In this country [Australia], activists obsess over each new coal mine or coal-fired power station as if it signals the end of our world, but the Chinese are duplicating our entire coal-fired power capacity every four or five months. China added 88,300MW of new coal-fired generation in 2007. Australia’s total grid-connected power capacity is 48,200MW, of which 28,500MW is coal fired.
The Chinese, to quote a paper delivered to the Asia Clean Energy Conference in Manila in June by Jianxiong Mao of Tsinghua University, Beijing, intend to build another 500,000MW between 2010 and 2020 while closing 4000 of their small, very inefficient coal plants.
This program includes developing 120,000MW of renewable energy – four times what the Rudd Government’s mandatory clean energy target aims to achieve – but 60 per cent of the new capacity will be coal-fired generation, their gases alone each year adding more than Australia’s emissions from all sources to the atmosphere.
The Chinese have on order 200 coal-powered units as big as the dozen largest in use in NSW and 16 units bigger than the 750MW plant, Australia’s largest, just commissioned in Queensland. This represents some $700 billion worth of equipment orders and barely half of what will be needed to meet Chinese 2020 capacity targets.
Because global warming is above all else a global issue, where the total of greenhouse gases in the planetary atmosphere decides what happens, even a suicidal decision in Australia to scrap all coal burners in the interests of showing the world a lead – cutting emissions by 180 million tonnes a year – would have no impact in the face of what the Chinese alone have already decided to do.
Futile ETS…23 07 2008