Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saving China's Capital ... from itself

A post today from EMBARQ (WRI's sustainable transportation research organization).

China Transportation Briefing: How to Save China’s Capital?

"In February 2012, the number of cars in Beijing exceeded 5 million. Given the problematic levels of traffic congestion and air pollution in the Chinese capital, few people hailed the milestone as an 'achievement.'"

The article cites congestion and air pollution among the hazards of the situation, and then suggests a few potential fixes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More on Hukou (household registration)

Last week, several students were interested in finding out more about the "hukou" household registration system, which was adapted from the Soviet Union's internal passport scheme. The latest issue of Business Week has a good explanatory article about the system (, detailing its impact on urbanization, the provision of social services and the resulting life choices of Chinese workers.
"The hukou, a small red passbook, contains key information on every family, including marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, as well as the city or village to which each person belongs. What comes attached to the hukou [pronounced hoo - ko] are benefits including health care, a pension, and free education for one’s children. These benefits are only available if a Chinese citizen lives where he or she is registered. Not having a hukou for where one lives makes it more difficult to get a driver’s license, buy a house, or purchase a car."
You may live and work in Beijing, but without an urban hukou, you and your children won't have access to the services and benefits provided by the municipality. According to the article, there are four ways of obtaining an urban hukou for out-of-towners:
1. Employment. For example, "6,000 hukou were given to Beijing companies last year." [The city's current population is about 19.6 million.]

2. Black Market. "Buying one on the black market can cost ¥150,000" [Over US$23,000]

3. Inheritance. "If one or both of your parents were born in Shanghai or another big city, you're in luck!"

4. Marriage. "You can get the same hukou as your spouse, but have to drop your original registration."
It's interesting to note that household registration may actually be holding back the formation of a larger middle class in China's cities, a phenomenon which normally springs from -- and contributes to -- economic growth. Experts find that it influences consumer patterns (less consumption, more savings), restricts the mobility of labor markets (somewhat worrisome, given the country's aging demographics), and often keeps families apart (parents stay in the city, while kids go back to the countryside).

The issue is ripe for reform, and the State Council "announced plans to make it easier for rural migrants to obtain a city hukou" last month. However, "this doesn't mean the hukou system will be swiftly dismantled: Authorities fear that would trigger a nationwide flood of migrants into the biggest cities and raise the prospect of mass unrest. Providing social welfare benefits to new urban residents will also be costly."

Also see the piece in Caixin magazine advocating a major overhaul of household registrations (

Air Pollution in China and Factors Constraining China's Economic Growth

Air Pollution Could Become China's Biggest Health Problem

Unless major efforts are made by the Chinese government to monitor and report smog levels, air pollution will become the biggest health threat in China. Currently the Chinese government is reluctant to monitor and report on the country's poor air quality and related health consequences, and thus most Chinese citizens are unaware of the threat China's air pollution poses. However, pressure is mounting and several provincial and municipal governments are beginning to record and report its air quality. The health consequences of China's high concentrations of air pollution include lung cancer and cardiovascular illness, which are both on the rise due to vehicle exhaust, factory emissions, and cigarette smoke. On particularly smoggy days, one doctor in Guangdong reports a 10% increase in patients. Air quality levels directly correlates to human sickness; for instance, cases of cardio failure increase by 1.28% for every 10 micrograms of PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns) per cubic meter. Thus it is advised to wear a face mask and reduce exercise on heavily polluted days. However, the first crucial step necessary to solving the air pollution/public health problem is through government transparency.

China's Aging Population and Deteriorating Natural Environment will Constrain Growth

Ma Jianting, the head of China's National Bureau of Statistics, declared that the country's aging population and environmental problems will hamper China's economic growth. These remarks were made at the China Development Forum in Beijing a week after China lowered its GDP target growth in 2012 to a seven-year low of 7.5%. China's aging population has resulted in the labor force to overall population ratio dipping for the first time in 2011. While natural resources per capita is limited, China's large energy and resource consumption is resulting in high costs to control the severe pollution. Ma concluded that in order for China to maintain steady but rapid economic growth, efforts in reform and restructuring need to be increased.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Doubts Raised Over China Hydro Project in Nepal

 This has been talked about a little bit in class, but here's an article talking about the $1.6 billion proposed hydro project in Nepal. As you could imagine, there is incredible untapped potential for hydropower in Nepal due to the huge elevation differences caused by the Himalayas. The delay seems to be a result the Nepal government blindly accepting the bid from China without consideration of international competition to create a bidding war on the project. Other proposed projects by China in the last few years have been halted, such as the Myanmar government halting a $3.6 billion hydro project by citing environmental and human rights concerns.

Here's the link.

Great NYT Article to Complement "Ghost Towns"

Western architects are flocking to China, and have been for some time, because there's so much building going on there (and very little in the U.S.) and because the speed and flexibility is so much greater. There are landmark "status projects" (e.g. Bird's nest and China Central Television Tower), but much of the building is being done as quickly and cheaply as possible. Many of these designers are young and less experienced or even unlicensed, but this is not a barrier in China. The article follows a few young, U.S. architects who moved to China over the past few years - some with a job, and some without. Some find themselves playing a new role, often providing the creative inspiration that wins a job, but being left in the dark as the project winds through China's murky real estate development process.

The article also raises questions about the long term sustainability of much of this boom, from a social point of view as well as simply a concern about the quality of construction. There's a pretty amazing description of an in-progress commercial property in Chengdu: Under a single roof covering an area of about 25 football fields, Ocean Park is designed to include hotels, shopping malls, aquariums, amusement parks and a simulated ocean with a white-sand beach. (The ultimate “Truman Show” touch: the 660-foot-wide video screen that will allow beachgoers to enjoy brilliant digital sunsets, even when clouds and pollution block the real thing.)

Some may recall a similar migration of professionals, including architects and engineers, to Dubai which ended, in 2009, with a mass exodus, as the government started clamping down on foreigners when their economy went South. See the following for article from that time: and just for fun, here's a video of a bunch of abandoned luxury cars and supercars in Dubai from that time:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ghost towns in Inner Mongolia

A report from Ordos, one of the largest mining town in Inner Mongolia, which we visited on the last China Energy trip.

Ordos: The biggest ghost town in China
"In Inner Mongolia a new city stands largely empty. This city, Ordos, suggests that the great Chinese building boom, which did so much to fuel the country's astonishing economic growth" could be drawing to a close.
Chinese developers continue to open up new tracts of land and build infrastructure -- the cranes are everywhere! -- but the question is whether anyone is moving in when these projects are completed, especially in middle-of-nowhere places like Ordos. In our visit, we definitely saw the large blocks of empty apartment buildings described in this article, even as construction continued to sprout everywhere, pushing up against the dry dusty outskirts of town. Our experience in the hotel was indicative of Ordos' mode of development: the showers didn't drain properly, flooding the bathrooms whenever they were used; students encountered seedy behavior in shady corners; and the lobby was dominated by banners welcoming a mining conference, the industry that's pumping money into this region.

Many local governments "seem to have become dependent on the proceeds of big land sales to developer" and may have an incentive to encourage still more construction, to keep the cycle going on -- and revenues rolling in -- as long as possible. "Western financial experts who fear a bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble point out that the Chinese economy is more dependent on house building than the United States economy was, before the sub-prime lending bubble burst in 2007." On the other hand, "Chinese economic commentators seem much less concerned" and are "still confident that the technocrats in Beijing...will soon be able to balance supply and demand in the housing market."

In many Chinese cities, the wealthy actually buy multiple apartments as a form of investment, since building prices keep rising. Real estate can also seem safer than stocks -- for example, a physical development may be less subject to the revelations of fraud that periodically pop up for listed companies in China (sigh). Someone from NRDC mentioned that some municipal authorities stumbled upon estimates of unoccupied luxury apartments because a certain proportion of flats would have energy bills that were always zero, month after month, demonstrating that no one lived there. (Which is a little ironic, because many ordinary people are still having difficulty affording a place in the big cities.) So whether there's a bubble or not, the housing market still has imbalances that need to be resolved.

It's just that continuing to feed the construction boom in Inner Mongolia may not be the solution. Here's another great feature in Foreign Policy magazine on the topic:

China's High-Growth Ghost Towns
Visiting the eerily vacant epicenter of unsustainable progress, far out in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

UPDATE: Al Jazeera English had a video today referencing the building boom as well.

CLP Castle Peak report on Exxon to sell

Came across a recent press articles about the potential sale by EXXON of its 60% interest in Castle Peak Power Co, a joint venture with China Light & Power (CLP - controlled by the Kadoorie family from Hong Kong). While this is just a small blip in the overall story of electricity in China, thought it was a great example of current events (the article just came out today). Sorry that I have had to upload an image of the article - it is from the Hong Kong South China Morning Post that my family subscribes to, so no link to forward.

- Michelle

Switching to Green Energy

This article discusses the growing presence of wind power and hydropower as renewable energy sources for China to reach its 2020 target of 15% non-fossil fuel consumption. “Wind power fields in China contributed to a total of 47 million kW to power stations last year, generation 73.3 billion tones of energy.” In addition, hydropower has become one of the fastest growing alternatives in China. One reason behind why solar is less popular than other alternatives is because of its relatively steep cost. Solar power is sold at 1.15 yuan per kilowatt-hour while wind power is solde at 0.57 yuan kW/h. Currently only 8% of the sources are from new energy. 

Polluted air will kill more people than dirty water

This article highlights the detrimental impact of air pollution and its growing presence in China (and India). The OECD published a report stating that urban pollution will be the top environmental cause of mortality in 2050. Particulates from air pollution, which cause respiratory failure, contribute to 1 million premature death rates globally today, but could double to 3.6 million every year by 2050.
In addition, China is a main contributor to the growing environmental issue of global pollution. Chemical signatures from Chinese power plants, smelters, chemical factories etc. have been found in clouds floating about Europe and the West Coast of the US. Furthermore, this article concludes that environmental issues should not be addressed in isolation, but rather managed in the context of other global challenges such as food and energy security, and poverty alleviation.

Chevron Betting on China's LNG Market

This article discusses Chevron's plans to invest heavily in LNG production for Asian markets. The risk is that this market will diminish if China taps into their own shale gas resources, after seeing the success that shale gas is having in the US. However, Chevron is betting on an idea that has been a theme of our class:

“You’ve got to believe, with the growth you have in China, every kind of energy you can deliver to the market is going to be consumed.”

Amid U.S.-China Energy Tension, "Clean Coal" Spurs Teamwork

This fun National Geographic article explains some of China’s CCS research advantages, such as large budgets and an efficient "engineering and science machine," as well as the growing competition between US and Chinese CCS methods. For example, the Huaneng gasifier (outside Shanghai) illustrates some improvements over US models by consuming less water, gasifying inputs twice, and separating out purer CO2. On the bright side, US and Chinese CCS researchers are collaborating, and hopefully there will be cross-fertilization of CCS research.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Amid U.S.-China Energy Tension, "Clean Coal" Spurs Teamwork

Came across this article and thought it serves as an interesting transition as we travel from the US to China next week. The article shows the different perspectives on the future of coal and clean energy and the potential areas for both conflict and collaboration. Touches on quite a few things that we have talked about in discussion over the past few weeks.

- Michelle

China's energy base seeks transformation

Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of China, located in the northeast on the border with Mongolia and Russia. It has a population of about 24 million people, predominantly of Han Chinese ethnicity. Inner Mongolia is one of the most resource-rich regions in China, specifically in terms of its coal resource. According to this article, the region has an estimated 700 billion tons of coal reserves and produces more than a quarter of the country's total coal output.

This article notes that China currently "exports" Inner Mongolia's coal to other parts of the country for processing and use. However, the government has plans to make the region an "energy base", which would help them use the resources more efficiently and export higher-value products. The topics in this article relate to  issues raised in both the Coal/Electric Power and Transportation sessions of CEE176F.

Currently, over 60% of the coal from Inner Mongolia is transported over land routes, which is difficult and costly. (In fact, the article mentions the epic September 2010 traffic jam that the Transportation group brought up, and cites these diesel-power coal trucks as a primary cause of the holdup.) Both the central government and the leaders of Inner Mongolia would love to develop processing and generation infrastructure within the region, so they could instead export higher-value products, particularly coal made from diesel. If the authors of this article are correct, we can expect to see higher-value products, and not just raw coal, coming out of Inner Mongolia in the coming years.

Nuclear Power "Problems"

In the wake of Fukushima, the nuclear power industry in China did a safety review which apparently identified 14 problems in need of resolution. However, the nuclear energy insider that made this comment was unwilling to provide any details about the severity of the problems, prompting frustration and concern. Perhaps we'll be able to learn more about how nuclear power plants are addressing safety problems when we visit Guangdong Daya Nuclear Power Station.


China looks to increase shale gas production

China is looking to increase its shale gas exploration and production through faster land approvals and subsidies. China possesses 25.08 trillion cubic meters of exploitable onshore shale-gas reserves and intends to produce 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas annually by 2015.

Dispute arises over over China's claim to petroleum assets offshore in the South China Sea

With the potential for the South China Sea to posses numerous petroleum resources we will continue to see disputes over which countries claim sovereignty for the land and minerals rights for economic gain. In this article China's national offshore oil company (CNOOC) had opened nineteen blocks for bidding by international oil companies. Vietnam responded by asking China to cease all operations that violate Vietnam's sovereignty. The combination of economic and political power associated with this conflict could be the beginning of a string of more serious conflicts surrounding the offshore assets in the region. These assets have been assessed to be as large as 200+ billion barrels of oil. Let's hope these issues are addressed in a responsible and timely manner. Considering the demand for international companies to avoid such geopolitical risks it seems plausible that the dispute will be resolved.

Sichuan Basin Shale Gas Well Test indicates promise

Sinopec was successful in their test well in the Sichuan Basin. The well indicated that it is capable of producing 507,000 cubic meters of Natural gas. Before this well had been drilled the overall amount of recoverable reserves of shales gas was approximately 25.08 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Both of these signs indicate that the future of shale gas in China is very bright. This also may indicate economic growth for the global energy services sector. These companies' controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing will become most likely as prevalent in China as it is now in the United States. Considering the number of reserves of shale gas in basins, like Sichuan, that have a large amount of water resources it makes sense that these technological practices will indeed move forward as China begins to understand more about their shale gas assets.

China/US Trade War and Rare Earth Metals

There was an article in reuters from Monday about the trade dispute between the US and China over "rare earth metals".  These are used in electronics but also for renewable energy technologies (including generators for wind turbines).  China leads the world in 17 different metals, accounting for 97 percent of world output.

The Obama Administration, the EU, and Japan plan to bring a new WTO trade case against China for their export restrictions on rare earth metals.  Obama is also considering another potential WTO trade case complaining against anti-dumping and countervailing duties China imposed last year on US auto exports.  This was supposedly in retaliation for previous US trading curbs. 

In summary, it sounds like the "coming" trade war is already in full swing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

More on eco-cities in China

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd post two articles I found that discuss the eco-village of Huangbaiyu, as well as the urban/rural divide in China in general. When we brainstormed some over-arching themes for the documentary on Thursday, we identified a couple that seem to resonate with these articles. One important one was "How does this technology impact Chinese citizens from various backgrounds?" Another one we brainstormed is the dichotomy of "Rhetoric versus reality."

Good luck on finals!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

China Road and AP Article on Ethnic Tensions in Hong Kong

Since the book China Road came up today in our discussion after Up the Yangtze, I thought it might be helpful to give a quick summary from what I can remember of the book. It was written in 2005 (ish?) by Rob Gifford, who was NPR's chief China correspondent and has studied/reported from China since the 80's. In preparation for a relocation to London he decides to take a journey along the entirety of Route 312, also known as The Mother Road, which is analogous to Route 66 in the U.S. It begins in Shanghai on the East Coast and ends at the Kazakh border in Xinjiang.

Making the journey mostly by taxi and hitching rides, he explores the everyday life of China's common people - "Old Hundred Names" - in particular of the Western provinces. As Gifford makes the journey, trekking through Uighur villages in Xinjiang, giving an impromptu sermon at a tiny roadside church, and chatting with a hermit who lives on the top of a mountain (with a cellphone), the incredible immensity and diversity of China come into focus.

He also weaves in a great deal of history, from the sense of cultural superiority of the Qing dynasty to the humiliation of the Opium Wars and formation of "treaty ports" under the control of European countries, and you gain a sense of the Chinese perspective as the underdog nation. Gifford's central thesis is that there is a growing tension among China's rural poor, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups - from the truck drivers who do battle with corrupt officials to the poor farmers struggling to make ends meet with essentially no political power. Gifford puts a face on many issues that are viewed as troubling from the West, from the more ambiguous policies such as the cultural assimilation of Uighurs by (among other things) sending the brightest students from Xinjian to Beijing to study, to the devastation and suppression of the "AIDS villages." Ultimately Gifford proposes that the history of China indicates that the government's long term stability rests upon its ability to become more responsive to the plight of China's poor and marginalized citizens.

In related news, below is an interesting link about increasing tensions in Hong Kong, where natives are beginning to react to increasing numbers of mainlanders who have different customs and dialects:

A story about how a inefficienty insitituation mechanism encourages the development of renewable energy

Institution, culture and their impacts on the cost of renewable energy utilization

Comparing with using the conventional sources, a significant disadvantage of using renewable energy for electricity supply is its relatively higher cost. Usually, people focus on the operation cost and financial cost, and discuss the cost-reduction effects of technology innovation and the pro-renewable policies on the utilization of the renewable utilization. However, some other factors might also significant influence the cost of using renewable energy for power generation. Here I give an example in China to show how the institutional factors impacts on the opportunity cost of the renewable energy using.

The institutional arrangement of coal-power supply chain pushes up the cost of using coal to generating power, and encourages the replacement of the fossil fuel by renewable resources. 

After 1990, Chinese government began to use the market mechanism for coal supply to instead of central planning mechanism. Private funds are allowed to enter the coal market and coal mining sector.  In this way, the competition was introduced into the power market, and the coal price is partly determined by the market clearing mechanism. In contrast, the power system is still central planed. The power plants are paid by a fix rate, which is determined by the Development and Reform Committee in the beginning of every year.  People call the system which consists of the coal market and the planned power-system as the “coal-power coiled structure”. Obviously, because of the central planned power system, this structure is a inefficient institutional arrangement for energy supply.

With the rapid economical development, the demand to electricity grows dramatically.  As the coal is the main source of power generation, the fast-growing demand to electricity pushes up the demand to coal use. The high demand to coal causes a significant increase in the coal price.  However, the electricity price is still fixed at a low level, which cannot be used to balance the increased coal price. This problem has caused big losses for many coal power plants.

The coal-power coiled structure raises the cost of using coal, and reduces the opportunity cost of using renewable energy sources to generate electricity correspondingly.  The loss caused by the coal-power coiled structure have became one of the main incentives for replacing fossil fuel by renewable sources such as hydro and nuclear.

China plans to use tiered power pricing for residential power consumptions

During the NPC and CPPCC Chinese government declare that they plans to use tiered power price to instead of the uniform rates for residential electricity users. Currently, the electricity price to consumers is far lower than the marginal cost of power generation. Many projects have been implemented for commercial and industrial consumers. However, because the consumption of residential consumers only takes a small proportion of the total electricity consumption, there is no particular policy for residential consumption management. This is the first national-wide particular management for reducing residential energy consumption.

"The Complexities of the U.S. Decision on Chinese Solar Panel Imports"

The Department of Commerce is set to issue a verdict next week on the trade petition filed by SolarWorld. The petition calls for imposing import tariffs on Chinese solar panels because, as SolarWorld and its partners allege, Chinese officials are using subsidies and dumping to artificially lower solar panel export prices. Many solar companies, however, fear that the imposition of such a tariff would destroy profit margins and slow industry growth, among other impacts.

China Politics: Regional Leader Ousted

This article is currently on the front page of the New York times. While it does not directly deal with energy, it is a very interesting piece that ties together what we have learned about Chinese Politics (which directly influence energy policy). Bo Xilai, the Communist Party Chief of Chongqing Municipality was removed from his post Wednesday. He was expected to be one of the seven new members to be brought up to the Standing Committee of the Politburo (that group of all powerful 9 men that essentially run China) but has now lost favor with the party. Bo had strong leftest tendencies: he revived Cultural Revolution era songs and developed the 'Chongqing Model' of economic development which focused on infrastructure spending and tending to the needs of the poor. The government feared that he would bring back the 'Chaos' of the cultural revolution.

Apple Refutes allegations of Pollution

So here's an article about a bunch of Chinese environmental NGO's that released a report "The Other Side of Apple II" in which they cited more than 20 suspected or confirmed Apple suppliers and showed the damage caused by these companies to the environment and surrounding community. This is actually the second report of its kind, but Apple ignored the first one. They deny all the allegations and say that they are committed to environmental stewardship in their supply chain and all that PR BS, but they did ask to have a conference call with the NGOs. Maybe sometime Apple will become a green company? Maybe not. But here's the story:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

30-Story Chinese Hotel Constructed in 15 Days

My group presentation a couple of weeks ago on the topic of commercial and residential buildings showed a video about a 30-story hotel built in 15 days in Changsha, China. This article from the LA Times further explains the project. Presently in the US we cannot construct a building so quickly because risk is a major concern to us. We require many more inspections and checks along the way. Also, we do not do construction at night because that can be risky as well. In China, there are fewer regulations allowing them to complete such large projects in a fraction of the normal time. This particular building has green systems in the design, including low flush toilets, efficient lighting systems, and less concrete in construction, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions due to the cement.


-Marielle Price

Sunday, March 11, 2012

China urges Myanmar to restart $3.6B dam project

China is not only eager to develop its own hydro resources; it has also moved aggressively into neighboring countries, with mixed success. In Myanmar, for example, the Chinese government-backed developer, China Power Investment Corp., was scheduled to construct a multi-million dollar dam projcet on the Irrawady River, to be finished in 2017. The Myitsone project was abruptly suspended in September, however, because of domestic criticisms. (The dam would displace a large number of rural residents, and has also been criticized by environmentalists.) Additionally, although the dam is located in Myanmar, 90% of the electricity would be exported to China. According to this article, the Chinese government is urging Myanmar to restart the project, but it is unclear how successful they will be.

This article gives an interesting glimpse into how China's ambitious plans for hydro are affecting its regional relationships. Capitalizing on the ample water resources in the rest of Southeast Asia would be great for China - but can China navigate the political hurdles necessary to secure these resources? At least in the case of Myanmar, this is proving more difficult than expected.

For the full article, read here:

Solar Panel Sales Seen Dropping First Time in Decade in the World, but Chinese Demand will help make up for the losses worldwide

This article, published in Bloomberg News Online. The article indicates that due to subsidy cuts in both Germany and Italy, worldwide demand for solar panels is expected to decline this year, for the first time in a decade. However, China is expected to double its installation of solar photovoltaic cells this year (approximately 4-5 GW!) which could help to alleviate the demand shortage. It is also expected that demand in China may even be higher if the "government in Beijing" can stimulate this growth to help their Chinese solar companies thrive. (I assume this means that if the Chinese government can create financial incentives in China, they believe demand will increase, though the article is not clear about this and I don't know of any current plans for new financial incentives for solar PVs in China).

To read more, this article can be found here:

Friday, March 9, 2012

China energy plan more favorable for nuclear

On Wednesday, premier Wen Jiabao outlined his plan for energy reform - optimizing the energy structure, promoting efficient use of traditional energy, developing nuclear, and increasing "new" energy (e.g. alternative energy) to the NPC. This marks a step into the direction of gradually including market pricing for oil, gas, and electricity in 2012-2015, but it still looks like the government can (and will) still adjust prices as it sees fit. According to this article, Jiabao's plan also indicates that the government is much more supportive of the centrally owned grid and nuclear facilities as opposed to more private and fragmented thermal coal plants. Though coal is obviously really important to the country's electricity, apparently they aren't too favored by the government. Plans by the government to expand nuclear power as well as favorable on-grid pricing for nuclear power mean that the government really favors this tech. The gradual market pricing inclusions will help gas to become more competitive and is also good for the oil industry too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

China to roll out tiered residential power pricing

China plans tiered power pricing for homes in H1 -paper
- Reuters

A government official was reported to have said that China is planning to begin a tiered power pricing program for residential power users in an effort to ease tight power supplies. Peng Sen, deputy director of NDRC, reported that a proposal for charging higher tariffs on power to heavy users has been approved by the State Council. "Experts" say that as residential users account for a relatively small amount total consumption this will do little to "ease power producers' pain."

~Ryan Triolo

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

China reveals 25tn cu meters of shale gas

China recently announced the results of the “most extensive official appraisal” of its natural gas reserves finding that “potentially recoverable reserves” amount to 25.1 trillion m^3 which is “less than previous estimates.” Still China is making shale gas recovery a high priority of energy policy and is still believed to have “some of the largest reserves of shale gas in the world.” This article estimates that this is enough gas to meet China’s current consumption for the next 200 years. Shale gas recovery in China is not highly developed due to lack of technical expertise and challenging geological features but it is expected to ramp up in the near future.

- Ryan Triolo

Why EV's are not a good idea right now for china..

following our discussion earlier in class today, here is a paper that argues why EVs should not be a prominent solution..there were a few good points raised in class however such that at least they serve as a lunching platform to shift to alternatives later on after adopting EV

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trucks Power China's Economy, at a Suffocating Cost

This article tells the story of the externalities associated with trucking in China, which is their most heavily used mode of freight transportation. As mentioned in class today, trucks in China burn diesel ful with 130 times the amount of sulfur than diesel in America. Since the Chinese government forces diesel prices to remain low (often lower than the costs of refining), refining companies like Sinopec buy the cheapest possible crude oil which happens to be the most sulfur-rich as well. The obvious solution to this would be to increase the price of diesel for the truckers, but the PRC is hesitant to do this as it would put many of the small trucking companies out of business. Another issue with trucking is that while emissions standards are increasing for new trucks, old inefficient trucks are left on the roads. The government is hesitant to ban old trucks, again, for the same reason - they do not want to slow down the economy.

Ironically, those facing the worst of the damage - truckers, who breathe the thick black clouds of diesel exhaust for their job - are the ones who do not want the industry to change: “That would be too much for me, I would be put out of business. I might as well stay home.”

Full article here:

Chinese use Google+ to 'Occupy Obama'

This article reminded me of the talk we had earlier in class on how the Chinese are using social media to eagerly connect with each others and the rest of the world.  Clearly inspired by the 'Occupy' movement in the U.S., it seems that some Chinese have found a new "cool" target for their comments on Google+, Twitter, and facebook ... President Obama's pages. One comment which I found particularly interesting in the article reads: "Everybody comes to talk to Mr. Obama because it is easier to talk to him than to Chairman Hu and Premier Wen." Many more in the article...

Monday, March 5, 2012

China Foothold in U.S. Energy

 Here is an interesting article about China's financial involvement in the United States' oil and gas assets. This results in a tradeoff that at least temporally benefits both sides; The U.S. receives investment money for EOR techniques to extract hard-to-tap reserves, and China gains access to the cutting edge EOR techniques from America. I wonder what the implications of said relationship will be in 5, 10, 15 years....

China Still Plans To Meet 2015 Carbon Emission and Energy Intensity Goals, Replace "Outdated Capacity" in Electricity and Industry

China officially stated yesterday that they expect to meet 2015 goals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, even though 2011 emissions and overall energy intensity reductions were short of their annual goal.  The culprit, according to Zhang Ping of the NDRC, was a drought in southern China in 2011 that greatly reduced hydropower output.  It would be reasonable to expect that such drought conditions are highly unlikely over a five-year period, and this plays into the NDRC's updated projections.

Chinese officials also reiterated their longer-term efforts in shuttering "outdated" power generation facilities (largely coal) as well as less efficient plants in the steel, construction and petrochemical industries.

Link from Bloomberg:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

China Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set to Rise Well Past U.S.

According to this article from Scientific American in February 2012, China's greenhouse gas emissions will be 50% higher than greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in as early as 2015. This number is staggering, considering that the United States already emits approximately 20-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Though the U.S. and China are expected to forge partnerships to reduce their joint carbon dioxide emissions, there may be trade issues that prevent them from doing so, including, perhaps, those regarding solar, wind and electric vehicles. In addition, though China has been successful in pledging and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions intensity, they have so far not made any effort to reduce absolute emissions. Experts predict that those reductions may not occur until 2025 or 2035.

The article can be found in Scientific American online .

China still targeting heavy-metal polluters

Heavy metal (lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium, arsenic...) pollution is still a big environmental issue in China. Indeed, current standards for heavy metals are based on levels of concentration, not on total volume or mass. Consequently, industries just dilute their emissions and pollute a lot. 

In the first two months of 2012, four incidences of lead poisoning were reported in Guangdong and Henan provinces, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Over the past 2 years, more than 1,000 enterprises were closed down because of heavy metal pollution.

Unfortunately, the article remains blur on the measures taken to tackle this issue.