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BP world energy review: Chinese coal drives up CO2

EU's emissions cuts paltry in comparison

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Last year saw the highest surge in energy demand for almost 40 years, according to BP's 60th annual review* of energy. Despite record renewable energy production – with hydroelectric energy use rising 6.5 per cent – fossil fuel consumption surged to the highest level ever.

Gas was up 7.4 per cent and coal, which still accounts for 30 per cent of all energy consumption, was up 7.6 per cent. The boost in hydro was thanks to China's vast new dams coming online; the country produces 60 per cent of the world's hydroelectric energy.

China has doubled its energy use in a decade, and became the largest energy user in the world, with 20.3 per cent. Almost half of China's energy comes from coal.

So not surprisingly, CO2 emissions reached record levels in 2010, growing 5.8 per cent to 33.16 billion tonnes, to which China contributed 8.33 billion tonnes. BP's figure is slightly higher than last month's estimate from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which estimates CO2 at 30 billion tonnes.

Last month the European Environment Agency said that emissions of 15 EU members who had signed up to the Kyoto Protocol had fallen by 6.9 per cent in 2009. But it doesn't make a blind bit of difference, when faced with the gigantic industrialisation of China and India.

China is also the largest producer of cement, which contributes around 5 per cent of anthropogenic CO2 emission, because of calcination. Cement production also uses a lot of coal-produced energy in China.

The BP survey notes that shale gas now contributes to 23 per cent of all US gas production, making the country gas self-sufficient. Because shale gas produces lower CO2 emissions than coal, and coal is the leading power-generation source in the new economic powerhouses, the best hope of lowering global CO2 may be to persuade China and other giants to drop coal for gas. Renewable energy accounted for a tiddling 1.8 per cent of global consumption: the figure includes biofuels, wind, solar and hydro.

The survey can be found here, in a (45-page/7.5MB, PDF) nutshell. A shorter summary is here. ®

*The survey was first published in 1951 by the Anglo Iranian Oil Company – before it changed its name to BP.

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