China is caught in a very delicate balance. Beijing is forced to follow a very fine line in meeting the growing demand for energy while enhancing the country’s energy security, and all without compromising the ability of the entire world to decarbonize quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. So far, it seems Beijing is struggling – if not outright failing – to achieve this. Despite the heavy blow China received as the first country to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, the country has achieved the astonishing superlative of being the one and only big economy to achieve even minimal growth in 2020. As the country’s already massive industrial sector continues to grow and the middle class grows rapidly, China’s appetite for energy is ravenous. While Beijing has made energy security a primary goal, China simply cannot create enough energy to meet demand and Beijing remains more dependent than ever on imported energy, a reality that has been strongly emphasized. earlier this year during an unofficial Australian coal embargo. imports have brought entire Chinese cities to get dark.
To further complicate the problem, as Beijing has managed to keep its economy healthy, “the rapid comeback is also complicating a parallel push by Beijing to peak in fossil fuel consumption during this decade and make the country a nation of net zero emissions less than 40 years later, ” Bloomberg reported earlier this month. Although President Xi Jinping has made very ambitious and very public promises to lead his country to carbon neutrality by 2060 and to reach a peak of CO2 emissions by 2030 alone, these goals are totally opposed to the economic goals and the country’s equally ambitious energy security goals. Just as Beijing is actively repeating the talking points of the Paris climate agreement to one side of its mouth, other Chinese provinces have regularly return to coal, both at home and abroad, putting global climate goals increasingly beyond reach.
China also has a dangerous oil addiction. While coal emissions are a legitimate problem, China’s coal consumption has already peaked – the same can’t be said for oil or natural gas, which China continues to consume at an ever-increasing rate. “Over the past three decades, China has been the main driver of the global oil market: demand has increased sevenfold to over 14 million barrels per day, according to data from BP Plc, from a exporter to the world’s largest importer. Bloomberg writes.
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China’s demand for natural gas is also increasing, and China has attempted to increase domestic production accordingly in order to ensure sufficient supply without compromising its energy security goals. In fact, China is home to massive shale gas resources which may even be more numerous than the massive shale of the United States. Despite natural resources and China’s best efforts, the country has not been able to get its own shale boom off the ground, and a recent Reuters analysis shows that Beijing’s progress towards its own shale revolution may already be stale by the middle of this decade. “The complex geology and the inability to attract more investors” should make the expansion of the industry economically untenable.
“If so, it would be a devastating setback for China’s efforts to further reduce its dependence on gas imports, which currently account for 42% of the country’s overall consumption,” National Interest reported on Hope. reduced life expectancy of the Chinese shale this week. . “It would probably also mean that Beijing will have to accelerate the development of other more expensive gas resources, such as those located in the remote northwestern part of the country.”
What China chooses to do in response to this disappointing outcome is of the utmost importance to all of us. Whether President Xi’s administration chooses to fill these gaps with coal or with green energy will make a huge and lasting difference to the Earth as a whole. We only have a decade to get on the right track to avert the worst effects of climate change, and time is already running out.
By Haley Zaremba for OilUSD
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