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Chinese Academy of Sciences Makes Recommendations for Non-Petroleum Energy Sources; Focus on Electric Transportation and Substitute Fuels

A panel of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Academic Divisions recently issued a report recommending medium- and long-term development strategies for energy sources that can supplement or substitute for petroleum in China.

The report gauges the future development trends of energy sources both in China and the world, making forecasts on the availability of petroleum resources, demand, and production capacities from 2020 to 2050. It consists of two parts, one on the supplementation and substitution of petroleum fuel and the other on the improvement and substitution of the power systems of transport vehicles.

As the conventional petroleum (“easy” oil) shortage becomes increasingly acute and the crude oil prices keep soaring, the markets for non-conventional petroleum (extra-heavy oil, oil sands and oil-shale) are expected to constantly expand, partly making up for the shortfall.

The report notes the relative abundance of coal and natural gas in China and suggests that their conversion into transportation fuels is now technologically viable and could be competitive when prices of conventional fuels are at the high end of the range.

Other optional substitutes touched on by the report include biomass-based ethanol, methanol, dimethyl ether, biodiesel, synthetic oil and hydrogen.

Of equal significance are innovations in the technology of transport vehicles. The report cites a need to develop energy-efficient vehicles, vehicles using substitute fuels or powered by electricity.

The report makes the following proposals for action over the next five years for the development egarding the development of petroleum substitutes, including fuels from non-conventional oil and coal, natural gas and biomass:

  1. Vigorous prospecting and assessment of China’s oil shale resources.

  2. Deepening the research and development of key technologies that are directly or indirectly associated with liquefaction; supporting demonstration plants with an annual production capacity up to one million tons of substitute fuels using the two technological alternatives—direct (Bergius) and indirect (Fischer-Tropsch)—with a view to gaining experiences for industrial application of the production technologies.

  3. Support the development of cellulosic ethanol production, and support reresearchnto the breeding of fast-growing energy-rich plants in desert and desolate areas that can provide biomass for bioethanol and biodiesel manufacturing. Furthermore, efforts should be made to develop mass production bases for those fuels without the occupation of farmlands.

  4. Continuously promote the industrialization of the production of bioethanol and biodiesel from biomass.

To conserve energy in the transportation and cocommunicationectors, the report proposes:

  1. Promote the adoption of new automobile powertrain systems that are more fuel efficient and can use diverse energy sources. Priority should be given to zero-emission, electric drives. The report states the need to vigorously carry out the research and development of highly efficient, low-cost systems of fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.

    The key issues in the application of electric vehicles and its early industrialization lie in the solution to the problems of electric power supply and hydrogen fuel storage on vehicles. To this end, the report says that resources should be pooled to remove the technological bottlenecks such as short service life, high production costs, poor reliability and performance of such systems.

    Meanwhile, feasibility studies and large-scale demonstration projects should be conducted on such infrastructure facilities as hydrogen fueling stations and electric vehicle charging stations so as to speed up the industrial development of fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.

  2. Major development of electrified rail transportation. Railway electrification and increased speed of passenger trains are the way of ensuring the dominant position of railways in the communication and transport industry. More efforts should be made to develop urban rail transit systems, with a view to effectively curbing the rapidly increasing number of automobiles used in cities and reduce the per vehicle consumption of oil.

The report notes that introduction of energy-efficient technologies is time consuming and has to be accomplished in well-planned phases. For work over the next five years, it suggests that support should be rendered to the research, development and pilot studies by various sectors in this regard. Initial work should be done on selective basis when putting such technologies to industrial application.

The CAS report states that a prudent approach should be taken toward massive application of such technologies in industrial production in the current R&D phase. Only after “full verification” will it be appropriate for the government to make a major decision to its large-scale industrialization. The report also proposes a key national research program in the field, which should be launched through coordination of the national authorities and implemented continuously under the centralized leadership and management.


Rafael Seidl

"Low-cost" and "fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries": now there are two concepts you don't often see in the same sentence.

As valuable as research into alternative fuels and drivetrain efficiency is, China's main focus at this point ought to be keeping vehicle ownership down by promoting alternatives. The focus on rail electrification and urban rail transit is welcome, but it will not be sufficient to avert Los Angeles-style gridlock.

Instead, China and other rapidly emerging nations featuring high local population density in key economic zones should adopt a multi-pronged approach:

(a) When creating or upgrading a city district or suburb, use urban planning to ensure sufficient building density for alternatives to passenger cars to be viable (cp. Netherlands, Denmark). This is more difficult to do in earthquake-prone areas but not impossible.

(b) Also, pre-allocate space for safe (preferably covered) bicycle lanes and for future mass transit systems either above or below ground. Pre-allocate pedestrian zones for retail outlets a well as space for public parks, possibly located on the rooftops of public buildings.

(c) Enact and enforce adequate emissions standards for two-stroke and four-stroke engines for all on-road fuels. Encourage heavy industry to relocate out of historic city centers.

(d) Thoroughly mix commercial and residential zones to structurally reduce commute distances (cp. Milton Keynes, UK and downtown Vancouver, BC).

(e) Establish numerous connections between various means of transport, including guarded and covered bicycle parking (with recharging infrastructure for electric models), bus stops shared by multiple routes, transfer hubs such as bus/tram/subway terminals with retail outlets, ferry docks, taxi stands plus integrated baggage check-in on rail lines leading directly to the nearest airport. At key locations at the periphery of congested cities, establish park & ride facilities. Spend heavily on comfort, safety and convenience.

(f) Develop dynamically routed sharecab services as a half-way house between fixed route buses and taxis. Let customers use cell phones/internet to order service and computers in a central locations to approximately solve the resulting traveling salesman problem for each vehicle in the dispatch fleet. This involves satellite positioning systems, wireless data communication for tracking and navigation plus geographic information systems with dynamic traffic information.

(g) Encourage the purchase of package solutions including (electric) bicycles and various forms of motorized transportation services. Where possible, let passengers take their (folding) bicycles along.

(h) Encourage car clubs that manage and maintain private fleets, as a half-way house between private ownership and rental agencies for the emerging middle classes.

(j) Do enable general aviation but only for distances greater than ~400km or across large bodies of open water. Integrate with ground transportation for regional connections. Consider small, land-based ground effect planes for rapid and efficient passenger and courier services up and down river systems.

(k) Encourage the use of broadband internet technologies in the management and delivery of knowledge-based aspects of private enterprise.

Bottom line: discourage the private ownership of passenger cars so there are less of them to cause congestion and worries about future energy supplies. Not only does this improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions, it also makes driving a much safer and more enjoyable experience once you actually do get behind the wheel.

China, India and others can and should learn from the mistakes made by the US, Europe and Japan in the post-war era wrt an excessive focus on automobile production and personal ownership. In some - by no means all - areas the sheer number of vehicles on the road has turned the dream of personal mobility into a daily nightmare. Once someone buys a car of his own, the depreciation on it alone means he/she will eschew the use of virtually all the alternatives.


As I drive on I-40, I note that the right hand lane is a train of diesel trucks from California to Arkansas, and expect the same holds true to Wilmington, North Caroline. So the building of a high speed electrified rail system seems to be a key to protecting our way of life by diversification. However, I am not aware of any such wisdom in the good ol USA, whereas in China they observe the obvious. People like the security of individual vehicles and roads, but cargo containers have no such problem.

At the port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, which handles twice the cargo containers of any other USA port, we have trucks sitting idle, running their diesel engines, making the air difficult to breath. Even a short high speed electric rail system to the San Bernardino trucking distribution centers would be a great benefit. But instead we build the blue line passenger system which runs empty about 16 hours a day.

What is so hard about taking effective action in the USA?


Van- Why is it so hard in the USA? It's really quite simple... Teamsters vote. Not a problem in communist China.



You are right, of course. All the policies you outline make perfect sense. Except for the fact that China is determined to build an economy and a society that is dependent upon the automobile. After all, look what wonderful things it has done for the United States.

China has the benefit of hindsight and should be able to clearly see that our dependence upon the automobile is a disaster with respect to congestion, pollution, global warming, destruction of cities, and security of energy resources. And yet they and we choose to plunder every available resource to realize the American, now the Chinese wet dream.

China is convinced that the sine qua non of a developed and prosperous society is the mass proliferation of automobiles, all the time, everywhere. They had a chance to build a rational transportation system from the bottom up and blew it. Too bad for them, too bad for the planet.

Mikael Johansson

Take a look at our teams new infrastructure system for cities and nations we have developed in Sweden. This new system will, in the long term, solve many of the problems of today, especially for fast growing nations as China and India.


Um you dont realy have to worry about us trucking. They are in fact keeping a nice eye ev trucks. See unlike a car a long haul truck goes down set routes fuels up at set fueling stations and can carry ALOT of battery packs.

And it doesnt even matter if the pack costs 100k the truck costs more then that.

So get to around 4k bat packs and you will see trucks carting 3-4-5 tons of batteries around so they can drastuicaly cut fuel costs.

On fact I wouldnt be shocked if trucks electrify before us trains do.


I am reminded of 1930's Amercia, with the handwriting on the wall but no effective action is taken because of the "America First" crowd and it spokesperson, Lucky Lindy. Now we have the NIMBYs blocking every effective step to diversify from dependence on foreign oil. I am sorry but it looks like yet another shortage or terriorist attack is needed before we can establish a working majority that says, "Lets roll."

Do we have the votes to open Yucca Mountain? Nope.
Do we have the votes to build a high speed electric transport system? Nope
Do we have the votes to build the production facilities necessary to shift to hybrids without depending on foreign batteries? Nope
What to we have the votes for? Studies!
Do we have a plan to reverse flow our freeways complete with adequate military callup? Nope
Do we have a law that says a mandatory evacuation means people are moved by force if necessary? Nope
Are we buiding levees that are 30 feet above sea-level so that the storm-surge will not top them? Nope.
Have we secured our borders? Nope

We have met the enemy and it is us.


The reaqson we didnt and dont buld such huge levees is simple. New orleans simply isnt worth it. The only part of new orleans that matters to the us is the docls and the refineries and both those areas are being hardended. The city itself we dont gve a damn about. Any more then we give a damn about oakland california or juno alaska or whatever.

Poeple who biuild in new orleans do so knowing they will lose again and maybe this time they will move thier ass.

freemarket235 (Rick)

Central planning does not work because it is based on the immoral foundation of force. It is wrong to push people around. It is disrepectful to move people by force. And, pushing people causes them to resist, thank Goodness, which is why central planning wastes much human energy. The alternative to coercion and violence is peaceful persuasion and voluntary association, the free market.

A free market in transportation would eliminate congestion. If people were free to provide transportation services, there would be millions of individuals providing door to door transportation services much cheaper than current taxi prices. Under the current system of government control, most people are not allowed to enter the market. They don't have the minimum of several thousand dollars for licences, fees, and mandatory insurance.

Traffic congestion is a product of government control. And, public transportation does not work for more than ninety percent of the population because it does not provide door to door service. It is inefficient, inflexable, and completely useless for the vast majority who do not live on the designated routes.


I think china is mostly picking parts of other systems that do very good jobs. The us HIGHWAY system is amazing. And yes getting people into cars and moving about is very important to china. They only have so long to get china to a post industrial state before all hell breaks lose after all

richard schumacher

Free markets can work correctly only when *everything* is priced; otherwise they're not free, they're merely cheating. Decades of a lack of pricing of the effects of sprawl and air pollution gave a huge unfair advantage to individual cars and trucks, and thus helped create the currrent mess.


It was the government program of building all those roads that gave the advantage to all those cars and trucks. And, it was the lack of property rights that allowed smog. -- Richard G. Eramian (Rick)


And if humans didnt have such a huge ass we could go back in thetrees and eat leaves... la de da


it was the lack of property rights that allowed smog. -- Richard G. Eramian (Rick)
Rick, Richard Shumacher has already explained why your free market paradise is a fantasy (unless you can figure out a way to get the externalities priced in), but explain how "the lack of property rights" allowed smog. You've lost me on that one. FWI, I grew up in Los Angeles, and property rights didn't seem to be lacking, unlike my pulmonary function.


what none of the 'techies' will ever admit is that there is no tech to avoid destroing the planet, technically speaking and otherwise

... I will go now back to my house arrest ...

Cheryl Ho

There are developments in DME in China today:
Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out.

If you would like to know more on the latest DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:

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