Friday, February 1, 2013

China is King of Coal

China is doing well in the production of renewable energy, but it's not doing well enough to make a serious dent in its pollution problems. (click each word for some seriously scary pollution photos).

One of the problems is the growing consumption of coal to fuel its massive manufacturing sector and its incredible infrastructure development.

As the chart below shows, the growth in Chinese coal consumption and its increasing percentage of total global consumption is more than making up for reductions in coal use elsewhere, especially in the developed world.

As the US Energy Information Administration points out:
Coal consumption in China grew more than 9% in 2011, continuing its upward trend for the 12th consecutive year, according to newly released international data. China's coal use grew by 325 million tons in 2011, accounting for 87% of the 374 million ton global increase in coal use. Of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82%). China now accounts for 47% of global coal consumption—almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.
Robust coal demand growth in China is the result of a more than 200% increase in Chinese electric generation since 2000, fueled primarily by coal. China's coal demand growth averaged 9% per year from 2000 to 2010, more than double the global growth rate of 4% and significantly higher than global growth excluding China, which averaged only 1%.
As these graphics show (you'll need to go here for the animations!) Asian coal consumption dwarfs the consumption of the rest of the world and Chinese consumption dwarfs that of the rest of Asia. Only Europe and the former Soviet states have reduced their consumption of coal.

The huge increase in global gas supply in recent years, which will grow even further in coming years, may eventually make a difference, but don't count on it happening soon. Without wishing to downplay the importance of renewables, they also are not going to make much difference in Asia for some years yet.  

US gas exports are restricted and the US domestic gas glut is providing a fillip to US manufacturing, which suddenly appears more competitive than it has for many a year. 

The EIA provides some basic facts on Chinese energy production and consumption.
  • China had the most installed generating capacity in the world in 2011, at 1,073 gigawatts, slightly higher than the United States.
  • About 80% of China's electricity generation came from conventional thermal sources, primarily coal, in 2011.
  • Both China's electric generating capacity and its electricity generation doubled between 2005 and 2011. 
  • China was the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world in 2011, and accounted for almost half the world's coal consumption.
  • China became a net coal importer in 2009 for the first time in over 20 years.
  • China has the third-largest coal reserves in the world.
  • China was the world's second-largest consumer of oil and liquids in 2011, as well as second-largest oil importer (trailing the United States in both categories).
  • China's total oil consumption is slated to continue increasing; EIA forecasts that growth in China's demand for oil will represent 64% of projected world oil demand growth during 2011-2013.
Natural gas
  • China was the fourth-largest global consumer of natural gas in 2011.
  • Use and production of natural gas in China is rapidly increasing; natural gas production more than tripled over the last decade.
  • Consumption of natural gas in 2011 was nearly 50% higher than in 2009.
  • Nuclear power made up only 2% of total electricity generation in 2010. As of mid-2012, China had 15 operating reactors, with a total capacity of nearly 13 gigawatts, and 26 new reactors under construction, with a capacity of about 29 gigawatts.
  • While renewables made up a small fraction of the country's total electricity generation, China was the world's leading producer of hydroelectric power in 2010, and the second-largest producer of electricity from wind power.
Chinese demand for energy is driven by its continually expanding economy.

Slowing growth in 2012, plus lower energy intensity should see some declines in this rapid growth in coming years, but of course this will have a negative effect on Australian exports. China's pollution problem, it seems has been beneficial for Australia (at least in the short term!).

In the meantime, not to worry, you can always buy a can of fresh air or look at a screen of a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds!


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