China announces plan to single-handedly finish off the climate

The Canberra Times/AFP has the alarming news:

China is aiming to increase its coal production by about 30 per cent by 2015 to meet its energy needs, the Government has announced, in a move likely to fuel concerns over global warming.

[Note to Canberra Times: Some statements are so obvious you can skip the journalistic hedging.]

Land and Resources Ministry chief planner Hu Cunzhi said the Government planned to increase annual output to more than 3.3 billion tonnes by 2015.

That is up from the 2.54 billion tonnes produced in 2007, according to the ministry.

In short, from 2007 to 2015, China will increase its coal production by an amount equal to two-thirds of the entire coal consumption of the United States — an amount that surpasses all of the coal consumed today in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America.

Such is the legacy of 8 years of the Bush administration blocking all national and international action on climate change, and indeed actively working to undermine international negotiations by creating a parallel do-nothing track for countries like China. As Chinese officials have told me, we gave them the cover to accelerate emissions growth.

Some might claim a different president would never havebeen able to get China on a different path. But if Al Gore had been elected picked by the Supreme Court in 2000, I assert that China would not be planning for its 2015 coal production to be triple that of current U.S. coal production.

Changing China’s rapacious coal plans will arguably be Obama’s single greatest challenge in terms of preserving a livable climate and thus the health and well-being of future generations and thus any chance at a positive legacy for his presidency (see “What will make Obama a great president, Part 2: A climate deal with China

The story continues:

Annual production of natural gas would more than double to 160 billion cubic metres by 2015, while that of crude oil would increase by 7 per cent to more than 200billion tonnes, Mr Hu said.

The Government would set up reserves of oil and coal as part of its efforts to ensure national energy security, Mr Hu said at a news conference.

China began building four strategic oil reserve facilities on its east coast this decade, and two of these are now in operation.

The country’s energy consumption expanded by an average annual rate of 5.4 per cent between 1979 and 2007, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday, which fuelled average annual economic growth of 9.8 per cent.

China depends on coal for about 70 per cent of its energy.

Its thundering growth has meant the country has become one of the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, alongside the United States.

China said coal, the cheapest and most plentiful source of fuel in the country, would remain its main energy source, despite the impact global warming had already had on the country.

China has repeatedly defended its use of coal, pointing to its efforts to develop renewable energies while blaming industrialised countries for the bulk of the greenhouse gases that are already doing the damage. It also emphasises the per capita emissions of greenhouse gases of China, the world’s most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, are far lower than those of the US and other developed nations.

That Chinese argument, I think, can now be officially labeled the insanity defense (see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path). Yes, the industrialized countries must sharply reduce their emissions — but absent a reversal of this Chinese coal policy, catastrophic climate impacts are inevitable.

[Note: I changed the headline from “single-handedly destroy the climate.” Must give credit where credit is deserved to the rich countries for putting the climate in a position where China can finish it off.]

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59 Responses to China announces plan to single-handedly finish off the climate

  1. Brian M says:

    Depressing. This sort of thing just makes it easier for the deniers to blame China and say that any changes in US policy is nothing more than self-penalizing. It distracts from the urgency of the real situation.

    It’s hard to see the Chinese listening to the US unless the US is willing to take radical steps first. I think the US would have to basically do 3 things. First, place an immediate moratorium on all new coal-fired plant construction without proven 100% effective CCS. Second, agree to share any approved CCS technology with China. Third, establish a firm and aggressive schedule for decommissioning or CCS-equipping the existing coal-fired plants.

    There is something (at least politically) in there for everybody to hate, but without all of these acts (and very possibly large cash payments… that would clearly have to be borrowed from China), do you see any realistic chance that the Chinese agree to “go first” and slow down their coal burning?

    I just don’t see it. That government is concerned with staying in power. The long-term (or even short to medium-term) effects on the planet are secondary. Actually, probably well below secondary because secondary would be the enrichment of the Chinese leadership. Somewhere way below that would be the ability of future generations to live in a recognizable world.


    P.S. – It gets worse, because India will want the same deal

  2. Aaron d says:

    I agree it is rather depressing. It makes those of use who make changes to our everyday lives to conserve and reduce our CO2 emissions, feel rather discouraged. At least for me it does. Hopefully with the US starting towards a greater degree of renewable energy sources, they’ll follow suit. Though I find it rather unlikely right now…


  3. Gore could not have stopped China from setting out to emulate the life style standard set by ourselves.

    In a stirring speech about climate change John Doerr quoted the mayor of a large city in China saying, “Do you think we will stop our progress so that you (Americans) can continue to do stupid things?” (John Doerr’s firm funds the Fisker. Someone should tell him this is also a stupid thing.)

    Leadership means starting to do less stupid things.

    If we want to show China how not to use so much coal maybe we should try to figure out new kinds of automobiles that simply use a lot less energy. Such cars could then use electric power, but since the demand would be so low the added coal usage would be minor. The first large gain would be the resulting cut in oil usage.

    Since there would not be an overwhelming added electricity demand, the projects that would provide clean electricity might have a chance of working.

    If we started operating like this maybe China would think of us as energy technology leaders.

    The current Miastrada project is an experimental car that could be important in the future as a very low energy car. (See link by clicking my name above. Not to worry, this is far from a gainful activity.) There are other possibilities such as the Aptera. (See

  4. paulm says:

    Did Bush cause the financial crisis?

    Wrong question, its –
    Did Bush cause the collapse of civilization?

  5. Ecostew says:

    Does this planned increase include CTL?

  6. Baerbel W. says:

    I’m wondering – after reading this depressing piece of news – how much of China’s coal usage is actually “our” outsourced coal due to all the stuff we let China produce at low prices for us? Would stopping having “our” manufacturing done in China have any impact on their need for more and more cheap and dirty power or would it be a mere drop in the ocean and not make a difference at all due to their own demand for “made in China”?

    [JR: Click here.]

  7. hapa says:

    baerbel: 80% of their GDP is exports. there are some who think if their currency wasn’t being suppressed, chinese consumer demand would be able to support a much larger share of chinese production but those producers would also be competing with newly-affordable imported goods, produced more cleanly.

    but this is basically panic on their part. they don’t care if this risks creating public demand for boycotts. they have an organizational plan with key planks of undercutting foreign producers on price and corrupting foreign governments on standards. it’s working fine.

  8. Shayla says:

    My teacher said you are a very good blog on global warming. me and my friends are wait for your answers.

    Why did the north poles ice get frozen again like it was 29 years ago? Are the polar bears going to be ok now? what if it melts again while they are on it can they swim? Some scientist says we might have another ice age can that happen? If we keep having global warming how long before it way so hot too enjoy?

  9. Rick says:

    Laying China at the feet of Bush? I don’t know about that. China is bigger than Bush. They are going to run their own show however they like. And they want to grow.

    Anything less than double digit economic growth in China is viewed as just about unacceptable.

  10. llewelly says:

    Why did the north poles ice get frozen again like it was 29 years ago?

    08 January 2009 . 07 January 1980 (about 29 years ago)
    Now examine the region between Sahkahlin and Kamchatka, in the upper right. Ice-covered 29 years ago, very little ice today.
    Examine the Baltic sea, between Sweden and Finland. Ice-free today, substantial ice-cover 29 years ago. Examine the area between Quebec and New Brunswick. Ice-free today, and substantial ice 29 years ago. Note there was more ice north of Quebec and north of Scandinavia 29 years ago as well.

    The arctic sea ice recovery this winter has been remarkable. But it remains well-below average in both area and extent . (Area and extent defined here .) You can find more information about current sea ice here or here .

  11. It would seem that we have only two real chances – some might say slim and none –

    1. To lead by example and ban all coal power plants in the USA within 10 years
    2. To go over the heads of the Chinese government and work people-to-people to help bring about a new revolution in China. How do you say “monkey wrench gang’ in Chinese?

    Of course, that being said, I have no answers for India.

    I will say this, Joe’s final thought: “but absent a reversal of this Chinese coal policy, catastrophic climate impacts are inevitable.” is a lot worse than merely depressing. And it doesn’t make me sad nearly as much as it makes me angry.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Well, don’t but anything made in China.

  13. Shayla (assuming you are indeed an elementary school student and not an adult playing silly games):

    * The weather changes from day to day, and year to year, for natural reasons – for instance, the currents in the oceans can change (look up Southern Oscillation for an example). However, over the past couple of decades there has been a trend towards warmer temperatures which is outside the normal range. Thousands of scientists who are experts in climate around the world have come together in an organization called the IPCC, and have written a report that says that it is almost certain that the Earth is warming up, and this warming cannot be explained by normal natural variation.
    * No, the polar bears will not be OK just because it’s a cooler year this year. Polar bears live a long time, and they breed quite slowly, so even if their habitat went back to normal immediately it would take a long time for them to recover.
    * Individual scientists say lots of different things. Smart people disagree all the time. But almost all of the people who study climate say that the earth is warming, and will warm up more if we continue putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    * Whether it will be “too hot to enjoy” depends on many things. We can make estimates at what the climate will be in the future, but the estimates are not perfectly accurate, and also depend on things we can’t know exactly (for instance, how much greenhouse gas people will put into the air). However, if you’re in elementary school, the estimates suggest that if we do nothing, by the time you retire the Earth will be much, much warmer than it is now, and this will have all sorts of bad effects. For instance, there are entire countries in the South Pacific which are on islands that are only just above the sea level. If it rises, even a little bit, their islands will be flooded and they will have to move permanently.

  14. Will Koroluk says:

    But there are bright spots. One is the item I scalped from The Independent. It’s out of New York and has ExxonMobil ding an about face. Good new, if true.
    Here are the first few paragraphs of the Independent piece

    The boss of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, has called for a carbon tax to tackle global warming, marking a volte-face by the firm once described by Greenpeace as Climate Criminal No 1. Assailed from all sides by scientists and a new cadre of US politicians, led by the President-elect, Barack Obama, the landmark concession by Rex Tillerson represents a nod to realpolitik after years when the company denied the existence of man-made global warming.

    Exxon had already dropped its funding of lobby groups which deny the science of climate change and begun to take a softer public line, but even Mr Tillerson admitted that propounding a carbon tax had stuck in the craw until recently. However, with European-style “cap and trade” rules governing carbon emissions moving up the agenda in the US, a carbon tax may be the least worst option, he said. Environmental groups gave a sceptical response to Exxon’s U-turn, calling it a deliberate attempt to torpedo the movement for outright carbon caps and any early switch to alternative energy. “A carbon tax is also the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions – from investments made by companies to fuel their requirements, to the product choices made by consumers,” Mr Tillerson said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars, a Washington think-tank. “As a businessman it is hard to speak favourably about any new tax. But a carbon tax strikes me as a more direct, a more transparent and a more effective approach.”

    The chief executive’s comments are aimed at moving ExxonMobil decisively to the centre of the political debate about global warming in a year that will see world leaders meet in Copenhagen to establish a successor to the Kyoto treaty on climate change – something that threatens to fatally weaken the long-term prospects for oil companies who are refusing to invest in alternative energy, such as Exxon.

  15. Theory1236 says:

    Creative Greenius,

    Without those coal fired plants, people from the east coast to the west coast will freeze and die in the next week. Solar and wind won’t help anyone at 10 below in a snow storm. What is your suggestion for that little problem. Or, as most greens are, you are a closet populationist also?

  16. Jim Eager says:

    “solar and wind won’t help anyone at 10 below in a snow storm.”

    No, but ground source geothermal heat pumps will. So will properly designed building envelopes.

    Like all denialists and obstructionists, you’re interested in scoring points, not in solving problems.

  17. Theory1236 says:

    Well Jim,

    I am not the one suggesting we close down the very plants that are keeping my family alive in Illinois. Is this geothermal paradise you espouse ready to be implemented in a week? A month? A year? Does it exist anywhere on the planet besides a drawing board or green fantasy? These homes that you speak of, are they available for the 5 million people in Chicago to move into? Are you like Creative? Are you living in warm California? Have you ever been outside on a very cold night when the wind is calm and the sky is clear? It is beautiful. It is also deadly. Have you lost power and slowly feel the heat bleed away from you home? I don’t have to be so called denialist or obstructionist to know that the current reneweable energy available is inadequate to supply power to a small country like the UK let alone the US. Implement your wonderous renewables than close down the coal plants.

  18. @Theory1236 – How wrong you are. No one will die without coal-fired power plants but plenty of people will die because of them. You can make your posts as personal as you care to but they don’t help support your weak and inaccurate offerings.

    I support Al Gore’s proposal to build the smart grid and transmission lines necessary and generate 100% of our energy in the USA from renewables. It will be very expensive and take a huge national effort but it’s less costly than coal will be to our future and will provide a lasting, positive solution. No messy toxic waste from the ash either.

    And since I’ve been happily married for 28 years and have no children by choice there’s nothing in the closet about my population stance. So you’re wrong about that too.

    Don’t worry, we’ll generate the renewable power in places outside of Chicago and send it to you. You won’t have to understand how any of it works to still use it to watch the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls continue to lose every year on your TV. Or to hear what that wind chill factor is in the winter on your radio.

    So the real question is can we overcome lame objections from folks like you? In the words of a guy from Chicago who gets it – Yes. We. Can.

  19. Bob Wallace says:

    Theory – you’re way short on renewable knowledge.

    You’ need to grasp the concept that somewhere in the continental US the wind is always blowing. And if we link enough of those somewheres together we get reliable 24/365 power.

    Now that might not be the most affordable/efficient way to supply our post-fossil fuel grid, but it’s a starting point from which we can evolve better and better solutions.

    The final solution, the one that might keep us from totally fouling our nest is a combination of wind, PV solar, thermal solar, (existing) hydro, tidal, wave, wet rock and dry rock geothermal, and slow flow hydro.

    If you speculate on all those diverse energy sources you should start to appreciate the fact that simply because it is a clear, still night in Chicago the grid is not dead.

  20. Theory1236 says:


    Spoken like a person who has never felt the cold. How long will it take for your utopia of power to come about? That is, without us realists getting in the way? 5 years? 10 years? As it stands now, wind power is so inefficient its existence is only ode to multi millions of dollars in subsidies. If it were truly a viable technology then why don’t wind farms make money? In truth, there is no economically viable renewable source of energy at this time and even in the near future. You would change the entire way of life in the US to lower emissions on a trace gas that is absolutely necessary for life to exist on earth.

    As to that friend of the greens Obama, I guarantee you that when people in the US start paying double for electricity he will change his tune. His political clout will disappear into the cold future and he will do what all politicians do. He will do a 180. Well, I guess we will see whose vision of life will become reality. I will not convince you and you won’t convince me. Oh and GO CUBS!

  21. hapa says:

    believing in the cubs is a sign you may be wrong about other things

  22. llewelly says:

    Joe – thank you for posting the version of my post that had the working link.

  23. Bob Wallace says:

    Again, Theory, you’re opinion long and information short.

    Wind is profitable. We’re about at the point where subsidies can be phased out without slowing the installation of new wind farms. Subsidies have been useful/necessary in order for the manufacturing and installation infrastructure to be built. We’re just about there.

    We’d be smart to leave subsidies for wind production in place for a while. That will create an “exceptional profit” situation which will speed the entry of new players to the business.

    We’re “there” price-wise with thermal solar and geothermal as well. Thermal solar is more expensive than is wind, but it sells into higher rate peak hours which makes it profitable.

    We won’t simply turn off current power plants. They will get phased out as we bring new sources on line. Along with (hopefully) a lot of efficiency upgrades.

    Would that we could install all this “green stuff” in ten years. That would be a great benefit for our future. We need to get coal out of mix ASAP.

    Will we have the political will?

  24. paulm says:

    heres another way they are doing it…

    How China’s ’50 Cent Army’ Could Wreck Web 2.0
    Two years ago, Chinese President Hu Jintao called on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to “assert supremacy over online public opinion, raise the level and study the art of online guidance and actively use new technologies to increase the strength of positive propaganda.”

    The CCP has hired thousands of freelance Internet propagandists whose job is to infiltrate chat rooms, message boards and comment areas on the Internet posing as ordinary users to voice support for the agenda and interest of the CCP.

  25. Rick says:

    political will seems to be in place. Obama’s been taking the green talk and so far he isn’t getting shouted down about it – so wind etc is a go. Lets see how it works.

    No excuses now. You’ve got Obama and all the Dems in charge. Build the green energy. Start now. Lets see your stuff.

  26. Kathy N says:

    SAD NEWS JOE, it gives me the same feeling as the artical I just read titled “Rare Bird Migrates to US for First Time”. The story is that bird watchers are flocking to Choke Canyon in Texas to see this bird from Mexico and Guatemala. It normaly lives at high elevations. Here’s a couple of quotes from the story John Arvin say’s “tThe bird seems very much out of whack” ” It’s a very unexpected discovery” say’s Mark Lockwood. All I can think to say is “All these odd little happenings are nightmares from the coal fired power plants to us.

  27. NASA says wind is a 15% solution at best. The existence of some wind energy for a few poeple doesn’t mean there is enough wind energy for everybody. See:
    Nor do those others add up to enough. Solar only works in the daytime.

  28. How many coal industry posters are there above?
    What the coal companies know that most people don’t:

    As long as you keep messing around with wind, solar, geothermal and wave power, the coal industry is safe. There is no way wind, solar, geothermal and wave power can replace coal, and they know it. Hydrogen fusion could, if it worked. Hydrogen fusion has been “hopeful” for half a century so far. I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

    If you quit being afraid of nuclear, the coal industry is doomed. Every time you argue in favor of wind, solar, geothermal and wave power, or against nuclear, King Coal is happy. ONLY nuclear power can put coal out of business. Nuclear power HAS put coal out of business in France. France uses 30 year old American technology. So here is the deal: Keep being afraid of all things nuclear and die either when [not if] civilization collapses or when H2S comes out of the ocean and Homo “Sapiens” goes extinct. OR: Get over your paranoia and kick the coal habit and live. Which do you choose?

  29. Factory built nuclear power plants: You get a set price from the factory. Zero over-runs except from protesters and frivolous lawsuits.

    The following was downloaded from
    “Why Nuclear?
    Each location on the planet offers its own unique set of energy needs and challenges. No one type of technology can provide the most appropriate solution everywhere. That’s why in order to accommodate everyone on our planet, mankind must utilize a mix of clean energy technologies that includes wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear.

    None of the options available today are as perfect as we would like them to be. Geothermal has its obvious site limitations, but so do wind and solar. In addition to requiring large tracts of land for “wind farms” and solar panels, the drawback of these technologies is that neither can offer consistent, reliable baseload electricity. When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow these types of plants do not deliver electricity.

    Regardless of the weather, nuclear-based power plants can produce base load electricity 24/7 with no greenhouse-gas emissions.

    And while researchers are constantly seeking ways to make nuclear even more safe and efficient than it is now, nuclear is not a “new” alternative to fossil fuel-based energy. It is the safest, most reliable, and least harmful way to generate electricity. The 104 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. provide over 20% of the country’s electricity. For some nations, this percentage is much more; in France 78% of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear.” [NO THEY ARE NOT SUBSIDIZED!]

    “Now with Hyperion, communities and their infrastructures, emergency operations, military bases and even industrial operations, that, because of land limitations or other concerns, could never hope for reliable nuclear power, can enjoy its benefits. Hyperion Power Modules (HPMs) are small enough to be transported by truck or ship, and are setup and operable quickly – in much less time than the 10+ years it takes to build a traditional nuclear power plant! Whether the location is a small island, a remote mining site, or a hospital campus that needs independent backup power, everyone can enjoy safe, clean, reliable, affordable power.”


    Note that local construction people can dig the hole in the ground that a Hyperion reactor needs and do all of the hookup work and so on. The Hyperion factory makes a module and brings the module on a truck and places the module in the hole. Local people do the rest, including operating the reactor and guarding the site to keep anybody from digging up the module. There are jobs to be had at the factory and at the sites. The factory replaces the fuel module every 5 years or so, and recycles the fuel.

  30. Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond.
    Shayla: If you are really in grade school in the USA now, it is unlikely that you will live to see your 50th birthday. You will probably die of starvation unless the burning of coal to make electricity stops within 8 years worldwide.

  31. Downloaded FROM: Environmental Defense

    This post is by James Wang, Ph.D., a climate scientist at Environmental Defense.

    You may have heard about the persistent droughts in the western U.S., Australia, and other regions. The Upper Colorado River Basin is experiencing a protracted, multi-year drought that started in 1999. Australia’s record drought is threatening the livelihood of traditional farmers and ranchers.

    At what point does a passing drought become a permanent shift to desert conditions, and why would such a thing happen?

    It can happen because of global warming. Climate change can alter global winds, the strength and location of high and low pressure systems, and other climate factors.

    ………shortened………Graphics and URLs omitted.

    Global winds shape the Earth’s climate, determining – in broad strokes – which areas are tropical, desert, or temperate. Here’s a simplified overview of how it

    The Sun heats the Earth most intensely in the tropical zone around the equator. The heated air rises, cools, and then dumps its moisture as rain. That’s why there are rain forests in the tropics.

    The now drier air is forced by the continuously rising equatorial air to move towards the temperate latitudes on either side of the equator. At roughly 30° N and S – called the “horse latitudes” – it can move no further due to the Earth’s rotation, and settles to the surface. As the air sinks, it compresses and warms, creating hot, rain-free conditions. This circulation pattern, called a Hadley cell, is why the deserts of the world are located just poleward of the tropics, to the north and south.

    Poleward of the desert belt, strong, high-altitude winds known as the jet streams flow from west to east, carrying large storms with them. These mid-latitude, temperate-region storms are an important source of rain and snow, especially during the winter season. Much of the world’s population lives in the temperate region. It includes most of the U.S. and southern Canada, most of Europe, East Asia, southern South America, southern Africa, and southern Australia and New Zealand.

    But climate regions aren’t fixed. Several independent studies have found that global winds are shifting due to global warming, and the shifts are faster than predicted by climate models. Most recently is this new study in Nature Geoscience. The tropical belt has widened by several degrees latitude since 1979. This is consistent with other observations suggesting that the jet streams and storm tracks have moved poleward.

    The drought-stricken Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes Lake Powell, is located just poleward of the horse latitudes at around 37° N. This has historically been in the temperate zone, but the desert zone may be gradually encroaching upon it. (Since nothing is simple, there are other factors contributing to this particular drought, as well.) Similarly, water-starved Sydney, Australia at 34° S is just poleward of the southern horse latitude.

    What we may be seeing here is not so much drought as desertification – a shift in global climate patterns due to global warming. Areas that used to be in temperate zones may be shifting into desert, while areas that had been arid receive more precipitation.

    [JR: Thanks for this miner. I’ll blog on it soon.]

  32. Bob Wallace says:

    Well, NASA might just have another decimal point problem. Something’s wrong with their conclusion.

    Try this one…

    “After analyzing wind speed measurements in some 8000 locations, hydrologists Cristina Archer and Mark Jacobson conclude that wind could generate power equivalent to 35 times current global electricity use.”

    And solar thermal works 24/7 if we were to build ample heat storage. But that wouldn’t be the cost effective way to solve the problem….

  33. Shelly says:

    There is no need to be so dramatic. The sun shines very brightly here in Minnesota even at 10 degrees or more below zero, and yes, things exist beyond the creativity node in peoples’ brains. Every time I pick up a science magazine or wander around online I find new types of energy being developed, not just on the drawing board, but being made, right now, today. There is a flurry of activity going on in new energy and it’s really only the naysayers claiming nothing is being done. Everyone else can see it happening. I’m very optimistic these things will develop faster than China can develop its new coal plants. I’m more worried about people in our Congress screaming for oil from oil shale and tar sands than I am about China. The Alberta tar sands are a nightmare.
    But — What China has going for it is a love of technology. If the new greener technology is “cooler” and more practical than coal plants, they will use it.

    Even so, China’s huge dependence on coal is very troublesome. They must have politicians a lot like ours.

  34. Shelly says:

    PS- the dramatic remark was for Theory1236 who seems to think everything is doomed before its even tried. There is plenty of wind in the north in the winter. There is also plenty of sun. There is also plenty of imagination, creativity and most of all determination. We are not a country of quitters and whiners. Right?

  35. mitchell porter says:

    In order that China’s coal emissions should not seem to be a distant, unstoppable force of nature, I have done a little web research.

    Over half of China’s coal is consumed by the Big Five power generators, Huadian, Huaneng, Datang, Guodian, and China Power Investment Corporation.

    The great majority of their power stations run on thermal coal, but they all have some generation from renewables as well, as the pages above demonstrate.

    They all lost billions of yuan last year because of the price of coal, and have lately been in hardball negotiations with China’s coal mining companies. Electricity demand has plummeted because of the contraction in global trade, and so the power companies think they can demand lower prices from the miners.

    There’s much more to be found about them on the web. Huaneng has a giant solar project underway in Yunnan (but they have a rival in Qinghai that wants to build a 1 gigawatt facility), was part of FutureGen, and was the first Chinese power company in the UN’s Global Compact, a voluntary CSR initiative. CPIC is building nuclear plants in Hunan and Guangxi. I found news from last year of Guodian selling carbon credits to Lehman Brothers and Datang selling carbon credits to Essent NV, a Dutch company. Datang and Huaneng are looking to build plants in Africa. (Another company, Sinohydro, builds hydro-power stations outside of China.)

    The increase in coal production mentioned in the Canberra Times was announced as part of the National Plan for Mineral Resources, 2008-2015, which you can read about here (if you can read Chinese, otherwise run it through Babelfish):

    There’s a fax number in the English part of the website if you want to share your thoughts. Or you might write to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, which is right next to the Ministry of Land and Resources in the list of Chinese state ministries:

    The MEP has been busy approving projects for China’s own version of the green economic stimulus:

    OK, so what does all that prove? First of all, I want to get past the tendency to think of everything out of China as just “China”, one big aggregate. China is just another country, and its power companies are just companies. They are big and powerful, but they can’t be that different to utilities elsewhere in the world. So if anyone out there is despairing as to how “China” could ever move away from coal, just think about how it might happen in your own backyard, first of all, and then imagine that transposed to China. China is a one-party technocratic state, but otherwise it’s not that different to the average developed country. You have the same mix of social and economic forces – media, community groups, unions, regulators, local government, business. The task is fundamentally no bigger there than it is elsewhere. And if anyone’s feeling adventurous, they might want to actually make contact with Chinese power companies, environmentalists, or regulators, and begin to forge a constructive relationship. So here are two final links: websites on Chinese climate and Chinese climate policy.

    [JR: Thanks for this!]

  36. Bob Wright says:

    China also plans to build 100 nuclear reactors by 2025. All this seems very ambitious considering the current recession. Its easy to blame Bush, but if Gore was president we wouldn’t have had the perfect storm of trillions blown on the Iraq war, the threat of bombing Iran driving oil speculation, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, financial deregulation/non-enforcement, numerous “bubbles”, and decimation of the working middle class. Bush has put the world economy in the toilet for the forseeable future. GHG growth has a bit if a respite.

    China has climate scientists and they know they are losing the mountain glaciers and ocean fisheries, and the desert is engulfing Beijing due to GHGs. I guess the deniers are still in charge there too. Track record so far: Spain and tiny Portugal have made real progress with renewables, Germany is trying, France has gone nuclear, and the rest of us – mostly just talk.

  37. Bob Wallace says:

    Seems to me that China is moving forward on two fronts.

    Yes, they are building new coal plants, but they’re also building the largest thin film solar plant in the world and have become a major player in wind. In fact, China is multiple years ahead of their goals for installed wind.

    It may be that China is hedging its bet when it comes to renewables. Perhaps they’re not quite convinced that they can provide the power they need quickly enough with only renewables and view the potential damage to their economic growth to justify building plants that they might abandon after only a few years use.

    Whatever we want to say about China’s leaders, we must admit that they did more to further renewables during the last eight years than did our US administration.

    Notice that China has brought a PHEV to market, unlike any other countries manufacturers?

  38. ken levenson says:

    There must be a titanic internal struggle between energy reformers and energy traditionalists – and the traditionaists are making a play/stand – so that they can leverage maximum concessions from western powers in the upcoming climate treaties.

    My bet is that this is more a negotiating tactic prior to Obama taking office and those up coming climate negotiations.

    We’ve been playing chicken with our planet – and it’s scary as hell. I fully expect/my hope is that – Obama will promptly end the game, call their bluff and get us down to serious business.

  39. jorleh says:

    China will do it, all other countries will do it. It´s apocalypse now, no one civilizaton ever was wiser, they are all gone.

    How ridiculous it is to believe homo spiens to be any wiser now as 10 000 years ago?

    The same people, the same lame stupidness.

  40. paulm says:

    This has turned in to a great post!

  41. john says:

    Between a quarter and a half of all carbon emissions in China are associated with their exports. Once again, Pogo had it right: We have met the enemy and he is us.

  42. Jim Eager says:

    “Is this geothermal paradise you espouse ready to be implemented in a week? A month? A year? Does it exist anywhere on the planet besides a drawing board or green fantasy?”

    Well, gee theory, why don’t you google it and find out?

    There’s a 3000+ meter^2 mixed commercial/residential building not 2km from my home in snowy Canada that is heated entirely by ground source geothermal, and I personally know several people who heat their homes with GSG systems. In my city there is a neighborhood that has organized a group bulk system installation for their entire street, and another doing the same for solar hot water and solar voltaic systems. In Europe some municipalities are installing GSG wells and lines as public utilities and I’ve been discussing the idea with my own local city counselor. Last summer I saw a TV news item about one local contractor who couldn’t hire installers fast enough to keep up with orders, and I also saw plenty of those little ad placards stapled to phone poles in a rural area advertising GSG contractors. You need to get out more.

    And yes, I have been outside on a cold clear night at minus 40 (F/C is the same), many times. I’ve even camped at minus 20 and colder many times. You should try it.

    “These homes that you speak of, are they available for the 5 million people in Chicago to move into?”

    They could be, if people like you didn’t stand in the way kicking and screaming every step of the way. Canada developed their R 2000 building specification back in the 1980s and it’s still not the norm in local building codes. Meanwhile, in Germany they are currently building passive solar/geothermal houses with no central heating system at all, and Germany is hardly sunny southern California.

  43. Joe says:

    Paulm — Thanks, I think.

  44. Jim Eager says:

    Oh, and theory, I forgot about an entire development in Calgary where every home is heated by GSG, plus the roof of the central garage block is covered with solar voltaic panels.

    Stop whining that it can’t be done and start figuring out how to do it.

  45. Jörg Haas says:

    Joe, please note:
    the article in the Canberra Times speaks about China increasing its coal, oil and gas production. This is not the same as increasing the consumption. China has become a major importer of coal, gas and oil during the past couple of years. At least in theory, China could increase its domestic fossil fuel production to increase its energy independence, while keeping consumption constant. For climate change, it is past, current and future consumption that is important, not so much production.

    Australia was and is the main exporter of coal to China. So it is no wonder that this article appeared in the Canberra Times, because this news directly affects Australian export interests.

    Please be a bit more precise when it comes to writing about China and climate change.

    There is a lot of unjustified fingerpointing towards China from the West. This is not helpful. China is not so different from everybody else, only that there are so many Chinese that everything gets very big. But my bet is still, that China will become world leader on renewable energies within the next couple of years.

  46. Like the cigar smoker trapped in an elevator: All will suffer, but he may be the only one to enjoy a cigar.

    Not very smart to do it, not very smart to tolerate it.

    And quite a shameful act.

    Wonder where they plan to store their coal ash?

  47. Joe says:


    You must be joking. China’s net coal imports are quite small (see below).

    China ain’t special, except in its stunningly rapid growth of coal that threatens to make all other efforts to restrain greenhouse gas emissions moot.

    They aren’t babies, and they aren’t Haiti — they are a hyper developing nation that is on track to be, along with us, a global pariah and villain of history.

    Updated: 2008-01-19 14:19

    BEIJING — On strong domestic demand, China’s coal imports rose 34 percent to 51.02 million tons last year, according to customs statistics.

    Exports totaled 53.17 million tons, meaning that net exports shrank to 2.15 million tons from 82.9 million tons in 2003.

    The country once became a net importer in the first quarter of last year, according to customs data.

    The customs attributed this to a decline in domestic supply after the closure of many illegal and insecure collieries.

    Imports were also boosted by the scrapping of the import tariffs on June 1.

    Coal makes up nearly 70 percent of China’s nonrenewable resources. To fuel the robust economic growth, coal production more than doubled from 998 million tons in 2000 to 2.38 billion tons in 2006 and investment in the coal industry have been rising at an annual rate of 50 percent in recent years.

    The country no longer approves coal mines with an annual production capacity of less than 300,000 tons and closed some 10,000 small coal mines by the end of 2007.

  48. David B. Benson says:

    Richard Pauli — Well, there is a report that the Yellow River no longer flows into the sea. So they could store the ash in the ex-estuary. :-(

  49. Bob Wallace: SOMEBODY slipped a decimal point, or told us about wind energy that is unobtainable. It could all be in the jet stream at 40,000 feet, for example. But don’t assume that NASA is the one who made the mistake. We should write to both of them and ask them to reconcile their differences.

  50. Bob Wallace says:

    0.15 vs. 35x

    I’ve emailed both. I’ll report back if I hear from either.

    (I do wonder about Bush’s NASA. ;o)

  51. Bob Wallace says:

    One thought…

    Archer and Jacobson might be talking about 8,000 North American sites. Some parts of the world are wind poor. But I don’t think that’s what they said.

    The linked page is a poorly written summary. I think you have to pay to get the full article.

  52. Bob Wallace says:

    Yep. $15 or free to AAAS membership. I let my membership lapse long ago when I retired (or maybe earlier when I drifted off into management).

    Anyone got access?

  53. Charlie says:

    Joe: I am glad you remain clear-headed about China. There is no doubt that China is making an effort with respect to renewables and energy efficiency. It could do significantly more in these areas if it thought it had to. There is also no doubt that China is playing a very skilful game to boost its “green” credentials (with considerable success–a commenter in this thread apparently believes that “MEP has been busy approving projects for China’s own version of the green economic stimulus”), and confirm its “developing nation” status (is that China there hiding behind Haiti?).

    The story which forms the basis for this post should help those who have been seduced by the glint from a Chinese solar project realize that basically it’s still business as usual in China. A 30% increase in coal production from 2008 to 2015 works out to an annualized average increase of 3.75%. Assuming this increased production is thermal coal, as the article suggests, and coal fires about 70% of China’s electricity production, this works out to an increase in generation of about 5.35% on an average annual basis. This is remarkably is close to the 5.4% average annual rate of increase in energy consumption between 1979 and 2007, as reported in the article you cite.

    China will not be brought easily to the negotiating table and once it’s there it won’t be forthcoming unless there is a large stick lurking somewhere in the background. I hope that soon after January 20 the US will engage China in serious and credible efforts to end the status quo of mutually assured destruction.

  54. Bob Wallace says:

    China –

    Anyone remember a country that recognized the problem of a too rapidly expanding population and did something about it?

    Who was it that implemented the One Child Policy?

  55. Bob Wallace says:

    Astroid – ask and ye shall receive (sometimes)

    Email reply from Mark Jacobson Jan 11 09

    “We developed the first and only map of the world’s winds from data alone at the height of modern turbines, 80 m,

    and found the global delivered potential over land at locations where the mean annual wind speed is > 6.9 m/s (about 15% of land outside of Antarctica) is about 72 TW, which is on the order of 35 times the global electricity use. More recently, we have done a modeling study and found that this number is conservative, and may be ~ 100 TW.

    Any other number you see anywhere is not based on data. The site you refer to specifically does not even show land wind energy, and even the ocean values are not based on in situ data. In fact, it sounds like they are just making a general statement consistent with many renewable portfolio standards, not based on actual potential.”

  56. This is a fascinating topic.

    One think everyone needs to understand about the PRC: they are employing EVERY type of electrical generation, bar none. Quite literary the first with public bicycle battery generators to actually, THIS YEAR, deploying Generation IV Nuclear reactors (PBMRs, Chinese version).

    They will adding close to 30 more GWs of hydro over the next 10 years (maybe double that). The 100 nuclear reactors mentioned above comes out to 160 GWs by 2030. They are looking at 16% of their power generated by nuclear (ALL of which would be produced by coal if not atoms).

    I follow their nuclear industry the closest and have written about it on the Daily Kos. I’ve talked with PRC energy decision makers over the last year. A few things to note:

    1. Their labor costs are about 1/12 of that of the US. Since labor is more than half the costs of a nuclear power plant (10 to 20 million man-hours for the ever popular AP1000, for example) the Chinese are bringing in their nukes at under $1800 KW installed.

    2. They have lots of money and they assure me that part of the 500 Billion USD stimulus package includes all manner of energy, indigenously produced (meaning vertically integrated energy businesses from wind mills to nuclear).

    3. The Chinese see nuclear and hydro as their *main* way of combating CO2 emissions.

    What I get from their people who visit the SF-Bay Area where I live, is that they see nuclear as THE primary way to solve a host of problems. To wit:

    1. Health. The issue of climate change is a sort of ‘secondary’ issue for the Chinese. Coal production and use of it kills close to 400,000 people a year there. The savings in this, both human and financial would be huge by a switch to nuclear.

    2. The Chinese rail system is fraught with ‘weakness’ do to the geographic location of where the coal is mined…in the north, and to where it needs to be used, in the south. They are “always upgrading” their rail but snows, natural disasters, have shown the severe limitations of rail. So they are addressing this two ways.

    a). They ARE importing more coal. If you think this is not true, due a search of Australia’s coal industry, write them, and ask them what they think. The Chinese are *planning* huge, exponential increases of coal importation from everywhere they can buy it, including the US, South Africa and India.

    b). Building more nukes. Nuclear is easier for them. They have, in 2008, 3 times increased their 2020 goal from 40GWs (as part of the original 11th Year plan) to 50GWs then 60GWs and now, 70GWs.

    3. And more nukes…again. So, the 2030 goal of “160GWs” is probably low. They are quite open, especially officials from the big utilities in the south of China, about “if we can”, we would go to 80% nuclear or, 900 GWs by 2050 (expected load –as opposed to capacity– of 1200 GWs). I asked “do you see the amounts increasing over the 12th Year Plan (2010-2015) in terms of projecting out to 2030?” Yes, they replied. This was BEFORE the announcements last year of immediate 2020 goals of 70 GWs.

    So the conclusion is that the Chinese are clear about reducing CO2 and fly ash, and particulate even though it’s *secondary* to maintaining their 7 to 9% growth rates. They see nuclear (and all non-carbon producing electrical generation) as a main way to reduce overall emissions.


  57. David Lewis says:

    Stephen Chu’s confirmation hearing starts tomorrow in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Climate Science Watch submitted some questions, one of which pertains to Chinese coal fired power generation emissions, if you accept that the developed world should lead on developing carbon capture and storage technology and help finance its transfer to the developing world to reduce the emissions resulting from coal use:

    Climate Science Watch question “4) The poor way the Energy Department under the Bush administration handled R&D on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for coal combustion, including the late-stage cancellation of FutureGen, has caused needless delays in resolving critical issues germane to determining the viability of this climate mitigation option. How do you plan to expedite an R&D program needed to ascertain the feasibility of CCS in a timely enough manner to avert the disastrous climate change consequences we are facing?”

    So perhaps Chu will have to take a stand on the Obama administration attitude to carbon capture and storage soon.

    Chu spoke recently about more than 150 coal plants on the drawing boards in the US, which he said could mean the US intends to build one plant every ten days compared to the often quoted China figure of one every week.

  58. shop says:

    Chu spoke recently about more than 150 coal plants on the drawing boards in the US, which he said could mean the US intends to build one plant every ten days compared to the often quoted China figure of one every week.

  59. Sasparilla says:

    One can hope this is the Chinese seeing climate negotiations coming and wanting to set themselves up for as easy a play in the negotiations as possible.