Squeezed between fast energy demand growth, vulnerable overseas supply lines, China's coal addiction runs deeper

ANI
16 Nov 2021, 06:51 GMT+10
Beijing [China], November 15 (ANI): China is squeezed between fast energy demand growth, vulnerable overseas supply lines for natural gas and domestic shale gas reserves that shows the economics of weaning China off coal is daunting.
Nathaniel Taplin, a columnist on China’s economy and political economy, writing in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said that China’s coal addiction runs deeper than economics.
The nation’s reluctance to commit to phasing out coal before the 2040s should be understood in the Chinese energy demand context that has grown rapidly and the nation hasn’t been able to replace coal rapidly with natural gas as the US has–coal use and overall emissions have continued to mushroom.
There are many reasons why coal has proven so hard for China to get rid of: mining is a big employer; coal power plants are heavily indebted and need to run down debts; the grid has long dragged its feet on integrating renewables, and nuclear power sites are limited to an extent by the availability of water and concerns about seismic activity, said Taplin.
China is also squeezed between fast energy demand growth, vulnerable overseas supply lines for natural gas and domestic shale gas reserves that are mostly in already water-scarce regions or in major agricultural areas like Sichuan.
Beijing has been catching a lot of flak for not announcing more ambitious targets at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, reported WSJ.
China’s climate-policy dilemma remains especially large and is also bound up with some of its largest security vulnerabilities.
China’s climate task is especially tough for two reasons: First, as the workshop of the world–particularly when it comes to heavy industry–its economy is already starting from a far more carbon-intensive position than the US, Japan and the European Union.
Second, unlike the US, it lacks a vibrant domestic natural-gas industry to help quickly replace coal and provide a convenient, “switch-on, switch-off” cleaner-burning alternative that integrates well with intermittent solar and wind power, said Taplin.
To quickly phase out coal, much larger natural-gas imports will be hard to avoid, even assuming the nation continues investing very heavily in renewables and nuclear.
And much of that gas will need to arrive from pipelines passing through unstable neighbourhoods like Central Asia, or via the high seas–at a time when China’s relations with its primary geopolitical rival and the world’s pre-eminent naval power are rapidly deteriorating, added Taplin.
Prodding China into faster action against coal still seems likely to remain a geopolitical question as much as an environmental and economic one. (ANI)
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