China pledges fair play in energy

BEIJING — China pledged Wednesday that its worldwide search for oil and gas to power a booming economy will be carried out in a spirit of fair play and international cooperation so as not to disrupt sensitive international markets.

The promise came in a government white paper, one of a series Beijing has issued in recent years to present its case to the world.

This one, outlining energy policies, was aimed in part at fears that China's growing thirst for imported oil will drive up prices and generate friction over the friendship of petroleum-producing nations.

"China did not, does not and will not pose any threat to the world's energy security," the report declared.

The government also repeated its argument that China should not be forced to put a limit on greenhouse gas emissions at this stage of its economic development, as urged by environmental activists and some Western governments.

Such heavily industrial nations as the United States and those of Western Europe got their start without any such restrictions, it noted, and only now are finding them urgent. Moreover, the report pointed out, China's rise to become the world's second-largest greenhouse-gas emitter after the United States is a recent phenomenon, preceded by years of low-level emissions.

Even now, with an economy growing at more than 10 percent a year, China's 1.3 billion people use only half as much as the world's per capita energy-use average for hydroelectric power and only one-fifteenth of the per capita average for oil and natural gas, it said.

"China is a developing country in the primary stage of industrialization, and with low accumulative emissions," the report added, referring to the average over a number of years.

At the same time, the white paper put China on record as going all-out to develop renewable energy as a long-term solution to its greenhouse gas emissions and domestic pollution. The government plans to continue its emphasis on hydroelectric dams, it said, but also will push for more extensive use of solar energy, wind power and nuclear plants to generate electricity without burning coal.

"China gives top priority to developing renewable energy," the report promised.

China 18 months ago finished building the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, and has drawn up blueprints for more dams along the Yangtze River. Although environmentalists have applauded the clean electricity that results, they have warned that such huge construction projects are likely to have a harmful effect on the river's ecology.

Landslides along the steep cliffs that line the gorges already have intensified, and changes in the silt level have brought salt water farther inland where the Yangtze flows into the East China Sea near Shanghai.

China, which is the world's second-largest coal producer with 2.21 billion tons mined in 2006, will continue to use large amounts in the foreseeable future, the report said.

With reserves of 1,034.5 billion tons, or 13 percent of the world's known total in 2006, the country cannot afford to ignore this traditional energy source despite the pollution it produces. But at the same time, the report said, the government is gradually reducing the percentage of China's energy consumption that comes from coal.

Although the report detailed a long list of pollution controls imposed in recent years, including efforts to cap smokestacks with filtering devices, it acknowledged the seriousness of the problem in China's large cities, particularly Beijing. The pollution level remains acute, it said, mainly because the swiftly rising number of cars produce exhaust gases that mix with dust produced by coal burned for heating systems. Officials have estimated 1,000 new cars take to the streets of Beijing every day.

"If this situation continues, the economic environment will face even greater pressure," the report said.

Share This Story