[A-List] CHINA WILL NOT BUCK FOSSIL FUEL EXTINCTION OR CLIMATE CHANGE LIMITS
markjones011 at tiscali.co.uk
Mon Dec 30 06:27:32 MST 2002
by Andrew McKillop
Reference article/ Asias Next Crisis Made in China, Japan Times, July
Despite what is well said in the Japan Times article - that China is
destined to become the worlds N°1 economic giant within, let us say, 20 -
30 years the race is already near finished and red flashing telltales on
the economic dashboard are saying:
Oil Crisis Ahead!
Then add in climate change.
To get to its present status of around N°3 or N°4, and sometimes even
further down the current world league tables for trade, investment,
manufacturing output, automobiles produced, tons of steel consumed, etc,
China has used what the Japan Times article rightly calls 'Dickensian
England' sweat shops and near slave labor where, as in England
about1850-1890, if your eyesight went bad or you fell sick you were
instantly out of a job and in the street, begging. This fulfils that dream
of any true grit, reptile minded capitalist to have throwaway labor. About
100 years later, and still in England, Mrs Thatcher spouted loud and strong
that this kind of labor 'flexibility' is what any 'advanced' country or
Just like Dickensian England, China today depends mostly on a vast and
growing - coal burn.At over 1.3 Giga tons per year it is about one and
one-half times the coal burn of the USA, already N°2 to China in this league
table. Contrarywise, the USA today uses nearly 4 times more oilthan China,
which can be understood from just one statistic: the USA has about 747 cars
and motor vehicles per 1000 population. China has about 9 / 1000.
Using a growth rate figure of 16% per year for automobiles and oil-powered
motor vehicles China can likely get to about 36-50 cars / 1000 population by
around 2015, and just this will require at least 5 Million barrels/day of
additional oil consumption, more than doubling todays oil consumption by
China for all purposes, simply to produce and keep those vehicles running,
serviced, repaired, with bitumin-based roads and highways, with all kinds of
mostly oil-based support and control systems. At 36-50 motor vehicles / 1000
population China would still be trailing the USA by a long, long way in this
road transport oil consumption league.
Adding in other requirement China is facing an oil need that very simply -
the world cannot supply, and will be increasingly unable to supply. In other
words China is cutting into an "exponential oil growth" period of its
economic history, like Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s, at just that moment
when world oil output will hit its absolute geological limit, or ceiling on
production (perhaps about 98-100 Million bpd and by 2004-2006).
>From about 2005 oil prices only rise.
They go on rising to about the year 2035 when, just like if you were to make
an unlimited price offer on being supplied a dodo, you would not get a dodo,
because it is extinct. Perhaps the "barrel price" would be around $250 in
2001 dollars, but the oil would have to be synthetic, using complex, costly
energy intensive processes based on nuclear, hydrogen, bioethanol, or other
renewable-dependent energy technologies. In fact combustion-based energy
systems will necessarily decline radically. The age of the automobile, in
geological terms, was tacked onto the end of the dinosaur age, with a
150-Million-year delay. Rather soon that same energy-based economic growth
model, or "automobile economy" will be looked on as a dinosaur distant age,
but the delay, from 2001, will be very short, at about 20-25 years. Chinas
historic identity as the worlds oldest living culture may, possibly,
encourage its political masters of today into thinking about the longer
term, not tracking the US economy and its so-called civilisation on its
mindless race to the garbage tip of History.
New economic models, concepts, structures and systems that will be dictated
by energy and environment limits will necessarily be radically different
from those of the Late Fossil Era.
This does not faze technological optimists! Oil can be synthesised, dirty
and straight, from coal this was the last ditch oil source of the Nazis,
around 1944-45, and was also used by the Apartheid regime of South Africa to
beat UN embargoes on oil supply to the regime. Energy and water costs for
running South Africas Sasol process, exactly as for the Nazi process, are
extreme and in fact coal/oil synthesis can be thought of as a last ditch
solution for dying fascist regimes, rather than an alternative source of
oil for a so-called modern society.Also, by 2035, coal itself will be
almost as dodo-rare as large oil and gas reserves, and (we can hope) will
only be used as it was first used in the 19th Century, before fossil energy
takeoff in Industrial Revolution Europe, as a raw material and not burned.
A very large slice of all pharmaceutical, dye and drug products used today
were first developed, identified or synthesised from coal in Europe about
1820-60, and about 95% of all todays pharmaceuticals are oil, gas or
coal-based.Exactly the same energy and water limits apply to shale and
tarsand oil, as can be instantly appreciated through viewing satellite
images of Canadian Athabasca shale oil production facilities.
Sea Level RiseJust like the fact that oil prices wil only rise from about
2005, sea levels will do the same but in no way will stop in 2035. Sea level
rises this century can attain perhaps 3 metres according to a July 2001
meeting of the UN Panel of Experts on Climate Change, and this jump in
sealevels could be compressed into as little as 20 years according to some
climate analysts and paleoclimatologists. This will certainly hit Chinese
food production and bite off big chunks from the national territory (or the
so-called '10 nations with one system'). One or two ofthese 'nations' will
be certainly and mightily shrunk by world sea level rise.
So if I was asked to bet on the Chinese Economic Miracle (based partly on
slave labor and entirely fossil energy dependent) I would not put a wooden
nickel on it surviving beyond 2020, and even that date is generous - I might
put an aluminium washer on it holding together until 2015.
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