China has put forward a plan to limit its coal use to 4.2 billion metric tons until 2020, 16.3 percent above the amount the country used last year to generate power, according to China’s State Council.
Environmentalists have hailed China’s plan to limit coal use, but that may be premature. China’s new energy plan to limit coal use also has the country extracting more natural gas from shale formations — a process that uses hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
“The share of natural gas will be raised to above 10 percent and that of coal will be reduced to under 62 percent,” reports Chinese media outlet Xinhuanet. “Production of both shale gas and coalbed methane could reach 30 billion cubic meters by 2020.”
China currently relies heavily on imports for its oil and natural gas supplies — 60 percent of its oil and 30 percent of its gas are imported. Tapping into their own shale reserves gas, which are estimated to be the largest in the world, would give China more energy independence and allow them to cost-effectively use less coal.
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“China’s potential wealth of shale gas, coalbed methane, and coal-to-gas resources has spurred the government to invest and partner with foreign companies that have technical expertise to unlock these reserves,” reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The ultimate goal of China’s plan is to cut some air pollution and become more energy self-sufficient by producing 85 percent of their own energy needs by 2020, according to the State Council’s Energy Development Strategy Action Plan.
The energy plan comes on the heels of a deal struck between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama to fight global warming. Obama pledged the U.S. would cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 while China promised only to cap emissions by 2030 and get 20 percent of its power from green sources by then.
U.S. and European delegates hope to use the Obama-China deal as leverage ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Paris next year. Diplomats hope that pledges to cut emissions from the world’s two largest economies will spur other countries to action.
“It puts us on a path to achieving the deep emissions reductions by advanced economies that the scientific community says is necessary to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change,” Obama said of the tentative deal with China. “It will help improve public health. It will grow our economy. It will create jobs. It will strengthen our energy security, and it will put both of our nations on the path to a low-carbon economy.”
Democrats have hailed the deal as a victory in the fight against global warming, while Republicans have criticized the deal as one that commits the U.S. to economy-crushing emissions cuts for only a promise from China.
“This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.”
China’s State Council plan has the country cap coal usage until 2020, limiting coal power growth to only 3.5 percent per year over the next six years, and use more natural gas and green energy to power its economy by that time.
It should be noted, however, that China has only promised to cap its coal use until 2020 — it could theoretically increase coal use after that. It should also be noted that China had already planned to increase natural gas’s share of the energy mix by 2020.
Oil & Gas Journal reported in August that “the Chinese government anticipates increasing its gas share of total energy consumption to around 8% by year end 2015 and to 10% by 2020” — about 4 months before the Obama-China deal was announced.
China is the world’s largest coal user. The country produces and consumers nearly half the world’s coal supply, according to the Energy Information Administration. China accounts for “46% of global coal production and 49% of global coal consumption—almost as much as the rest of the world combined,” says EIA. China produces four times as much coal as the United States.
But pollution worries in major Chinese cities have the country already looking for ways to clean up its act by getting using better pollution control technology or shifting from coal to natural gas and some green energy. China’s new plan would have its share of green energy, or non-fossil fuel energy, rise to 15 percent by 2020 — much of this will comprise of nuclear and hydroelectric power.
China says its installed nuclear capacity will be increased to 58 gigawatts with 30 gigawatts under construction in that year. China also says its hydroelectric capacity will reach 350 gigawatts — 50 gigawatts more than the country’s installed solar and wind capacity combined.
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