Reliance on Imports

Just as in the United States, one outcome of elevated energy demand in China has been an increased reliance on energy imports. China reported a 37 percent leap in oil imports in 2004.9 Before 1993 China imported no oil at all; now its oil imports are at a level second only to that of the United States. As the United States does, China funnels most of its total domestic oil production, which consists of about 3.8 million barrels per day, into its own country, rather than exporting it, according to the EIA.10 The demand for oil is particularly strong in China's financial sector, which is already well established. The surge in the number of workers employed by that growing sector has led to an increase in personal car ownership and a growth in transportation overall, as well as a need for oil-powered backup generators to meet this sector's increased demand for electricity. China's budding oil import program and heavy oil demand make it a key player in world energy markets.

One of the major issues that China now faces is the need to protect its economic progress, which has resulted in a better quality of life for its people, while avoiding the consumer-driven, energy-intensive, nonsustain-able, and environmentally taxing habits that often accompany industrialization. Some commentators have noted that China's lightning-fast economic boom and corresponding rise in energy demand are not uncharacteristic of underdeveloped countries in recent times. These countries, which contain about 80 percent of the world's population, have been adopting energy-intensive industrialization at a rapid pace. This, in fact, is one of the reasons that was cited by President George W. Bush for the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol excludes developing countries, including China, from greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, allowing them to continue to develop their economies, unchecked by consideration for the global community, whereas other more industrialized countries might lose economic ground while trying to satisfy global environmental requirements. However, supporters of the Kyoto Protocol counter that the United States, while accounting for less than 5 percent of the world's popula-tion,11 is responsible for as much as 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions,12 so its emissions-reduction requirement under the Kyoto plan is appropriate to the level of polluting emissions that it outputs. Kyoto Protocol supporters also argue that the United States, with its fully industrialized economy, is better able to invest in the expensive technology that can help to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions than developing countries, which might undermine their efforts to compete in the global economy if they attempted to do so.

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