clean Energy & Economic Development,” he explains. “And you have states like Texas, which have a huge capacity for wind and solar, and are super eager to take advantage of the business opportunities and economic rationale for throwing more renewable energy on the grid.”
Loomis believes this is evidence that states, regardless of political leanings, are beginning to realize that when wind, solar, and other clean energy sources are sourced properly, they are less expensive than coal: “I think that as the economic reality continues to hit home, more and more states will be eager to work more closely with global partners, including China.”
Learn more about Ryan and the 2018 RELP cohort.