The London HREE Report: China’s Impact

The International Energy Agency says the world must invest $26 trillion (£16.7 trillion) over the next 20 years to avert an energy shock.

At the weekend Japan’s foreign minister took issue with China on the issue of China’s export restrictions on rare earth minerals. China’s commerce minister gave back as good as he got. In the G-7, this has largely been spun as a devious China, trying to steal jobs from the west by forcing relocation to China to build there all the hi-tech products that require access to these rare earths and metals. Below the UK’s Telegraph covered the story pretty much them versus us.

Backlash over China curb on metal exports
China’s draconian export curbs on rare earth minerals needed by the rest of the world for frontier technologies is escalating into a serious diplomatic and trade clash with the United States and other leading powers.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Published: 9:52PM BST 29 Aug 2010

Japan’s foreign minister Katsuya Okada issued what amounted to a formal protest at top-level meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing over the weekend, saying the sudden cut-off was “affecting the global production chain”.

It is the latest sign of rising pressure after angry complaints by companies outside China that rely on this family of 17 metals for hybrid cars, mobile phones, superconductors, navigation, and a host of high-tech industries.

China’s commerce minister Chen Deming said that Beijing would not back down over the export quotas. “Mass-extraction of rare earth will cause great damage to the environment, that’s why China has tightened controls,” he said, repeating the official line.

I think that the issue is far less black and white. I think that we in the west continually underestimate just what modernising China (and India) means. I think we haveted China’s build-out for at least two decades, and probably will under estimate it for the rest of this decade too. I read earlier this year an excellent report, that ended with what I think is a wrong conclusion. They concluded that future demand for HREEs will be less than envisaged and that some REEs will go into surplus. While some REEs probably will as battery technology evolves, I think that they just got is wrong on HREEs when the switchover to renewable power and e-mobility catches hold.

I think that China foresees a day soon arriving where it needs most of its supply for its own economy. Why give it away to the west now, for yet more iffy dollars they don’t need, and then not have adequate HREE supply in the second half of the decade. Below, more on why I think we are under estimating China’s demand. The great build-out will be far larger and go on for far longer than we think. In China’s history, 5 or 10 years is as nothing. On Wall Street, a 5 year horizon gets you fired. Yesterday we covered Australia’s plan for 100% renewable energy by 2020. Today it’s China’s turn, and the scale is biblical. Unlike Australia though, when the top says “do it”, they do it.

“It (China) added more new wind power capacity than any other country last year [2009] and progress is on track for nearly 40 million households to use biogas by 2010”
Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

China develops 5-trillion-yuan alternative energy plan
15:20, July 22, 2010
To promote the development of the emerging energy industries and meet the carbon emissions reduction targets of 2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) has compiled a development plan for emerging energy industries from 2011 to 2020 that will require direct investments totaling 5 trillion yuan, according to the NEA on July 20.

—–According to initial calculations, the new plan will greatly ease China’s excessive reliance on coal in 2020 and cut sulfur dioxide emissions by about 7.8 million tons and carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.2 billion tons in a year. Furthermore, this will contribute 1.5 trillion yuan in added-value per year and create 15 million job opportunities.

—-The plan will support advances in renewable energy sources such as the conversion and utilization of wind, solar and biomass energy. It also includes comprehensively planning for the construction of major energy bases and cross-region energy transmission channels in order to optimize energy resource allocation.

—In addition, the joint share of wind-generated electricity, solar power, and biomass energy will rise from the current figure of nearly 1 percent to nearly 3 percent. The consumption of renewable energy, excluding hydro energy, will increase by nearly 2 percent with the figure standing at 110 million tons of standard coal, and the share of non-fossil energy in total primary energy consumption may reach 11 percent.

Tibet speeds up growth of renewable energy industry
A total of 162,805 tons of standard coal can be saved annually in Tibet as a result of the wider use of solar energy heating and electricity production, according to the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Science and Technology.

Tibet is one of the regions in China with most solar photovoltaic power plants as its total capacity of photovoltaic power generating facilities exceeds nine mw, Ma Shengjie, director of the bureau, noted.

Solar energy heating systems of different types were installed in Lhasa and Nagqu Prefecture during the 2004-2008 period. About 0.376 kg of standard coal will be saved when a kilowatt-hour electricity is produced in a solar energy station.

Tibet now has 330,000 solar energy stoves and is expected to have 600,000 in 2015, with the total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic generation hitting 150,000 kw.

I’ll end today with another reason why the international changeover to greener energy, and the e-mobility society will happen over the next few decades ahead, even if man-made global warming from CO2 is largely a false “carbon trading” scare. Greener energy and e-mobility is simply better all round. Once the economics of greener renewable energy kick in, alongside megawatt grid storage, probably towards mid decade depending on what happens to the price of oil, the profit motive of the electric society becomes the driving force. It then makes more economic sense to be electric rather than fossil.

Ice cores in Himalayas severely polluted since Industrial Revolution
17:06, July 13, 2010
The Dasuopu ice cores in the Himalayas have been severely polluted since the Industrial Revolution in Europe, according to Duan Keqin, a researcher at the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute.

The concentration of nitrate ions serves as an indicator for the degree of contamination in the ice cores. The analysis of the cores, which recorded changes in the concentration of nitrate ions in the rain water from 1600 to 1997, found that the concentration of nitrate ions in rain changed slightly in a normal range before the Industrial Revolution, but has increased sharply since 1930 due to the sustained growth of nitrogen oxide (N0x) from human activities.

After 1970, the average nitrate ion concentration rose to more than two times the figure before the Industrial Revolution, which means nitrogen oxide emissions from human activities have already exerted certain influence on the Himalayan alpine zones.

Nitrogen oxide is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels and plays an important role in biogeochemical cycles. As an important component of acid rain, it reacts with rain water to form nitrate ions.

The Dasuopu Glacier is located on the northern slope of the Himalayas at altitudes ranging from 5,600 meters to 8,000 meters. The high resolution and fidelity of the ice cores there have made the Dasuopu Glacier an ideal place for ice core

China plans to build 18,000 kilometers of high-speed rail by the year of 2020.

More tomorrow. 

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