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ChinaFAQs Expert Ed Steinfeld on China’s Technological Development and the West in the Wall Street JournalPosted by Luke Schoen on Aug 23, 2010
ChinaFAQs Expert and Director of the MIT China Program Ed Steinfeld recently discussed his new book “Playing Our Game: Why China’s economic rise doesn’t threaten the West” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
The big news this week is that China is removing outdated equipment from another 2000 plants, and they are moving quite rapidly – the equipment is to be phased out by the end of September. These closures are part of the tougher measures Premier Wen Jiabao announced in April. While some have expressed skepticism about this move, because equipment rather than whole factories are being phased out, in fact, this looks to be a positive move. While China has made significant efficiency advances by closing whole factories, there is a limit to how many such highly inefficient factories actually exist. As the very oldest, least efficient have been phased out, more sophisticated policies that pinpoint problematic equipment are needed.
China has passed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest energy consumer, according to new data from the International Energy Agency. And while many expected China to overtake the U.S., most thought it wouldn’t be for another 5 years.
- Macroeconomic forces – often unpredictable or poorly-understood – are crucial drivers of China’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Booming investment in heavy industry, mainly for domestic infrastructure development, as well as rapid growth in China’s export manufacturing sector, are the two most important factors driving China’s energy consumption.
- As China’s middle class demands more goods like air conditioners and cars, domestic private consumption could be in the future (but is not yet) a major driver of energy use and emissions.
- These economic trends are rooted in fundamental political and social factors. Reform will require concentrated attention to these considerations; fortunately, Chinese leaders have indicated that creating a more energy efficient economic structure is a high-level priority.
Former Vice President Al Gore launched his Climate Project’s lecture program in Beijing June 10, personally devoting an entire day to training 300 Chinese in how to give his famous lecture. The event was striking for the diversity and the quality of the participants. His partners in China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the China Agenda 21 Sustainable Development Office invited participants from all over China, including scholars, government officials, corporate middle managers, independent entrepreneurs, NGO staff and students.
China Energy Group members Mark Levine and Lynn Price have been invited to serve as Lead Authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Fifth Assessment Report. Dr. Levine will serve on the Buildings chapter and Ms. Price will serve on the Industry chapter of the Working Group III report on Mitigation of Climate Change.
Why is Industrial Energy So Important in China?
China’s energy use more than quadrupled from 1980 to 2007 (see Fig. 1), and continues to grow, due in part to the demands of urbanization (i.e. construction of new buildings and infrastructure), and in part to rising production of manufactured goods.i Although China has not yet reached the energy consumption level of the U.S, China nonetheless – due to a more polluting fuel mix – recently surpassed the U.S. in energy-related CO2 emissions.ii