China Makes Western CO2 “Control” Pointless

  • Date: 21/07/10

Coal Consumption in China

Coal Consumption in China

China is the worlds largest energy consumer

In recent news we had that China has surpassed the USA as the worlds largest energy consumer. It’s now the “Big Boy” on the block. All the proposed CO2 “control” treaties to date have given a ‘free pass’ to the poor underdeveloped world on the theory that they needed special favors to ‘catch up’ to the evil west that had suppressed them. Well, folks, China is now the “Big Boy” on the block. Not some little backwater nobody striving to get their first light bulbs and flush toilettes. If you want to “control” CO2 emissions, you absolutely must include China. And that is just not going to happen.

China Passes U.S. as World’s Biggest Energy Consumer

July 20, 2010, 5:43 AM EDT

July 20 (Bloomberg) — China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest energy user last year, emphasizing that developing nations are driving global growth, according to the International Energy Agency.

China uses more coal than anything else

China is a coal based energy market. Somewhere over 70% of their energy consumption comes from coal. Exact numbers are hard to come by, and changing rapidly as they are growing like a weed. But the simple and well attested fact is they mostly use coal. So the CO2 “footprint” from energy usage in China is far higher than in other counties, such as the USA, that use more oil and natural gas in the mix.

Coal makes up 70 percent of China’s total primary energy consumption, and China is both the largest consumer and producer of coal in the world. China holds an estimated 114.5 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the third-largest in the world behind the United States and Russia and about 13 percent of the world’s total reserves. There are 27 provinces in China that produce coal. Northern China, especially Shanxi Province, contains most of China’s easily accessible coal and virtually all of the large state-owned mines. Coal from southern mines tends to be higher in sulfur and ash, and therefore unsuitable for many applications. In 2008, China consumed an estimated 3 billion short tons of coal, representing nearly 40 percent of the world total and a 129 percent increase since 2000. Coal consumption has been on the rise in China over the last eight years, reversing the decline seen from 1996 to 2000. More than 50 percent of China’s coal use in 2006 was in the non-electricity sectors, primarily in the industrial sector. The other 50 percent is used in the power sector.

Putting “controls” on US energy use (or European or Australian or New Zealand or Russian or…) will simply move the usage to China, increasing their economic growth at the expense of others and moving more energy usage TO COAL and away from more environmentally friendly fuels and sources.

China is growing energy usage fast

Even in the present western economic recession, China is growing, fast. And that comes with very fast energy consumption growth.

BEIJING July 20 (Reuters) – China is likely to consume about 11 percent more electricity this year than in 2009, with second-half growth easing on the government’s curb on heavy users and a higher year-ago base, the National Energy Administration said.

And a bit further down:

China, the world’s largest coal consumer, brought in a record amount of foreign coal last year — about 126 million tonnes — on surging demand boosted by a runaway steel sector and heating demands during a cold winter.

The largest consumer is also growing the fastest. Restrictions on other countries will only increase that rate of growth and increase the total CO2 produced (as China is not as efficient nor improving in efficiency as as fast as the western economies).

In the computer world, this was covered by Amdahl’s Law. The thing that improves the most just moves the problem onto the thing that is not improved as fast. So you can move the “problem” to China, but you can’t fix it.

Conclusion? China dominates. Nothing else matters.

Any “CO2 Treaty” or “Cap and Trade” ( AKA Cap ‘N Tax) plan is doomed to fail. Horridly and catastrophically.

It will increase costs to produce in the countries that sign up for such a plan, and those increased costs will move the most energy intensive industries to the lowest cost producers. The lowest cost producer is now China, and we see such industries already moving to China at a dizzying pace. Adding more “forcing” to that process will only accelerate it.

China mostly uses coal, and will use ever more of it over time. They are locking up coal supplies world wide by purchasing them or signing 20+ year contracts. They have no intension of reducing coal usage. They have also recently bought large chunks of Canadian Tar Sands, so you will find them being used too, despite their high CO2 production.

China is not improving energy efficiency as fast as the west, so any move of processes to China will make more CO2, not less.

Add those three together and you find that Cap ‘N Tax and Koyoto like treaties will result in a net increase in CO2 production as the sources simply move to China. This is NOT a theoretical, it’s already happening (and in large part has happened. Look at the size and growth of China steel production, for example.)

Trading Note

This implies that investments in western coal mines that sell to China, and in rail and bulk shippers (especially Chinese bulk shippers) will be winners in any agreement reached in Mexico. Further, investments in energy intensive industries, such as metal refining or cement production, would be best made in China. Watch China grow, and as the charts show the timing is right, send your money to China in direct proportion to the CO2 generation there. Coal is money, so indirectly “CO2 is money” and CO2 production can be an investment guide.

Musings from the Chiefio, 20 July 2010



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