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China Holds the Climate Cards

By April 28, 2021September 9th, 2021Energy Rant

This week’s post is prompted by further research developing my decarbonization course scheduled for May 19, 2021, via AESP, and information provided by the American Energy Society. Would you believe the course is filling up? Just asking. I like and respect the American Energy Society for its no-spin reporting. Again, this week we are looking at carbon emissions.

Last week I reported that the carbon intensity of US-generated electricity fell by 40% from 1.45 lb/kWh to 0.89 lb/kWh. This week, via Energy Society’s newsletter, Energy Matters[1], the Lawrence Berkeley Lab reported that carbon emissions are down 40% in absolute tonnage and 52% against projections since 2005. This is good, and it all seems consistent with my findings from EPA’s eGrid.

CO2 EmissionsEnergy Society also linked to an International Energy Agency report, Global Energy Review 2021, which paints a more sobering picture. The report focuses on pre and post-pandemic energy consumption, or to be more precise, from 2019 to projected 2021 energy consumption and emissions worldwide. Here are some lowlights:

  • Emerging markets, led by China and India, will drive energy consumption back above 2019 levels in 2021.
  • CO2 emissions are headed for the second-largest annual increase ever.
  • Demand for fossil fuels is set to “grow significantly” in 2021.
  • Coal demand is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined.
  • Coal demand will approach its 2014 peak this year.
  • Low demand for petroleum-based transportation fuels is holding down emissions for now.
  • Natural gas will have the biggest gain in consumption among fossil fuels in 2021 compared to 2019.
  • Electricity consumption is headed for its fastest increase in 10 years, with China accounting for half of that.
  • China was the only major economy to grow and increase energy consumption in 2020.

Here are looks at annual CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption worldwide for the last 30 years:

Global Energy Related CO2 Emissions

Coal ConsumptionThis situation reminded me of a few weeks back when I was looking for the global warming potential of water vapor – you know, compared to CO2, the standard. The water vapor concentration varies from about 2,000 PPM (parts per million) in freezing conditions to 20,000 PPM in warm, humid conditions. I was gasping for air when I found the following slide. The highlighted part is what someone who is not thinking, let alone not thinking critically, would say. We can’t control it so what does it matter? It reminds me of the 80s film K-9 with Jerry Lee, the German Shepherd, who catches the cue ball the biker whips at him. He catches it with his teeth, and it crumbles to pieces onto the floor. That would be me. You can whip that crap past me.

Greenhouse GasesI will spare the details, but here is a sample of guesses for water vapor’s contribution to the greenhouse effect:

  • 95%-plus
  • 58%
  • 50%
  • 75%

There are almost no legit sources for this information because it’s impossible to know due to extreme complexities and feedback loops.

World Carbon EmissionsThe good thing is, China’s emissions are reasonably known. The bad thing is, they spew more pollution and CO2 than anyone else by far.

Note: this chart is for pie lovers. You likey?

China is like the impact of water vapor. It’s a massive, leading source, but we have nothing in place to do anything about it. What is it with major corporations, big tech, pop culture, major league sports, and the political class putting the screws to their suppliers, you and me, to demand lower emissions while selling us out to the Chinese Communist Party[2]? Oh, it’s access to their market and the source of cheap junk at their box stores and mega e-merchant distribution channels.

In addition, the CCP dominates the supply of rare earth materials, including 86.5% of Congo’s Cobalt (60% of the world reserves). The only open rare earth mine in the US is controlled by the CCP. One reader of The Wall Street Journal wrote in the comment section on Sunday that once production ramps up, EV battery prices will fall. I said nope. Per Forbes, the CCP is hoarding critical battery materials for their Belt and Roads initiatives.

Availability of rare earth materials is the key to affordable EVs and maybe other electrification technologies. China holds today’s rare earth cards. Folks will need to accept open pit mining in the US for these materials and then melt lawmaker and White House phone lines every day to pressure the CCP. The globe is going nowhere on carbon without China.

[1] Free and subscription editions available.

[2] The CCP is only 6.6% of the Chinese people. The people are NOT the problem.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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