China's infrastructure gains affect energy

May 20, 2010 at 11:59 AM

BEIJING, May 20 (UPI) -- China's high-energy consuming sectors are taking a toll on the country's efforts to save energy and cut emissions.

The industrial output of China's six major energy-hungry industries -- electricity, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, construction materials, petroleum processing and chemicals -- grew 17.9 percent in April from a year earlier, figures from China's National Bureau of Statistics show. That represents an increase of 0.9 percentage points from March 2009 to March 2010.

The country's power generation also rose, totaling 331.64 billion kilowatt-hours in April, an increase of 21.4 percent from last year.

"Indeed … our consumption of energy is speeding up and saving energy and cutting emissions are becoming even more pressing tasks," said Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for China's National Bureau of Statistics, China Daily reports.

Under its current five-year plan, China has set a target of a 20 percent decrease in energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product from 2006 to 2010.

But China announced earlier this month that its energy intensity rose 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year after a decline of 14.38 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao admitted that the setback would make it "particularly difficult" for China -- the world's second biggest energy consumer and the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases -- to meet the 20 percent target. He urged all levels of China's government to work with an "iron hand" to reach energy efficiency targets.

"No country of this size has seen energy demand grow this fast before in absolute terms, and those who are most concerned about this are the Chinese themselves," said Jonathan Sinton, the China program manager at the International Energy Agency in Paris, the New York Times reported as saying earlier this month.

China's $586 billion economic stimulus program announced in November 2008, while increasing spending for energy-saving technologies such as wind power, also boosted infrastructure projects involving energy-consuming industries such as steel, aluminum and cement.

Just for building its rail lines last year, China used 200 million tons of cement, while the entire American economy only used 93 million tons, David Fridley, a China energy specialist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory told the Times.

Production of such massive quantities of cement increases China's energy use as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. But the cement also has been responsible for expanding a high-speed passenger rail system that is among the most energy-efficient in the world.

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