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Monday, July 5, 2010

The impact of China's rising consumption on greenhouse gas emissions

China has embarked on most rigorous national energy efficiency campaign on the planet. Beijing has dictated stringent efficiency standards for lighting and gas mileage for cars.

In the last three years, China has decommissioned more than a thousand older coal-fired power plants that used technology of the sort still common in the United States. China has also surpassed the rest of the world as the biggest investor in solar panels and wind turbines.

But while the Chinese authorities are dictating energy policies, the consumer appetite of a burgeoning army of middle class Chinese will undermine these efforts.

China’s 1.3 billion people are hungry for bigger cars, electricity-dependent home appliances and for more creature comforts like escalators and air-conditioned malls.

A new dimension in China’s energy use has emerged, without the guessing or anticipation by policy makers, access and use of air conditioning has been a factor in the recent spate of labor unrest at factories across the country.
The older generation of low-income migrant workers tolerated oven-hot sleeping quarters and factories. Chinese are now demanding air-conditioning at both at home and in factories.

The consequence is that China will become less energy efficient and contribute more to global warming as it gets more prosperous.

See full story in The New York Times @

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