China is aware that its coal is running out and that it needs new sources of energy. The rest of the world blunders along on the assumption that fossil fuels will remain plentiful.
Guest essay by David Archibald
At a conference on coal gasification in Colorado Springs on 12th October, the lead speaker was Dr Yong-Wang Li of Synfuels China. The third slide of his presentation contained this statement:
That includes coal. There are people being born in China today who will see the end of coal. This agrees with my own analysis which has China having burnt through half of its coal endowment by 2025:
Coal production in China is relatively opaque. Last month the E.I.A. revised its estimate of Chinese energy consumption from coal by 14%. Despite China’s agreements with the Obama administration to curtail carbon dioxide emissions, and its finite reserves, China is further increasing its coal consumption by building coal-to-synthetic natural gas (SNG) plants. Possibly more than 30 will be built, increasing coal consumption by more than 400 million tonnes per annum. According to theory of the consumption of a finite resource, production cost rises once half of the resource has been consumed. On that basis, the cost of doing everthing in China will start rising appreciably from 2025 and China’s relative competitiveness will start declining.
As Dr Li noted, China has to develop new energy resources. At least China is aware of their problem. In 2014, the team developing the Chinese thorium molten salt reactor were told to do in ten years rather than the original 25 years they had given themselves. Researchers working on the project said they were under unprecedented “war-like” pressure to succeed. Ideally, for China, the decline in coal production coming from the mid-2020s will be seamlessly replaced by a ramp up in nuclear power production from thorium reactors.