Thursday, November 20, 2003

Pardon me if this feels a little off topic, but this Salon interview about the new chinese fuel economy regulations also brings out a very important issue i.e. China's greenhouse gas emissions. Read On.

At its current rate of growth, how long would it take China to replace the U.S. as the biggest producer of greenhouse gases?

JS: Are you talking in terms of current emissions or total historic emissions?

China would have to emit greenhouse gases at the same rate as the U.S. for many more decades before ever coming close to catching up to the U.S. in terms of total emissions of carbon now in the atmosphere.

But what about going forward in terms of current emissions?
JS: At least 30 years, in most of the reasonable projections that I've seen. Some say closer to 20 years, but that's fairly implausible, I think. Anyone you hear saying that China is going to surpass the U.S. in terms of energy use by 2020 is basically working from outdated projections.

And that 2020 figure often gets thrown around?
LP.: And 2010 gets thrown around. Those figures are based on old projections.

JS: You have to make assumptions that are at the very least physically improbable.

How so?
JS: You would have to completely halt any improvements in energy efficiency that are going to occur anyway as capital stock turns over.

You would have to posit that the evolution of the economic structure in China from one based very much on industry to one based a lot more on services is going to stop -- a very unrealistic assumption.

You have to assume that an increasingly wealthy population is going to put up with current levels of pollution. It already is not. And one of the main ways of mitigating pollution is to use energy more efficiently, and to switch to forms of energy that are inherently less polluting -- natural gas for coal.

And also you would have to assume that energy use in the U.S. would start to fall. You'd have to assume a pretty rapid leveling off and shrinking of U.S. energy use. Or, as some people have done, you would have to assume really high rates of economic growth in China.

In case you can not get in to Salon, try this (however the link will expire in 90 days).

Elsewhere, How about America following (not leading) into China's footsteps?


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