It's official! Chinese coal production and consumption are falling

China smog
CC BY 2.0 Flickr

It's long been the most tiresome argument for maintaining the energy status quo:

Why should we cut our emissions when China will just keep on polluting?

Recently, however, there have been some serious fissures appearing in this (already silly) line of reasoning. First, you have the China-US climate pact, in which China committed to an absolute cap on emissions for the first time ever.

Next you have research showing that wind and solar are the cheapest options for fueling China's growth already in the near term.

Then you have signs that Chinese coal imports had fallen, reports from Greenpeace that coal consumption was down, and figures showing China's own coal production was in decline too.

As the Wall Street Jurnal reports, these trends have just been made official—with official government figures showing Chinese coal production AND consumption was indeed down in 2014:

Data released by the government Thursday show China is using more crude oil and natural gas. Coal output last year fell 2.5% to 3.87 billion metric tons compared with a year before, while coal consumption fell 2.9% in the period, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The decrease puts China at or nearer an inflection point known as “peak coal”—the long-term decline in consumption of the mineral after decades of heavy use.

It's no surprise, given the previously mentioned headlines. But still, this is such a big deal that it is worth repeating. (I personally find it very hard to get tired of any headline that involves "China", "decline", and "coal".)

It is, of course, not all good news. Part of the decline is being attributed to a slowing economy. And part is being linked to higher natural gas and oil consumption. But still, renewables are also playing a significant part. (China's Shanxi province, the stronghold of the coal industry, just reported record wind power output.)

Given that many nations are already seeing overall energy consumption and coal use decline (over and above any impact of an economic slowdown), this latest announcement is a very welcome confirmation that China is also benefitting from this rapid transition.

And while India hasn't made quite such a big climate commitment yet, try googling the last few months of headlines featuring "India" and "renewable energy". The rate at which companies are committing to multi-gigawatt solar and wind investments is quite astounding.

I said before that the fossil fuel industries are looking worried. They might have very good reason to fret.

Tags: China | Coal | Renewable Energy

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