China Promises to Promote Clean Energy

Posted December 26, 2007 6:54 a.m. EST
Updated January 1, 2008 2:58 p.m. EST

— China promised Wednesday to develop renewable energy for its fast-growing economy but warned that coal consumption will grow dramatically and avoided embracing binding limits on its greenhouse gas emissions.

In a report on its energy plans, the government announced no new initiatives but said it wants to curb reliance on oil and gas to drive an economy that is the world's second-biggest energy consumer after the United States.

"China gives top priority to developing renewable energy," said the 44-page report released by the Cabinet's press office.

The report said Beijing will promote hydroelectric, nuclear, solar and wind energy, as well natural gas extracted from garbage dumps and coal mines.

China's economic boom has sharply increased its need for imported oil and gas. That has prompted complaints that Chinese demand is driving record-high world crude prices and led to diplomatic strains as Beijing builds closer ties with oil-rich pariah states such as Sudan and Iran.

Communist leaders worry about the mounting damage to China's battered environment from fossil fuel use and see mounting reliance on imported energy as a strategic weakness.

The share of renewable sources and nuclear power in China's energy consumption rose from 4 percent in 1980 to 7.2 percent last year, the report said.

"China will pay more attention to the clean utilization of energy resources, especially coal, and make it a focus of environmental protection," the report said.

It said China takes greenhouse gases seriously and some of its measures would reduce its emissions. But there was no mention of whether Beijing might agree to demands by Washington to sign up to binding limits.

Beijing has rejected such limits, arguing that developing countries such as China are not to blame for current pollution levels and need to increase energy production to fight poverty.

The report said China will expand measures to exploit its abundant coal reserves - a step that will help to reduce reliance on imported fuel but could sharply raise greenhouse gas outputs.

"China will step up its efforts in prospecting coal resources," the report said. It said Beijing would reorganize its coal industry by closing smaller, less efficient mines while creating conglomerates with bigger production capacity.