china

Post image for The Growing Irrelevance of U.S. Climate Policy

The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tons of coal per year in 2017 than it does today — an amount equal to the current coal consumption of Russia and the United States combined.

Today’s Climatewire (subscription required) summarizes data and projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) from which we may conclude that EPA regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is increasingly irrelevant to global climate change even if one accepts agency’s view of climate science.

Basically, it all comes down to the fact that China’s huge and increasing coal consumption overwhelms any reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions the EPA might achieve.

From the Climatewire article:

Chinese coal consumption surged for a 12th consecutive year in 2011, with the country burning 2.3 billion tons of the carbon-emitting mineral to run power plants, industrial boilers and other equipment to support its economic and population growth.

In a simple but striking chart published on its website, the U.S. Energy Information Administration plotted China’s progress as the world’s dominant coal-consuming country, shooting past rival economies like the United States, India and Russia as well as regional powers such as Japan and South Korea.

China’s ravenous appetite for coal stems from a 200 percent increase in Chinese electric generation since 2000, fueled primarily by coal. Graph courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

In fact, according to EIA, the 325-million-ton increase in Chinese coal consumption in 2011 accounted for 87 percent of the entire world’s growth for the year, which was estimated at 374 million tons. Since 2000, China has accounted for 82 percent of the world’s coal demand growth, with a 2.3-billion-ton surge, the agency said.

“China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption — almost as much as the rest of the world combined,” EIA said of the latest figures.

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Post image for China Has No Plans to Limit Carbon Emissions

There have been a few news stories out of Durban suggesting that China (the worlds largest CO2 emitter) has turned a corner on carbon emissions and has tentatively agreed to limit them, with Bloomberg running an article titled “China Climate Plan Makes ‘Excited Buzz’ as U.S. Lags: UN Envoy.” What did China actually say?

Ron Bailey, Reason magazine science correspondent reports:

So here’s what China apparently wants the rest of the world to do: (1) agree that China’s greenhouse gas targets can be different from those imposed on rich countries, (2) agree that for the next 9 years rich countries will continue to cut their greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol while China’s continue to grow, (3) agree that no negotiations take place on targets until a scientific review is finished in 2015, and (4) agree that rich countries begin showering poor countries with $100 billion in climate reparations annually. If the rich countries will just do that, China will consent to begin negotiating some kind of “legally binding” treaty after 2020. Frankly, with these preconditions, it seems that China’s current position actually remains pretty much what it has always been: It will accept legally binding limits on its greenhouse gas emissions when Hell freezes over.

China’s best offer is to consider limiting emissions after 2020, still almost a decade away, and only if all the other countries continue to play this game until then. Who can blame them — they are rapidly industrializing and getting wealthier, which requires massive amounts of fossil fuels.

What if future negotiations aren’t successful? China is currently ‘negotiating’ with other countries regarding their annual emissions, it just so happens they are offering zero emissions reductions. Where is the evidence that they will agree to anything sufficient in 2020, when their per capita incomes will still be markedly lower than other developed countries?

Post image for How Many Hybrid Cars Were Sold Last Year in that Awakening Green Giant, China?

‘Clean-tech’ advocates depict China as a model for U.S. policymakers, because Beijing subsidizes the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

In February, China announced plans to manufacture 1 million electric vehicles by 2015. To make green cars affordable, Beijing would pay automakers to cut the price of a battery car by $8,785 and a plug-in hybrid by $7,320. Of course, the announcement did not mention that millions of Chinese people who are still too poor to own cars would be taxed for the benefit of their wealthier brethren.

Not to be outdone by this visionary plan, President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, also called for incentives to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Neither prognostication is likely to come true.

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Post image for Two Stupid Energy/Environment Policies That Starve Poor People

1. Ethanol Mandates: In an effort to further “energy independence,”* major agricultural producing countries have enacted Soviet-style production quotas for ethanol, a motor fuel distilled from food.

This year, about a third of the U.S. corn crop will be used to manufacture 13 billion gallons of ethanol. By law, that will increase to 15 billion gallons every year after 2015. The European Union mandates that ethanol distilled primarily from palm oil and wheat, constitute an increasing percentage of the fuel supply, ultimately 10% by 2020.

Global ethanol production is a new and tremendous source of demand for food that has had a significant impact on the price of grains and oilseeds. According to a report commissioned by the World Bank, global demand for fuels made from food accounted for nearly 70% of the historic price spike in wheat, rice, corn, and soy during the summer 2008.

2. Rainforest Protections: Burning rainforests is an important link in the global food supply chain. In Brazil, farmers are clearing the Amazon rainforests to meet rapidly growing global demand for soybeans. In Indonesia, they slash rainforests to harvest palm oil seeds for export to Europe.

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Has the EU met its emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol? Not if emissions associated with goods Europe imports from Asia are taken into account. So finds a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study, Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008, calculates the net increase in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from developed countries’ imports of goods produced in developing countries. The study provides additional evidence of Kyoto’s futility, although the authors, a team of Norwegian, German, and U.S. researchers, don’t draw this conclusion and would likely deny it.

Some key findings: [click to continue…]

Post image for An Assault on Coal Exports

Not content with destroying coal in the United States, there are ongoing assaults on allowing U.S. companies to export coal. It’s one thing to destroy coal in favor of more expensive energy in an advanced economy where consumers have more disposable income to absorb the blow of rising energy costs, but to deny developing countries access to electricity is an absurd form of “liberalism.” See a recent GW.org post on similar plans at the World Bank to discontinue funding coal-fired power plants.

China and other developing countries might be flirting with solar panels and windmills (mostly to sell them to the United States), but these renewables aren’t going to actually power any significant portion of their ever growing demand for energy anytime soon. And remember, despite the fact that you might want to protect the environment, you might not feel that way if you’ve never driven a car or turned on a light switch. As this report notes:

China, on the other hand, has emerged as a leader in developing clean, renewable energy, but its demand for coal is still staggering, and growing, and China is predicted to build 2,200 new coal-fired electric plants by 2030.

The report is full of suspicious economic analysis, like the idea that shutting down coal exports (economic activity) can somehow help our country reach long term prosperity because the funds could be used for investments to focus on diversifying our economy, whatever that means. Ending coal exports would somehow help our economy’s diversification. Note that coal exports would also help lower the trade deficit, which groups like CAP seem worried about.

It’s not completely clear to me that the port being used for exports is being subsidized by any governmental bodies (hopefully its not), but they don’t specifically mention any subsidies, so I suspect its mostly being completed with private sector money. Perhaps the authors think our omniscient government should confiscate those private dollars and pick their own pet project instead.

Finally, we get to the real question:

Though Washington state officials are considering the effects of climate-change-causing emissions stemming from shipping the coal across the western United States, there are no legal requirements to consider the carbon pollution from burning the coal half a world away.

Can we also control the climate policies of other sovereign nations? Liberals have proudly discussed the possibility of a carbon tax on imports from countries that have not adopted emission reductions strategies, but they have yet to publicly propose an export ban or tariff on coal. Perhaps its in the pipeline.

Finally, from a Washington-state based blog:

Certainly not least among our concerns should be the moral decision of whether to feed the growing coal addictions of other countries even as we combat climate change by gradually eliminating large-scale sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S

Breathe easy, Seattle. Coal exports will certainly be helping some of the 1.4 billion people on this earth who don’t have access to any electricity at all.

Unscientific American

by William Yeatman on March 29, 2011

Post image for Unscientific American

I almost choked on a complimentary pretzel during a recent flight when I read the final page of the April edition of Scientific American, this country’s premier science periodical for mainstream audiences. The page was titled “Clean Tech Rising” and the subtitle read, “China outshines the U.S. as the top investor, while Europe is a close third.” It featured bar graphs indicating what different nations are spending on so-called clean energy, like biofuel, wind, and solar power. The attendant text warned that “The U.S. has been a major player in clean energy technologies, but China is now the leader.” It recommended that, “…stepping up U.S. investment could enhance the country’s competitiveness…”

Now, it might or might not be true that China is spending more than the U.S. on “clean” energy. The ruling Communist government is not known for openness and transparency, so I take “official” investment data with a grain of salt. However, it is unequivocal that the Chinese are building coal power plants at an unprecedented rate. Estimates vary, from 4 new coal plants every week to 1 plant every week. All we know for sure is that coal, and not renewable energy, is powering the Middle Kingdom’s meteoric economic growth. This is why China, which became the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases only three years ago, now has a carbon footprint 40 percent bigger than the next largest emitter (the United States).

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, last week released a new minority report, titled, “The Real Story Behind China’s Energy Policy-And What American Can Learn From It.” The report shows that, regardless of its wind and solar production, China is predominantly relying on coal, oil, and natural gas, along with hydro and nuclear power, to fuel its economy.

In discussions of trade and economic policy, China increasingly plays the role that Japan once did — simultaneously vilified and lionized as both threat and model.

In the 1980s, “trade hawks” warned that Japan would “hollow out” our economy unless we adopted Japanese-style industrial policy to counter Japan’s “unfair” trade practices. Today, “progressives” warn that China will “eat our lunch” in the “clean tech race” unless we aggressively subsidize domestic manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, and the like, to counter China’s clean-tech subsidies, which, we are told, constitute “unfair” trade practices.

If there is any consistency in these discussions, it is that subsidies are always either good or bad, fair or unfair, depending on whether they rig the market for “our” companies or “their” companies.

Oh yes, there is one other point of consistency — everybody agrees “clean tech” can’t compete without subsidies. This came out during a conference earlier in the week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sun Guoshun, first secretary of the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., defended his government’s use of subsidies as necessary to having a clean-tech sector. 

As reported today in Climatewire (subscription required), Mr. Sun said: “It is the consensus of the international community that renewable energy is not in a position to compete with fossil fuel energy. So if you’re not going to subsidize renewable energy, there will be no renewable energy.”

In a story today about the surging profits of Peabody Energy (a major American coal producer), Climatewire (subscription required) quoted Peabody Chairman and CEO Gregory Boyce as saying that coal is entering a “demand super cycle” due to exploding Chinese growth. According to Mr. Boyce, “China now forecasts that 290 gigawatts of coal-fueled generation will come online from 2011 to 2015.” He calls the demographic trends in China “overwhelming.”

Two quick snap responses:

  1. There’s a silly meme being bandied about by the mainstream media that China is winning some sort of green energy great game with America. In fact, China is building two coal fired power plants every three weeks, while in the U.S., environmentalist lawyers recently celebrated the scuttling of 100 coal fired plants. We are losing an energy game with China, but the prize isn’t green energy. Rather, it’s affordable, reliable energy. They are building it. We aren’t.
  2. Peabody is looking for a west coast port to increase the export of low cost coal from Wyoming to China. That is, China is welcoming the coal our country is spurning. As a result, we are heading towards a future where the U.S. buys expensive green energy from China (because it is cheaper to manufacture there), while China buys cheap coal from the U.S. Guess whose energy future is more promising?