Energy: China’s burning ambition

“The economic miracle that is transforming the world’s most populous nation is threatened by energy shortages and rising pollution. It also risks plunging the planet’s climate into chaos.”

Peter Aldhous in Nature:

China is booming, and its hunger for energy is insatiable. For its people, the dismal air quality across much of the country is a constant reminder of its reliance on coal and other dirty fuels. When Nature visited Beijing to meet the technocrats responsible for China’s energy policy, the city was blanketed in acrid smog. After just a few days of stagnant weather, visibility in some districts had dropped to tens of metres. Flights were delayed and the Beijing Environmental Protection Agency advised people to stay indoors. You could almost taste the sulphur in the air…

The most immediate problem for China is that its economic growth is already outstripping its energy supplies. In boomtowns from Shenzhen to Chengdu, electricity is now an unstable commodity. Last year, 24 of China’s 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions admitted that they lacked sufficient power. In the summer, when drought curtails hydropower and air conditioners surge into life, blackouts have become commonplace.

More here.