Sunday, March 14, 2004

Don't tell the Ecoweenies!

China's Economic Engine Needs Power (Lots of It)
BEIJING - For all the hoopla about China's booming economy, its manufacturing muscle and its potential to become a great power, the world's most populous country is struggling to keep the lights on. And the sporadic blackouts that plagued much of China last year are raising complicated questions for the Communist Party and for the rest of the world:

How and where will China get the energy it needs to maintain its economic growth? And how much will the environment suffer for it?

"It's one of the hottest issues facing the international energy industry," said Scott Roberts, chief representative in the Beijing office of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm based in Massachusetts. "The growth has been explosive, and I think it has caught many people in China and elsewhere off guard."

China's emergence has already roiled commodities markets, as the country has become a voracious consumer of energy and raw materials. Last year, its oil imports rose by nearly a third. It also built so many new cars, factories, airports and high-rises that it passed the United States to become the world's biggest steel importer, according to the Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau, a British-based information clearinghouse for the steel industry. Last year, China accounted for almost a third of the world's consumption of finished steel.

Electricity consumption jumped by 15 percent. Domestic coal production rose by 100 million tons - and still there were shortages.

Yet China's appetite today is modest compared with what is estimated for the future; the country's energy needs are expected to more than double by 2020. This prospect has the Communist Party reportedly rolling out plans for at least 100 new power plants, including nuclear, hydropower and coal-fired ones. It has also raised concerns that efforts to improve China's polluted environment will be muted by the demand for power.
Dang, it looks like they're moving fast. Maybe I should learn Chinese instead of Mexican? But it sounds like someone turned 'em in!
China is trying just about every possible avenue to satisfy its power demands, and none offers a completely risk-free or "clean" solution. Plans call for at least 20 nuclear plants to be built by 2020. Hydropower projects, regarded by many Chinese officials as a clean power source, are threatening to disrupt the ecological balance on many important rivers that flow out of the high Tibetan plateau.

China's primary energy source, and its dirtiest, is coal, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the power supply. Coal is a primary source of greenhouse gases, and experts predict that by 2020 China could pass the United States to become the world's biggest source of carbon monoxide.
And they aren't even restricted by the "Kyoto treaty" because they are a "developing economy".

But wait, there's more - they have their own Ecoweenies:
"The fundamental problem is that China is following the path of the United States, and probably the world cannot afford a second United States," said Zhang Jianyu, program manager for the Beijing office of Environmental Defense, an American-based advocacy group.
Bwahaha! I love it.