A drop in Chinese electricty production, for now
Appeared in DotEarth Blog, New York Times, May 21, 2009
Not surprisingly, given the depth of the recession, emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning in the United States declined 2.8 percent last year, the biggest annual drop since the early 1980's, according to a preliminary estimate released by the Energy Department on Wednesday.
The drop parallels a sharp decline in the amount of electricity being generated in China, tracked by researchers at Stanford University led by Richard Morse. I wrote about their initial findings in January, and the decline is holding in their latest results.
For years electricity generation there grew at a rapid clip, reflected in a building boom for power plants. Presumably declines in coal burning and emissions will now follow (there is a lag between power data and emissions data). Many experts on China caution that most sources of data there should come with fat error bars, given past instances in which official estimates of activities ranging from coal extraction to fish catches proved to be way off.
Other specialists focusing on energy and the economy warn that the drops are almost surely temporary and should not be a source of comfort for countries grappling with ways to curb emissions while fostering prosperity.
There may already be signs of an uptick in China's energy thirst. Platts is reporting today that China consumed 31.47 million metric tons of oil in April, up 4 percent from the same month last year. In a news release, Dave Ernsberger, senior editorial director for Asia at Platts, said this could mean that "the first seedlings of a broad stabilization and recovery in oil demand are starting to poke through around the world."
Richard Morse's presentation on "The Future of Coal Markets"