Growing Energy Demand in China

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: News, Uncategorized |

Despite emerging as a world leader in manufacturing and installing renewable energy, China’s surging demand for power has resulted in the largest six-month increase in tonnage of human generated greenhouse gases ever by a single country.  This can be partly attributed to the fact that the vast majority of China’s energy needs are still met by large, polluting coal fired plants.  Thermal electricity production, which includes coal, oil, and natural gas, increased 24 percent in the first quarter of 2010 from a year earlier, following a similar increase in the fourth quarter of 2009. 

China overtook the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas in 2006, and that margin is growing at an exponential clip.  China’s ravenous appetite for fossil fuels is driven by its shifting economic base – away from light export industries such as garment production and toward energy-intensive heavy industries like steel and cement manufacturing.  An ever increasing number of Chinese households now have a washing machine, refrigerator, and air-conditioner, further increasing demand for energy.  And car ownership is rising rapidly, while bicycle ownership is actually falling.

As China’s society continues to modernize, the composition of their economic output is overwhelming the effects of their rapid expansion of renewable energy.  The increase in fossil fueled electricity consumption in the first quarter was twice as fast as economic growth of about 12 percent for that period, a sign that rising energy consumption is not just the result of a rebounding economy but also of changes in the mix of industrial activity.

President Hu pledged that China would address this increase in greenhouse gas by redoubling energy efficiency efforts.  But many Western energy experts believe that without big policy changes, like raising fuel taxes, China will not be able to meet their goal.


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