Monday, November 22, 2010


In a post yesterday, I used the example of U.S. coal being shipped to China by an Australian company. Little did I know the depth of the story! An article in the NY Times today goes into detail about how China has changed from a coal exporter to a coal importer, and the magnitude of imports is growing rapidly. Environmentalists in the U.S., Australia and other countries are besides themselves over this turn of events, as well they should be. The moves away from producing electricity by burning coal in these countries, in order to reduce climate changing emissions, don't deal with exporting coal so someone else can burn it. By exporting coal we're exporting climate changing emissions to other countries. This is a serious turn of events.

Of course, nothing is black and white in the world, or, as we used to always say, everything has two sides. One reason China has changed from a coal exporter to a coal importer is that their coal is mostly high-sulphur, the wrong kind to burn if you want to reduce climate change and polluting emissions. So China is importing low-sulphur coal as part of their overall strategy to reduce the most harmful emissions.

At the same time that they are building coal-fired power plants at a fast pace, China has also accelerated the building of wind and nuclear energy generation facilities. They have overtaken the U.S. in wind energy production and will soon be the world's leader in nuclear energy production. But coal-fired generation remains the staple for generation of electricity in the rapidly expanding Chinese economy.

As the old Chinese saying goes: may you live in interesting times.

1 comment:

  1. What's you stand on nuclear energy? Seems that greenies are split.