Xinhua. The Seventh Green China Forum opened in Beijing over the weekend against a backdrop of ongoing energy demand, increasing pollution load and resource depletion. China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) started the Green China Forum in 2003 to provide a platform for domestic and foreign environmental officials and experts to exchange ideas on sustainable development in the country.
During this seventh meeting, Pan Yue, deputy director of the SEPA, noted that China has “paid a high environmental price” in becoming the biggest manufacturer in the world after experiencing rapid economic development over the past 20 years.
The pollution load of China will quadruple in 2020 when the country’s GDP quadruples if the pace of pollution remains unchanged.
By then, China will only have six out of its current 45 major mineral resources, according to Pan.
Pan urged China should embark on the path of a “green rise” and pledged that China will honor all signed international pacts on environmental protection like the Kyoto protocol.
To better understand the raw demand for energy that China faces, we need to look at a representation of the energy intensity of the economy—i.e., how much energy is consumed to produce the economic activity of the nation. The other element that must factor in is the population size.
The chart to the right plots the GigaJoules of primary energy consumption per unit GDP for 2004—the amount of energy consumed on a per capita GDP basis. As you can see, China stands out for the massive amount it consumes per unit GDP—more than 4 times that of the US.
Factor in the massive expansion of growth that China is facing, and you begin to grasp the magnitude of the problem the country faces.
China currently has a population of 1.3 billion, compared to the 600 million it had when New China was founded in 1949. (During the same period, land suitable for people to live has shrunk from six million square kilometers to the current three million square kilometers due to serious soil erosion.)
Supporting a growing economy to raise the per capita GDP against a population base that large is daunting enough—but trying to do it when consuming multiple times the amount of energy that other countries do is just not possible.
In a further indication of China’s hunger for energy, the country has begun exploration of its first offshore (i.e., underwater) coal mine in eastern Shandong Province, according to Xinhua.
This is China’s first underwater coal mine—and would be one of a small group worldwide. (Canada has had several, Serbia is seeking investment in a mine with 400 million tons of lignite reserve.)
The Shandong mine, located about five kilometers away from the coast of Longkou city in eastern Shandong, has reserves of 1.29 billion tons of coal.
According to the company, the first phrase of digging will be done at the field 350 meters below sea level, stretching 150 meters. The deposit there is expected to turn out 89,200 tons of coal.
Representatives from the company said they had set up a sophisticated safety surveillance system and acquired the technology to prevent sea water flooding. It is said most domestic companies fail to meet the strict safety requirement for such exploitation.
China’s coal mines are extremely dangerous, due to poor safety measures and the country’s urgent need for energy. State work safety authorities reported a total of 3,639 fatal coal mine accidents last year, killing 6,027 coal mine workers. Adding to the standard dangers of coal mining, an undersea mine faces the additional threat of water flooding.
With all this factored in, China could—and must for its own benefit—become a hotbed for innovation in the transportation sector: fuel efficiency, alternative platforms and fuels, low- to zero-emissions vehicles.