26 December 2007

China--Already Biggest Producer of Pollution and Greenhouse Gases--Plans to Continue to Rely on Coal as Top Energy Source

China has grown dirty, as it has taken on the manufacturing business of much of the developed world. Its rivers run polluted with chemicals and human waste, and the air in China's cities is becoming unbreathable. Yet, in China's quest for profit over quality of life for its people, it continues to consume the dirtiest fossil fuel on earth.
Twenty of the world's 30 most polluted cities are in China, and every year more than 300,000 deaths there are attributed to pollution, according to the World Bank.

Much of that pollution comes from the coal-fired plants that produce about 70 percent of China's energy needs...But the problem in China is not just the amount of coal burned. Many of its plants and factories have inadequate pollution-control equipment, if any, and that is unlikely to change in coming years. Rising levels of sulfur dioxide from burning coal is causing acid rain.

Foul air is just one ingredient in China's stew of environmental problems. Seventy percent of the country's lakes and rivers are so polluted they would make humans sick. Every year, some 45 billion tons of industrial waste and raw sewage are dumped in rivers and lakes.

China has put out several press releases touting the nations "intention" to develop more renewable energy resources--but that is easier said than done. Hard headed analysts do not expect anything different than more of the same, but more idealistic forecasters continue to hope for better.
China reiterated Wednesday its long-term dependence on coal for energy, but pledged to step up efforts to burn the fuel more cleanly to reduce its impact on global warming.
"Step up efforts to burn the fuel more cleanly?" Yes, of course. Et cetera, et cetera . . . I believe we have heard similar promises in the past. China is the place to go to build a product cheaply and with economic efficiency. The large companies of Europe and North America understand that. And if you want to cut a few corners on environmental regulations, the proper bribe to the proper officials will usually get it done.
Coal, which currently makes up about 70 percent of the energy needs of Asia's second largest economy, is expected to continue to play a central role.

"The energy structure with coal playing the main role will remain unchanged for a long time to come," the paper said.

But "coal consumption has been the main cause of smoke pollution in China, as well as the main source of greenhouse gas ... if this situation continues, the ecological environment will face even greater pressure."...

China passed the US sometime in 2007 as the world's largest emitter of CO2. But it passed the US in terms of actual pollution decades ago. CO2 is not a pollutant. But the sulfurous soot from China's coal certainly is. It sweeps across the Asian landscape, over the oceans, to North America and the Arctic icecap--where it contributes to the melting of sea ice.


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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