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In China, Pollution Worsens Despite New Efforts - Aug 30, 2010 - Andrew Jacobs - New York Times - GENI - Global Energy Network Institute

In Global Forecast, China Looms Large as Energy User and Maker of Green Power

Nov 17, 2010 - Clifford Krauss - New York Times

China’s push for rapid economic development will dominate global energy markets and be the single biggest force in spurring higher oil prices and carbon emissions linked to climate change over the next quarter-century, the International Energy Agency reported on Tuesday.

China’s push for rapid economic development will dominate global energy markets and be the single biggest force in spurring higher oil prices and carbon emissions linked to climate change over the next quarter-century, the International Energy Agency reported on Tuesday.

At the same time, however, China is poised to be the driving influence behind the development of renewable energy like wind and solar power, according to the agency’s annual energy outlook.

The agency, which is based in Paris and advises the industrialized nations, predicted that Chinese energy demand would soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of the growth in global consumption. While China today accounts for 17 percent of world demand for energy, it should account for 22 percent in 25 years, at the same time that India and other developing countries also expand their energy use.

The growth in Chinese energy consumption has already been breathtaking, according to the report. Over the last decade, China’s energy demand has doubled. While China used only half as much energy as the United States in 2000, it actually surpassed the United States in 2009 as the world’s largest energy user.

And given that the average Chinese consumer uses roughly one-third the energy of consumers in industrialized countries of North America or Europe, energy demand is certain to grow as long as the Chinese economy does.

China’s thirst for energy is leading it to build not only coal-fired power plants, but also wind farms, at a record pace, and to invest in energy sources around the world, like oil fields in Sudan, hydroelectric power in Burma and natural gas fields in south Texas. Beijing’s ability to lift hundreds of millions of people into the middle class over the coming years will be largely based on its ability to produce more energy, and its foreign policies can also be expected to follow its energy interests, energy experts say.

“China’s decisions on energy will affect every person in the world,” Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist, said in an interview. “We project them to be the world leaders, producing new capacity in wind, solar, nuclear and advanced coal.”

With China and its 1.3 billion people as a primary engine, the energy agency predicted that world energy demand should grow by more than a third over the next 25 years, as new oil supplies became harder to find.

It also predicted that oil prices would rise to $113 a barrel in 2035, in current dollars, a rise of nearly $30. The agency also predicted that fossil fuels — oil, natural gas and coal — would remain primary sources of energy for the world, though renewable energy sources and conservation efforts would increase in importance.

The agency’s prognosis for Chinese energy use is challenging for efforts to control climate change, but it is not entirely bleak.

With $735 billion in investment plans over the next decade in nuclear, wind, solar and biomass projects, China is becoming a world leader in low-carbon energy output, according to the report.

“Given the sheer scale of China’s domestic market, its push to increase the share of new low-carbon energy technologies could play an important role in driving down their costs through faster rates of technology learning and economies of scale,” the report said.

On Monday, the German automaker Volkswagen announced plans to build 10,000 electric cars in China starting in 2014. In addition, Nissan Motor, General Motors and Daimler are planning to build electric vehicles in China, which offers subsidies to buyers of such cars to cut oil consumption.

The country is also decreasing the energy intensity of its economic output, in part by lowering subsidies. Last year, the report said, the average retail price for gasoline in China was 40 percent higher than in the United States because of higher taxes, and 32 percent higher for diesel.

“Our projections indicate an improvement in emissions intensity (3.8 percent a year) between 2008 and 2035, which is faster than improvements achieved elsewhere,” according to the report.

Still, the report said China would remain a crucial anchor in the world coal trade. China’s coal consumption between 2000 and 2008 accounted for three-quarters of the global growth in coal demand. With 60 percent of energy demand in China’s industrial sector currently coming from coal, it will take years for China to slow its consumption of coal, the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels.

The report offered many predictions about demand and supply of various fuels around the world, but it also concluded that there were many uncertainties. It wondered whether carbon capture and storage technology would ever become commercially available to clean increasing coal-fired electricity generation. It wondered whether biofuels production from crops like corn could be sustainable for food supplies.

“One point is certain,” the report concluded. “The center of gravity of global energy demand growth now lies in the developing world, especially in China and India.”


Updated: 2016/06/30

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