AEP’s Chinese Delusion
By Paul Homewood
AEP is off on one of his global warming rants again, trying to persuade us that China is going to make drastic reductions in use of fossil fuels:
Whether or not you accept the hypothesis of man-made global warming is irrelevant. The Chinese Academy and the Politburo do accept it. So does President Xi Jinping, who spent his Cultural Revolution carting coal in the mining region of Shaanxi. This political fact is tectonic for the global fossil industry and the economics of energy.
Until last Saturday, it was an article of faith among Western climate sceptics and some in the fossil industry that China would never sign up to the COP21 accord in Paris or accept the "ratchet" of five-year reviews.
They have since fallen back to a second argument, claiming that the deal is meaningless because China will not sacrifice coal-driven growth to please the West, and without China the accord unravels since it now emits as much CO2 as the US and Europe combined.
This political judgment was perhaps plausible three or four years ago in the dying days of the Hu Jintao era. Today it is clutching at straws….
Coal, oil and gas companies and their investors should assume that China’s leaders meant what they said in Paris, and therefore that the balance of political power in the world has swung towards drastic reductions in fossil fuel use, and that negative net CO2 emissions by 2070 is on the cards.
According to him, China in fact is already building massive amounts of renewable capacity:
Conveniently he forgets to show the whole picture!
AEP always likes to throw in a few big numbers, to impress readers who know no better:
China invested $90bn in renewable energy last year and is already the superpower of low-carbon industries. It installed more solar in the first quarter than currently exists in France.
China installed a record 23 gigawatts (GW) of windpower in 2014.
Based on current levels of capacity loading, the extra wind capacity will produce about 30 TWh/year, about 0.5% of total electricity generation. As for solar, the extra capacity put in last year will yield even less, just 11 TWh.
It is true, of course, that China has spent a lot on new hydro capacity, and will continue to spend more on this and, notably, on new nuclear. But the real reason behind this is the country’s voracious appetite for more and more energy.
Inadvertently perhaps, AEP puts his finger on China’s real motive:
Isabel Hilton from China Dialogue says the energy shift has reached a point where Beijing has a vested commercial interest in holding the world to the Paris deal. “The Chinese think they can dominate low-carbon technologies,” she said.
As we know, China already dominates the solar panel market, and would benefit hugely from an increase in global demand. Similarly with the rare earth metals needed for wind turbines.
And, of course, they are already involved with the next stage of nuclear development in the UK.
Still, AEP might be right, in which case I suggest we suspend our decarbonisation plans and reinstate them when the Chinese start theirs!