China Continues Grip on Coal

BEIJING, Dec. 17 (UPI) — While the Chinese government is embracing energy efficiency and investing in new green technology, China continues to burn coal at record rates.

Between 2002 and 2007 China doubled its coal consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

This year, China is on track to burn 3 billion tons of coal, nearly three times as much as the second-largest consumer, the United States, and about 40 percent of total global consumption during the same time.

While China has pledged to produce power more efficiently, saying it will reduce carbon intensity by 40 percent from 2005 to 2020, its energy requirements keep skyrocketing.

“For China to keep its rapid economic growth going, the only economic option is to burn more coal; renewable energy simply cannot compete,” said Tristan Edmondson, founding partner at Mint Research, a Beijing-based consultancy, The Washington Times reports.

Even by conservative growth rates, China would double coal burning to 6 billion tons by 2025, or more than the entire world consumed in 2004.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon. According to environmental group Greenpeace, 80 percent of China’s carbon dioxide emissions and 85 percent of its sulphur dioxide pollution come from burning coal. Every seven to 10 days a new coal-fired power station is built somewhere in China.

But China is also fast becoming a global leader in green energy.

In 2008 China was second only to the United States in terms of investment in renewable energy — $176 billion versus $200 billion — according to the global research unit of international banking giant HSBC.

HSBC estimates that China has allocated $221 billion of its recent economic stimulus money to green projects, more than twice as much as the United States and equivalent to 5 percent of China’s 2008 gross domestic product.

For its part during the Copenhagen climate-change conference, China has been pressuring the United States and other developed nations to curtail emissions and increase subsidies to developing nations’ efforts to adopt clean energy technologies.

An announcement of China’s new energy development plan, drafted by the National Energy Administration, is expected sometime after the conclusion of the conference.

Published reports suggest that the plan will raise the country’s 2020 targets, last set in 2005, to aim for a five-fold increase in wind power and a ten-fold increase in the solar power feeding its electricity grid.

In September President Hu Jintao said China would raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2020 from an estimated 9 percent last year.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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