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Developing World Poses Biggest Energy Threat

August 17, 2004

While global terrorism grabs headlines, a greater and more inevitable threat to the world's economy may be found in the growing fuel appetite of the developing world, reports the Sunday Herald on July 29, in a write-up by Calstart. Citing the example of China – a population of 1.3 billion, with domestic consumption on the order of one 100-watt light bulb per person, per year – the scenario of an energy horror story is not hard to imagine. John Constable, senior UK economist of ExxonMobil says that example is only household consumption, and doesn't include the rapidly growing energy appetite of commerce and industry. Although China has vast reserves of coal – which accounted for 75 percent of China's total energy in 1994 – its steadily growing vehicle population will need huge amounts of oil, and it is today one of the world's biggest oil importers. That could have an astounding impact on the economies of the developed nations, as the competition for energy resources ramps up. The ecological impact of this rapid growth is equally staggering: Elizabeth Economy, an author and China expert on the U.S. Council for Foreign Relations, estimates that "China's reliance on low-quality, high-sulfur coal is responsible for roughly half of all sulfur dioxide emission," adding that "China is one of the world's largest contributors to ozone depletion, biodiversity loss, and climate change." Despite encouraging signs on environmental and technical fronts in China, it seems clear that developed nations would be wise to focus on development of renewable resources while assisting developing nations in managing their needs.
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