China’s fast growing population has continued to affect the country’s coal consumption: from 2000-2011, the country has burned 2.3 billion tons of coal to operate power plants, industrial boilers and other fuel-burning equipment needed to bolster the economy.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), China has become “the world’s dominant coal-consuming country, shooting past rival economies like the United States, India and Russia, as well as regional powers, such as Japan and South Korea.”
China uses almost the same amount of coal as the entire world. China’s 2011 increase in coal consumption, which totaled an astounding 325 million tons, accounted for the majority of the world’s coal consumption — China burned 87% of the world’s 374 million tons. Since 2000, China has had a 200-percent increase in consumption, indicating that more power plants are needing to be powered with coal.
EIA reports that most of China’s coal is imported from the US; in 2012, China imported 8.3 million tons of US coal. In 2011, China only imported 4 million tons. According to the National Mining Association projections, US coal exports will decrease by 10% in 2013, to 111 million tons. Though other developing countries, such as India, have yet to surpass China’s rate of consumption, there will be a high demand for coal, as coal is used in steelmaking and to generate many countries’ power, amongst other things.
Figures from the China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association show that China is both the world’s biggest foreign coal purchaser and coal producer. In recent projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA), by 2017 coal will trump oil as the global energy source in all parts of the world, save the US.
Climate change has been linked to the collection of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. Given the world’s recent attention to climate change, the IEA’s findings seem to be a 2 steps forward, 1 step back approach to righting our carbonic wrongs.
Water affluence and discharges to local rivers, and solid wastes and dumps to local landfills cause only local pollution. However, gaseous pollution, such as global warming, and greenhouse gases pose a problem for the entire human race, as the gases quickly join and intermix with the upper atmosphere. Exporting coal from US to China only shifts the location of carbon dioxide generation, but not its effect on the entire planet’s current and future climate.
Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan
February 13, 2013
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