December 16, 2009

China, Coal, and Copenhagen

Beijing's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is deregulating the sale of coal. New regulations say the central government will no longer hold an annual pricing conference. Instead individual power generators have a month to negotiate prices for 2010 coal deliveries with mining companies directly. The new rules also give priority to transporting thermal coal for power generation on Chinese railroads over coal for direct industrial use (coking coal for steel for example). Railroad companies can no longer allocate quotas prior to actual delivery contracts banning broker middleman from buying up quotas for spot coal sales. The end result may provide price stability overall but indications are Beijing will tolerate higher electricity rates as a result of these reforms.

China like the USA relies on coal for the majority of its baseline electricity generation. But China's dependence is higher - coal accounts for around 75% of electricity production - and China consumes more coal than any other nation. And coal use is growing and is expected to rise for the next few decades even as its use for power generation declines with more nuclear, hydro, and alternative energy production. The UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference will end without addressing (let alone solving) this essential point: no real progress on air pollution can happen without reducing the reliance on coal for electric power by China and the USA.....

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