A long time ago in the sixth grade, I spent an afternoon watching one of those movies designed to scare kids away from drugs. The subject of the video was huffing spray paint, and why it isn’t a good idea. I don’t remember much from the video, but I do remember a hilarious interaction between the reporter filming the program and a drug addict covered in gold spray paint. The reporter asked the guy if he had been huffing, the addict said he hadn’t been, but the reporter then asked, “Well what’s on your face?” The addict replied, “Nothing … I’m going to stop.”

For some odd reason, this came to mind when I watched Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao deliver a joint press conference following their meetings in Washington, D.C., this week.

Both presidents used their press conference to talk about energy, among other things. Hu and Obama called for the nations to cooperate to combat climate change. They talked about joint efforts for a whole slew of energy deals aimed at reducing emissions, promoting the use of renewables while allowing both nations' economies to grow.

“I believe that as the two largest energy consumers and emitters of greenhouses gases, the United States and China have a responsibility to combat climate change by building on the progress at Copenhagen and Cancun, and showing the way to a clean energy future,” Obama said.

The two leaders spoke about a Chinese-American energy research center, the need to invest in renewables and even increased investment in so-called clean coal technologies. These ideas and words are all well and good until you consider the sources. The two countries are the world’s leaders in carbon emissions and both continue to stick to their bad habits of relying on coal and other fossil fuels. Of course, currently there is no real alternative for power to replace fossil fuels completely, but the fact that reliance on coal continues to increase — especially in China — leads any casual observer to question the credibility of both leaders’ words.

So how does this connect back to that anti-drug use video back in sixth grade? When it comes to reducing emissions, it’s hard to trust the United States and China. Like any paint huffer, you can invest in programs to get clean, and even deny you have problems while there is paint, or in this case coal, all over your face. But until you stop your filthy habit, no one will believe or trust what you say. 

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