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Peak China

Australia might be the largest coal exporter in the world, but only because all the larger producers of coal keep their own and use it themselves. China is the silent giant coal monster — in 2009 Australia exported 260Mt of coal (our largest export industry). That same year China produced (and used) 3 billion tons. In this era, to predict anything globally, we need to understand China. David Archibald is author of the  Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short. He slices the energy data. (Energy, of course, drives everything). China is eating through its coal — it may be able to sustain this peak rate for a decade or so. Chinese oil appears close to reaching its peak. Growth in Chinese steel production has been slowing since 2006. The implications are provocative. — Jo

Guest Post by David Archibald

China has become wealthier in the last couple of decades but unfortunately is using some of that new wealth for military adventures against its neighbours.  The neighbours aren’t happy.  Over 60 percent of the people in countries bordering the South China Sea fear Chinese aggression and expect imminent war.  If China keeps growing their economy that will only make them more capable militarily and more aggressive.   Increases in Chinese debt have been fuelling growth in GDP but as that debt balloons out further growth becomes unsustainable.  But beyond economic considerations are there any physical limits to how big the Chinese economy might get?

It has been suggested that water availability is China’s hard limit.  But if the Israelis can grow crops commercially using desalinated seawater, then water may not be a problem if the solution is simply to build desalination plants.  All economic activity derives from energy sources so let’s start with them.  This is a graph of China’s coal production from 1981 with a projection to 2050.

China’s coal production compared to the rest of the world from 1981 with a projection to 2050.

China is the big orange blob in the middle.  If this graph is anywhere near correct, China is building coal-consuming steelworks and power stations that are going to run out of coal to burn before the plants themselves wear out.  China started out with coal reserves very similar to the US at 220 billion tonnes.  Of that endowment, 60 billion tonnes have been dug up and burnt so far.  The Chinese coal reserves are counted as those seams down to 1,000 metres.  Beyond that depth mining is much more difficult due to rock stresses, gas outbursts and temperature.  In the north of China where their coal is, the mines in the eastern provinces now have an average depth of 600 metres and the average depth in the main coal-producing province, Shanxi, is near to 500 metres.  At the current production rate of four billion tonnes per annum with 90% of that from underground mines, China’s coal mines are getting deeper by 16 metres every year.  In another ten years China will have burnt through half of its coal reserves with costs rising and production falling after that.  So from about the middle of next decade China will start losing its energy cost advantage.

There is a similar story in oil production.  China has produced 44 billion barrels of oil. The official figure for remaining reserves is 24 billion barrels but the real figure might be as much as 36 billion barrels for a total initial endowment of 80 billion barrels.  Using the latter figure this is what China’s oil production profile looks like from 1966 with a projection to 2060:

China’s oil production from 1966 projected to 2060

According to this profile, Chinese production peaks within a couple of years and then falls away at about 100,000 barrels per day per annum.  China is now the largest oil importer on the planet at a rate of close to seven million barrels per day.  China is stockpiling oil at the ferocious rate of 1.4 million barrels per day.  That rate of stockpiling says something about Chinese expectations regarding the pricing and availability of oil in the next few years.  Assuming no further demand growth in China, the gap between domestic supply and demand will be about eight million barrels per day by 2025.  China has begun producing synthetic liquid fuels from coal and could expand that to fill the gap.  But eight million barrels of liquid fuels per day would require one and a half billion tonnes of coal per annum, accelerating the exhaustion of their coal reserves.

Besides energy supply, there is another aspect to China that suggests that it is more of a paper tiger than the common perception of inevitable further strength and influence.  This analysis is based on Hubbert linearization of Chinese monthly steel production data.  King Hubbert was a Shell Oil geologist in Houston in the 1950s who used the ideas of a 19th century Belgian mathematician on the rate of extraction of a finite resource.  It works for oil fields.  It may work for Chinese steel production if that reflects the ability to create credit and thus the size of the current credit bubble in the Chinese economy.  Chinese steel production has risen from 10 million tonnes per month in 2000 to the current rate of 70 million tonnes per month.  If we use the data in a logistic decline plot, the data since 2006 does plot as a straight line suggesting that it is reflecting depletion of a finite resource (credit not iron ore):

 

 

The line intersects the y axis at 15 billion tonnes of cumulative production.  Theory states that the year of peak production should be at half that level. That is now given that as at May 2014, cumulative production was 7,353 million tonnes from 1990.  Of course Chinese steel production won’t fall away to nothing.  There will be a level of inherent demand from the economy which may be of the order of 200 to 300 million tonnes per annum.  In the interim, China’s monthly steel statistics will be followed closely by economic analysts and geostrategists.  The data to date suggests that we are at “Peak China”, just as 1990 was Japan’s peak year following its credit bubble of the 1980s.

The Chinese themselves would be closely following Russia’s attempts to annex parts of the Ukraine.  If Russia can do that without too much damage from sanctions and so on from the civilised world, then China will be emboldened in attacking Japan and Filipino and Vietnamese bases in the South China Sea.  Russia may not be aware of it but its actions in the Ukraine are encouraging China and Russia itself is on the list of “Six Wars China Is Sure to Fight in the Next 50 Years”.  So in dismembering the Ukraine, Russia is bringing forward the day that it will be attacked by its eastern neighbour to seize everything east of the Urals.  Both countries have foolish dreams of empire.  There will be a great deal of death and suffering in the attempts to realise those dreams.  That is why we can be forgiven for anticipatory schadenfreude as these nasty and aggressive countries overreach and become undone.

 

David Archibald, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short (Regnery, 2014)

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91 comments to Peak China

  • #
    john robertson

    I am pretty sure Russia is aware of their status and proximity to China.
    The seizure of Crimea (Black Sea Ports) is quite logical in this context.
    Russia appears to be “Appearing Tough” to encourage China to pick on someone else.
    The energy figures are quite interesting, however these peak fuel arguments have not been accurate so far.
    China has no choice, they must provide creature comforts to their growing merchant class or fall into chaos.I suspect their leadership is open to all energy production methods in a way us in the NIMBY regions can only dream of.
    Peace in our time will be the message from our fearless political science graduates, AKA Opinion Poll leaders.
    As ever we will be late to the party and protesting that we are “surprised”.
    Here in Canada, Australia too, the future motto will be ; “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”.

    It is possible we could head off the coming lunacy but math is hard, so the Kleptocrats will never develop a spine and we will not bring the UN their just deserts until the chaos is full blown.


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  • #

    Another peak X story. Once I found a book published in 1903 on the state of technology. In it was a statement that the US coal reserves were being used up but thankfully oil had been discovered and would save the day. Flash forward to the middle of the second half of the 1900′s and we have peak oil in which coal was going to save the day. Flash forward another 30 years or so and there is no peak oil, peak gas, or peak coal. What then of China’s peak coal? Will it to fall to the advances in technology?

    It is all huffing and puffing of wannabe masters of the universe who decide that they don’t know how to solve problems so no one else can either. Yet, if left free, human creativity has repeatedly solved the most pressing problems of the day and made a fortune because of it. My conclusion is that the wannabe masters of the universe don’t have a clue as to what the universe and the mind of a free man can be or do.

    Notice though, the key is that the human is left free to solve his own problems. Will that happen in China or, for that matter, anyplace else on earth? If the wannabe masters of the universe have their way the answer is no! This is because the ONLY way the wannabe masters can ever be right is if they enslave all of mankind to the state of man in hunting and gathering tribes in 20,000BC.

    My question is “Why would anyone want to believe those who have been wrong in every prediction they have made over recorded history?” Ok. You don’t know how to solve the most pressing problems. That doesn’t mean they can’t be solved. It simply means YOU can’t solve them.

    I suggest, either lead, follow, or get out of the way but don’t try to stop the future. It is going to happen with or without you. Our only viable choice is to shape the present so that the future is conducive to continuing to stay alive or not. If you choose not to stay alive, that is your choice for yourself. You do NOT have the right to choose for me or anyone else but yourself!


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    • #
      John F. Hultquist

      I encourage you to sharpen you arguments and forget the statements about masters of the universe, enslavement, hunting and gathering, and 20,000 BC.
      The issues introduced by David A. are current. Getting to 2020 is going to provide sufficient excitement without considering what folks might be hunting or gathering in 17,986 years.


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      • #

        Unresponsive to my actual point. Free men can and have solved their most pressing problems as long as they have been free to do so. The wannabe masters cannot allow that to happen. They must stop free men from learning, thinking, and acting to sustain and advance their own lives. Otherwise, the wannabe master’s predictions of doom and gloom won’t happen. Then they can’t use the emergent doom and gloom as a justification for enslaving free men.

        OK. So you don’t know how to solve the problems we have. So what? How about getting out of the way and stop stopping those who can actually solve them? There is nothing like getting the heavy hand of intrusive governance off the backs of We the People for building a technological civilization that really does work for the living. Live your own life and don’t try to stop others from doing the same. See the 19th Century USA and 20th Century USSR for instructive detail.

        Respect for individual rights works and is the only thing that really does work for humans – even for the wannabe masters.

        A short explanation:

        It starts with choosing to live rather than to die.

        If one chooses to die, do nothing and it will soon happen.

        To live, one must know. To know one must observe and understand. To understand one must think. To think and to know how to think is not automatic. It cannot be forced from the outside. Both are active choices for the individual that must be maintained throughout his life.

        Finally one must translate those thoughts into actions that transforms the environment so that it is conducive to continued living. Even knowing what is conducive to living is a matter of choice of what to observe, what to understand, what and how to think, and then acting upon that knowledge. The freedom to choose and act is inherent in the choice to live. Eliminate freedom is to eliminate choice is to ultimately eliminate the possibility to live.

        Hence, lead, follow, or get out of the way!


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        • #
          Winston

          The only way peak oil or peak coal will be a problem is if governments force it to be so.

          I have the sneaking suspicion that the “Powers that be” knew that crucial advances in energy generation were just around the corner, yet rather than be glad of the potential benefit for humankind and our future prosperity as individuals, they were and still are panic stricken at the prospect of people having such autonomy and freedom.

          That is why the UNIPCC was formed, and that is why the apparent urgency (in the face of no immediate legitimate threat or cause for alarm) to switch to renewable energy generation that has been previously cast aside as to inefficient and intermittent, and doesn’t solve any real problem (but instead perpetuates it- i.e. reliance on fossil fuels) and is unfit to provide the present and certainly not the future needs of modern global society (an outmoded technology for a backward and retrograde civilisation).

          If allowed to progress using human intellectual capital that we already have, CAGW even if real would be overcome without needing to do anything, given the time we have up our sleeve. But then governments and bureaucracies would have to cede control to the populace, and they fear that more because they become irrelevant themselves, a vestigial organ without any further purpose.


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    • #
      Safetyguy66

      Scientists predict the world will run out of things to panic over within 10 years. “Peak Panic” is predicted to occur some time in the next 2 to 3 years, after that, with scientific imaginations already stretched to yawning point, the world may experience a complete collapse of the panic market.

      zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


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      • #
        tom0mason

        US chief panicologist Professor McKibben said -
        “Stay calm. It’s just a natural phase, the panic market will adjust.”

        Panic shares reach an all time low today.

        :)


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    • #
      Leonard Lane

      I agree with you about peak oil predictions have never been true; since I started hearing about it ~ 50 years ago. Production is booming in places with free enterprise where the radical leftists greens (watermelons actually) cant stop it. In the US new technology has brought the USA production above current domestic needs. The reason is that this has happened on private or state land and not on federal land. The Obama administration is trying to kill coal use entirely and hold steady or decrease as they stop exploration on federal land.

      I understand from reading some of the energy web sites that China is rapidly developing plans/plants for nuclear power. They do have options such as nuclear, new oil from the south China/Vietnam/Philippines seas. China is a big country with untold millions of very clever people.


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    • #
      OriginalSteve

      Wouldnt nuclear be the logical way to produce enough power for China?


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      • #
        Ted O'Brien.

        Nuclear is the obvious way for all the world, no matter what coal, oil and gas are available.

        The opposition to nuclear energy was never founded in science. It was whipped up by the friends of communism for the purpose of hindering the US and NATO in the cold war nuclear arms race. There were no complaints about Soviet nuclear power until Chernobyl blew up.

        This is why Australia should not be rushing to sell its uranium. Future generations will curse us for having sold it so cheaply.


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    • #
      Andrew McRae

      I’m presently a lapsed member of the Peak Oil calamity crowd. I have not joined the Cornucopian Unbridled Optimism crowd yet. I’ve just stopped worrying about it.
      IF it can be shown that CTL (or any other candidate technology) can be scaled up worldwide to substitute 50% of world gasoline/kerosene production, with the first 10% achieved within only 3 years’ warning, then I am happy to join the No Peak Oil crowd.
      Of course the next Peak X will still happen, only X will be coal or Lanthanum or somesuch instead of oil.

      Whether there will be any Peak Oil problem to solve depends on knowing on the unknowable: precisely how will fossil fuel economics change over the next 20 years. There are no facts about the future.

      I’m just saying, hope is good, but hope isn’t a plan, and we don’t have a feasible plan.


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  • #
    Fred Harwood

    The Ultimate Resource II, Simon (1998)


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  • #
    Fox From Melbourne

    Wow now that’s a hole lot of Carbon Dioxide returning home to the atmosphere from which it came.Just looking at these massive figures of fuel and energy use, how can the environmentalist still believe that china can A/ Have a real effective Carbon Tax that some how will magically reduce their emissions massively. B/ Some how China will be able to meet it energy needs from Windmills and other Green energy sources. C/ If we still had a Carbon Tax its like going to make a huge differences, and some how save the world from what ever they believe is going to happen to it. Anyway sounds like we have much more to worry about with a energy hungry China runs out of coal than we do from a non changing, Climate Change now don’t we.


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    • #

      “Wow now that’s a hole lot of Carbon Dioxide returning home to the atmosphere from which it came.”

      Limestone comes from corals and foraminifera that started growing some time in the Cambrian. CO2 levels were an average of 4500 ppm back then, so its estimated to have dropped 4000 ppm by becoming limestone and fossil fuels.

      Now being generous and saying that there is only 100 times the carbon in limestone as in the accessible fossil fuels, if we use up all this fossil fuel we should expect a rise of 40 ppm CO2.


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      • #
        Fox From Melbourne

        Wow someone else that actually realizes past levels Carbon Dioxide where much, much higher than today. Also that its gone somewhere and has the brains to work out were. Well thank for your input. From what I’ve read human emissions are responsible for 3% of the increase in atmosphere Carbon levels from 280 pmm. So that about 3.6 pmm so far from human emission. So my question for all the environmentalists is were has all the rest of the Carbon Dioxide come from? That’s enough Carbon Dioxide to raise the atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels by 116.4 pmm all on its own.
        Who or what did that and why are you lot blaming us for it?
        I would just love to hear your ask to that.


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      • #

        It wouldn’t be news to most readers here so it gets ignored.

        I find it funny that the SkS crew think that they need to fight the propaganda that is spread here.


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  • #
    Peter Whale

    Shale gas, Methane hydrates, Thorium reactors plenty of new forms yet to exploit. Keep selling your coal Oz while they need it and get rid of your eco fascists. Fair dinkum to you all.


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    • #
      A C Osborn

      Couldn’t agree more.
      There is also the new Hydrogen Cell from Toyota plus Hydrogen from Ammonia which means it does not have to be pressurised.


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  • #
    motvikten

    What about peak EU and/or peak USA?


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    • #
      scaper...

      I reckon it would be…

      Peak, Peak.


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      • #
        el gordo

        Double Peak

        The Chinese come in peace, yet fully intend taking back what rightfully belongs to them, stolen during the 100 years of Humiliation. Eventually they will rule the world, but that is some way off.

        Meanwhile the FTA with China should provide the opportunity for the infrastructure PM to build bullet trains and double the Oz population in 30 years.


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        • #
          the Griss

          “Eventually they will rule the world, but that is some way off.”

          The Islamists seem to think otherwise..

          Could get interesting !

          I hope that is well after I am gone !!!


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          • #
            el gordo

            ‘Could get interesting !’

            Indeed, the warring states period will linger on and it’ll be the radical dog botherers causing all the trouble. This whole ISIS business could be nipped in the bud with drones, until they start taking hostages as shields.

            China will try to avoid getting involved, content to be a merchant empire.


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  • #

    A few things that may not paint such a gloomy scenario.
    First is that coal supplies are globally plentiful. China will increasingly come to rely upon imports, which is good news for Australia.
    Second is that China is increasingly meeting the oil shortage by converting coal to liquids. When I looked at this early last year, China could produce liquid coal for around $65 per barrel. It may consume huge amounts water and produce a huge amount of CO2, but have an oil alternative at a low fixed price is an important advantage. Again, the Chinese will likely import more coal.
    Third is that declining bulk steel production is the sign of a maturing economy. It has peaked and declined in Britain, Japan and South Korea. India, with huge coal reserves, will take up the slack. Any scarcity of coal will quicken this change. As Australia exports huge quantities of iron ore to China, this switch may offset some of the dependency on China for coal exports.
    Fourth is that tales of declining reserves are usually overstated. For decades the US has had only 10-15 years of oil reserves.
    Lastly is that China has likely got large, untapped, reserves of shale gas and (possibly) shale oil.


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    • #
      tom0mason

      ManicBeancounter
      Well said Kevin, you’ve covered the very points that I was going to say.

      But just to enphasize -

      The great fallacy of projecting into the future from know resource reserves is one of the reoccuring flaws in todays thinking and planning. As any commodity becomes more scarce the price of it will rise.
      Therefore -
      1. The once unprofitable sources come on line as they now make money.

      2. More searches for new source will be started – as the rewards for a new find, even if small, is greater.

      3. New technology will render hard to extract resources profitable – as the cost of developing new technology is covered by the rise in price.

      4. Cost effective replacements, for the old resource, will now become more price viable.

      Resource reserves and their markets are not static!


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    • #

      And coal is very, very easy (and low cost) to find.


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    • #
      Lucky

      Kevin Marshall (Manicbeancounter)
      Good points. But about this ‘ liquid coal for around $65 per barrel’ of oil- If this figure is correct, it is worth doing now at a vast scale.
      However, I have been following these figures for 40 years and I note that the paper price of synthetic oil is always about $25 per bbl above the benchmark, always slightly out of reach. The reason for this is that the cost elements are entered as fixed tho’ they are variable, they vary with the cost of energy.


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      • #

        I am wondering how for China there can be large variable costs. The energy for CTL comes from coal. The raw material is coal. Both of these are (mostly) fixed cost elements in China, although if David Archibald is correct the cost should be rising rapidly. The other main material is water. This might be a variable cost, as in much of NW China it is quite arid.


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        • #
          Lucky

          Yes-
          Water. getting it to where it is wanted requires energy.
          Coal. If a big new market for coal opens up, the demand for coal goes up, then the price goes up, unless a vast new cheap source is discovered.
          In general, prices of commodities are not fixed but depend on demand, supply and technology.
          Authoritarian governments often try to fix prices, but markets can respond in unexpected and unwelcome ways.

          I’ve just noticed that David Archibald has written in Quadrant yesterday advocating government support for coal to oil on grounds of national security.
          As long as the support is not money but repeal of the carbon/greenhouse Acts, I agree.


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  • #
    • #
      PeterS

      You got to be kidding. Anything aired on that show is almost always the opposite of the truth. Besides, such sanctions are just the beginning. If the tussle between the US and Russia (and also China BTW) continues, trade sanctions will only escalate. Russian and China are making more moves to replace the US dollar as the reserve currency. They are doing it in a way to minimise any side effect on their sides, and it’s working. All they have to do is refuse to pay their debts to the US. China has an even bigger stick because they virtually own so much of the US already. History is a great teacher but the problem is very few ever learn. Certainly the leaders don’t.


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      • #
        bobl

        Huh, you mention that China can not pay it’s debt and that it owns a lot of the US, which the US could resume at the twist of a law.


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        • #
          PeterS

          Sorry, when I said “they” I meant just Russia. The rest still stands. Let’s hope sanity prevails but history instructs us that it won’t. The only reason the US is holding up is because of it’s world currency status. They can “print” as much as they can (and they are but virtually all of it is being held by the banks) but as long as they are the reserve currency it won’t be a major problem (up to a point) and can not impact inflation in any great way (unless they start pushing all that money they have in the banks into the economy). If and when they lose their world currency status then all bets are off and their economy implodes once more and more nations stop using the dollar for currency exchange and trade. They then face a similar fate as Zimbabwe but much worse because they have a lot more to lose. For example, civil unrest will be rampant as many of the people get very angry. I hope it doesn’t come to that for their sakes (and ours) but I suspect it will in time as no empire ever lasts forever. It’s human nature and cycles.


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      • #
        Keith L

        “All they have to do is refuse to pay their debts to the US. China has an even bigger stick because they virtually own so much of the US already.”

        Those two statements are contradictory aren’t they?
        If US owes China then it is China that has the problem if there is defaulting going on.


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      • #

        You got to be kidding. Anything aired on that show is almost always the opposite of the truth. Besides, such sanctions are just the beginning. …

        I would argue the current round of sanctions, and probably any future sanctions, are window dressing.

        Europe can’t afford to turn off the Russian gas tap, the EU having fought so successfully to avoid developing their own frackable resources, so no sanction is going to prevent export of gas technology to Russia.

        If the CEO of BP is right, and gas technology is interchangeable with oil technology, then the West does not have the power to crimp the Russian economy – Russia can thumb their nose at Western sanctions, at least for the next few years.


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        • #
          the Griss

          I think the EU also have to realise that sanctions can work in both directions. !

          Just because the EU doesn’t put a sanction on Russian gas, doesn’t mean Russia will continue to deliver it, if other sanctions are put on.


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          • #
            PeterS

            That is correct. Sanctions never really work, at least not with large nations. They hurt both sides so there are no winners. Trouble is leaders forget this and they do it anyway.


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      • #
        Bris Vegas

        The sanctions will end in a couple of months. During the first cold snap the Russians will have ‘technical problems’ that will prevent them supplying gas to NATO countries for a week or two. Once the sanctions are dropped the ‘problems’ will be immediately fixed.


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  • #
    Derek

    I agree with others that there are likely to be much greater reserves than are known today. Also there is bound to be new technology for energy production that we are not currently aware of. Predictions of this sort are almost invariably wrong for these reasons. This does not mean that there will not be wars fought over resources. In any future major wars the protagonists will have to take on board the possibility of a nuclear response and that may, hopefully, make them pause for thought.


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  • #

    Again, it always gets down to the money!

    Will China burn through her coal and other energy sources in the next twenty years? One thing is for certain, they will eventually do so and it is really just a matter of when, not if.

    China was once the dominant power in the region and has begun to reassert herself to the detriment of her neighbors. China needs energy which is why she is trying to supersede the US as the dominant naval power in the region.

    The region will continue to destabilize as China and her neighbors, in particular her long time rival Japan, vie for control of the shipping lanes that are the conduit through which energy supplies must pass. Unless a modus vivendi is achieved the region will probably descend into chaos and war.

    Currently, Japan is protected by the US nuclear umbrella. If the actions of the current or future US administrations cause Japan to lose confidence in America’s commitment to defend Japan from a Chinese nuclear attack Japan will probably feel compelled to “missile up.” It is estimated that Japan has the technology to do so in as little as six months.

    I told my Japanese in-laws fourteen years ago that in twenty years Japan would change its constitution to allow for the military to morph from a self defense force to one with the same offensive capabilities as any other major power. I told them that it would happen because the China was going to challenge Japan for dominance in the region. They were polite in their response but I surmised my in-laws thought I was a bit daft.

    I am not overly concerned with a premeditated nuclear strike by China. What concerns me is the possibility of human error leading to the “big oops.” If the nuclear Genie gets out of the lamp then God help us all.

    Sound far fetched? During the Cold War, with the exception of the Cuban missile crises, every time the US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear war it was caused by human error, miscalculations or the misinterpretation of intelligence data. It is a miracle that we are all still here.


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  • #
    Peter Miller

    If China does covert another country’s open spaces and natural resources, then Australia would be right at top of the list.

    I do not rate Australia’s chances much of stopping the Peoples Liberation Army without American nukes.

    I am not sure if we should be too worried about China and coal, they know they have to go nuclear in a big way, if for no other reason than air pollution there is already at health threatening levels.


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    • #
      the Griss

      There is very little point in China invading Australia.

      China will always have access to our resources, and could actually be a very useful partner in the development of Northern Australia.

      China’s air pollution comes mainly from industry and cars etc, not from power stations.

      This was shown during the Olympics when they shut down industry but still provided electricity.

      Their new coal fired power stations are pretty much SOTA in reduced pollution output.

      The main output from their new power stations is H2O and CO2, NEITHER of which is a pollutant.

      Yes, they do still need to do a lot to reduce REAL pollution.

      Shut down any old power stations near cities, and get industries to clean up their act.

      Its all part of growing up into a developed country.


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      • #
        Andrew

        I’ll agree with that. Although I think in some third-tier cities I’m not sure all their coal is quite that clean. But yes, Beijing is a disaster because of the grotty diesel buses etc – not to mention 2-smoke bikes.

        The big thing in Beijing now is electric bikes – your mate will turn up to dinner holding a battery, and plug it in under the table in the restaurant. Of course the power comes from smoke, but they only care about getting the pollution out of the inner city.

        The worst air I ever breathed, though – Launceston. Filthy scumbag greenies thinking how moral they’re being burning “biomass.” The whole joint reeks and the smoke just hangs.


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          Robert O

          Launceston has its inversion layer on cold windless nights and wood heaters burning wet wood inefficiently fill the atmosphere with smoke, but heat pumps became popular because of cheapish off-peak power. However, cheap power is a thing of the past in Tasmania now and wood heaters are back again. Isn’t a power station in the UK going to burn wood (Drax)? Wood smoke has a lot of carcinogens and definitely not good for lung conditions.


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            Bris Vegas

            Modern wood heaters can exceed 80% efficiency and produce less than 1g of particulates per hour. They can also be very cheap to operate. It is essential to make sure the wood is properly dried before use.


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      the Griss

      ps.. You need to be very careful when looking at reports on pollution in China, because a large % of those reports will be from Greenpeace and other similar agencies.

      These groups will naturally lump CO2 in as pollution in their attempt to demonise coal and world development.

      CO2 does not cause smog !!


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        markx

        Griss,
        One only has to visit China to see they have a massive problem with air pollution.
        And re the Olympic pollution control… Note many small and medium businesses run coal fired boilers for heating and manufacturing purposes. During the Olympics the company I worked for had to shut down pharmaceutical manufacturing for extended periods due to legal directives to individiual manufacturers in the region. This indicates why greater dependence on modern SOTA coal fired power stations is a good thing.


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          the Griss

          “This indicates why greater dependence on modern SOTA coal fired power stations is a good thing”

          Yes.. and away from cities.

          Industry in China must be encouraged to clean up its act with regard to REAL pollution.

          Sulphates, Nitrates, particulates.. there are good control systems for most of these available.

          This, and modernising by moving all industry out of city area should be the starting point, ..

          …but it takes time and a GOOD SOLID RELIABLE supply of energy, be it from CLEAN coal fired power stations, nuclear, hydro is a MUST.

          And over this there needs to be a realisation that RAISED ATMOSPHERIC CO2 IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT !!!

          We somehow have to reverse this MORONIC CO2 demonization if the world is going to progress and prosper.


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            the Griss

            “…but it takes time and a GOOD SOLID RELIABLE supply of energy is a MUST, be it from CLEAN coal fired power stations, nuclear, hydro .”

            whoops, sentence in wrong order. !


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        Peter Miller

        Been there and seen the pollution.

        One of the strange things about China is the road signs are all in Chinese and English.

        One of the most common of these signs is warning you that you are about to enter a “foggy area”. The funny thing is these “foggy areas” all seem to be in places with lots of smokestacks.

        I am not sure if Greenpeace has ever done anything useful in regards to the environment, mostly it is an organisation dedicated to raising money from gullible greenies. The Chinese would have absolutely no tolerance for Greenpeace’s pseudo-science and scary stories, which is probably why China is a place which Greenpeace leaves well alone.


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          the Griss

          “which is probably why China is a place which Greenpeace leaves well alone.”

          I believe Maurice Strong resides in China somewhere.

          I doubt he would like Greenpeace interfering with his profits as he tries to get more and more manufacturing transferred to China..

          ….. by getting his little green agenda club to shut down the economies in other parts of the world.


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    Truthseeker

    If the USA has borrowed heavily from China, who has China borrowed from?

    Peak Debt is far more likely than peak resource (of any kind).


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      markx

      They can, in fact, create money out of thin air, and have undoubtedly done so. This is the underpinning of the system (if it can be called that) in the west as well. It seems the buying of treasury bills, bonds, currency etc, is more of a ‘wall papering formalization’ of part of the process.

      “….Weidmann … argues that the government’s power to create money from nothing brings with it the temptation to create too much money to get extra financial leeway, and he asserts that governments have historically more often than not given in to this temptation. “If we look back in history, we see that government-owned central banks were often created with the purpose of giving those governing the country free access to seemingly unlimited financial means.”…
      https://www.positivemoney.org/2013/03/the-veil-of-deception-over-money-how-central-bankers-and-textbooks-distort-the-nature-of-banking-and-central-banking/
      (pdf) http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue63/Haring63.pdf

      The Guardian Headline: The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it. The Bank of England’s dose of honesty throws the theoretical basis for austerity out the window.

      “…the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite….”
      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/18/truth-money-iou-bank-of-england-austerity

      ‘”The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.’
      The Rothschild brothers of London, writing to associates in New York, 1863.

      Wikipedia provides the more “official party line explanation” of money creation, somehow avoiding the mention of the phrase “created out of thin air” : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_creation


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    Yonniestone

    The important point to remember about China is it’s one of the oldest civilizations on earth that has still managed to keep it’s size and power intact while other great empires disappeared into the pages of history.

    It has survived by having the ability to make major decisions and sacrifices when it counts the most, the only other old country that has this sort of fierce strength is Russia, if other peaceful countries think they can appease or outwit such survivors then they’ll only be fooling themselves of their cleverness.


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    Alan Poirier

    China, it should be pointed out, is in an enviable position regardless of its challenges. It has virtually no debt — as opposed to the U.S., E.U. and every other Western country — and it has money to burn. So much so, that it is building empty cities just to keep the bubble from bursting. (http://www.news.com.au/finance/china-building-mega-cities-but-they-remain-empty-sparking-fears-of-housing-bubble-burst/story-e6frfm1i-1226611169281) It can outspend and forcibly grow its economy for the next 20 years and outpace everyone else. It is poised to surpass the U.S. economy in 2025 (I suspect it already has). In another 20 years, it will likely be the only superpower left standing.


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      Mark D.

      It is poised to surpass the U.S. economy in 2025 (I suspect it already has).

      Well, if we could possibly vote some people into Congress and the White House that actually possessed wisdom, we wouldn’t be so easy to catch. As it is right now not so much. :(


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    Geoff Sherrington

    Much of this Archibald essay can be disputed.
    China does not have a history of military aggression. I’d be more worried by Germany.
    Peak resources graphs are badl y wrong more often than they are useful.
    Graphs with pronounced texture breaks that coincide with date of writing often indicate lack of data or knowldge.
    The Chinese as a group are rather more intelligent than most. What its leaders know about plans for their future possibly is hidden from onlookers like Archibald
    Not a very informative article for those like me who have done business there on many visits.


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      ianl8888

      Not only that, Geoff, but Archibald’s article shows NO understanding of mining geology. In fact,it’s so poor in this area (indiscriminately confusing Resource and Reserve, as one simple example, that one is irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he just doesn’t care)

      I’m afraid it’s one of those “look-at-me, look-at-me” articles that infest the meeja and passed off as “knowledge”

      Lest I am thought to be talking through my hat, I’ve spent a great deal of the last decade helping major Chinese coal mining organisations in Shanxi sort all this out. I agree that the Chinese are a great deal smarter than the Western meeja wish them, or understand them, to be. The intensity of confidence and well-placed energetic activity there is at a level I have not seen in Australia for over 30 years


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    Geoff Sherrington

    Much of this Archibald essay can be disputed.
    China does not have a history of military aggression. I’d be more worried by Germany.
    Peak resources graphs are badl y wrong more often than they are useful.
    Graphs with pronounced texture breaks that coincide with date of writing often indicate lack of data or knowldge.
    The Chinese as a group are rather more intelligent than most. What its leaders know about plans for their future possibly is hidden from onlookers like Archibald
    Not a very informative article for those like me who have done business there on many visits.
    You should beef up on the Chinese nuclear electricity program to get a rounded impression of what is ahead. Oddly, there might come a day when Australia instals its first nuke, with the tech input supplied from China using parts that our coal exports helped to make.
    That is another a scenario from any green handbook, but let us hope it happens sooner rather than later, for the sake of the children.


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    Geoff Sherrington

    This tablet auto anticipates after the event, badly.
    Last sentence should be ‘This is NOT a scenario…..’


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    Bear with me here.

    Being an old guy, I can remember back to when the words made in Japan meant low quality shoddy goods. Things changed and then it was made in Korea. Things changed and then it became made in China. Things changed and it’s moved again.

    My opinion of made in Japan changed in the late 60′s when their electronics and cameras started to become the World leaders.

    With respect to electrical power generation, that change came to pass in 1973 when Tumut 3 opened in the Snowy Scheme. They use 6 turbine/generator units with a Nameplate of 1500MW, almost 35% of the total Snowy Nameplate from all units. The surprise was that the units were of Japanese technology from Toshiba (turbines) and Melco. (generators) What was surprising here was that these units were of an approximate similar physical size as the existing Western technology units, but were delivering almost double the power.

    The technology base had shifted.

    Now the same is happening with coal fired power, only this time, with China.

    The existing coal fired technology here in Australia is from the 70′s/80′s.

    China has now perfected USC (UltraSuperCritical) coal fired units and is now relatively close to Advanced USC, with even greater thermal efficiency.

    Those existing Chinese USC plants are driving generators with a Nameplate of 1000MW to 1200MW, previously only the province of those huge Nuclear power plants.

    Now, while the Chinese have perfected the USC process, the coal delivery, pulverising, burning, and boiler technology, they have also improved the turbine drivers, and also the generators themselves.

    So, while those new 1000/1200MW generators are (around) a similar physical size as those generators from the 70′s, they are now delivering almost double the power from a single unit.

    They are now almost at the stage of being able to drive a single unit 1300MW generator, and umm, for some perspective that’s around the same Nameplate as a Wind Plant with 433 towers, only the single generator will deliver three times the actual power to the grid.

    So now, let’s look at typical best 70′s/ 80′s technology like Bayswater. It has 4 units each with a 660MW generator.

    The new Chinese units of 1300MW, mean an equivalent plant would only need 2 units, and being higher efficiency, will deliver more power to the grids. The generators themselves will be basically of similar physical size to the existing 660MW generators.

    Now comes the killer point.

    70/s tech plants burn 330 grams of coal for every KWh of power delivered.

    USC burns 282 grams of coal for every KWh of power delivered.

    There’s a saving of 15% right there, and expressed as such a low figure may not seem much, but on the bigger picture yearly CO2 emissions for the same delivered power are 15% less, and in actual figures, for a typical 2 unit USC plant, that comes in at (around) 1.4 million tons less CO2 emitted.

    The technology base has shifted yet again, as it has over the years.

    Now, ANY new coal fired plant is a definite no no, except for places like China, which is now also building those plants in India, the Middle East, and in Africa.

    In Germany, they have used the USC technology for brown coal plants, now utilising coal drying at the front end for similar low CO2 emissions after the process.

    The EPA in the U.S. has now ended any possibility of new tech coal fired plants, and try even mentioning a new coal fired plant here in Oz.

    In China, they just power ahead. (forgive the pun) So, with 15% CO2 emissions savings, every seventh plant is virtually for free, (figuratively speaking) and they now have almost 50 of them, all the while getting bigger power delivery from smaller units.

    Tony.


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      markx

      Thanks Tony. Very nice addition to the debate.

      It seems to me it is a crying shame that Australia with all its coal does not take advantage of what should be cheap energy. Add to that the waste of mineral wealth, wih minimal processing and manufacturing …..70% foreign owned miners allowed to profit from it while simply providing a few highly paid jobs (and a lot of political donations and board seats or retired people of influence)…

      ….. and we instead get Abbott’s manufactured ‘financial crisis’ in spite of the fact informationlike the following are now finally making MSM headlines….

      The Guardian Headline: The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it. The Bank of England’s dose of honesty throws the theoretical basis for austerity out the window.

      …the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite….”
      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/18/truth-money-iou-bank-of-england-austerity


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      Tony, I always pay attention to your posts on energy and recommend them to others.

      Modernisation of Australia’s coal power generation is the no-brainer of all no-brainers. I never again want to hear the words “durrrdy coal” rolled through bogan adenoids. Neglecting, wasting and downgrading our greatest resource (while still using it as a cash cow) is like spitting in God’s eye.


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      Ted O'Brien.

      You mention Bayswater.

      The generators for Bayswater and Mt Piper, 6 x 660MW each, were ordered in from memory February 1980, when NSW already had 6 such generators under construction. They were wholly surplus to NSW’s needs at the time. That purchase should have raised eyebrows.

      Also at that time they installed 2 x 500MW generators at Wallerawang, and a new type of concrete cooling tower to service them. On commissioning the plant, the cooling tower delivered only two thirds of its design capacity. 660 MW when 1,000 MW was needed. So they had to race aout and install the lowline coolers that stand to the NW of the station.

      Meanwhile, contracts had been let for construction of 4 identical cooling towers at Bayswater. So the Bayswater generators, which were designed to have 50% surplus cooling capacity, have no surplus cooling capacity.

      You notice when passing Mt Piper that the cooling towers there are much taller. Those contracts had not been let when the fault was discovered.

      I never saw this published.


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      Andrew McRae

      But Tony, south east Australia will not need any new power stations for 10 years because “The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) report says Australia is facing an energy glut never before seen in the history of the national electricity market.”
      The muddled ABC author makes the howler: “For the next year alone, Australia will produce up to 8,900 megawatts more than is needed.” We know why that is impossible. We probably shouldn’t trust any other interpretation of the electricity market from someone who doesn’t know the basics.


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    Just prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the ABC showed an Oz made doco called The Cars That Ate China.

    It was without doubt one of the most interesting things I had ever seen coming out of China at the time.

    Because the doco was 52 minutes in length, it’s never really been all that accessible, but now YouTube has improved, it is actually available at that site.

    I don’t expect you to watch it at one sitting, but perhaps save the link and watch it when you do have the time.

    Absolutely amazing.

    The Cars That Ate China

    Tony.


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    Alan

    Jo, I hate to keep banging on about this however the figures in your introduction are out of date and note that most of Archibald’s are also (guess you have taken them from his contribution). For anyone who wants global coal statistics the best place is the World Coal Association or the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.(I do notice that even the WCA have some pages (not updated )with out of date figures)

    So here goes, currently coal provides around 30% of global primary energy needs, generates 41% of the world’s electricity and is used in the production of 70% of the world’s steel.

    For 2012 global coal production was 7831Mt of which the PR China produced 3549Mt, USA 935 Mt , India 595 Mt, Indonesia 443 Mt and in fifth spot Australia 421 Mt

    Of coal exporters Indonesia is the largest at 383 Mt, nearly all thermal coal followed by Australia 301 Mt (159 Mt thermal, 142 Mt coking or metallurgical coal)

    The PR China is now the largest importer 289 Mt (thermal 219 Mt, 71 Mt coking) however in 2005 PR China didn’t make the top 5 (5th Germany 38 Mt) and was seventh in 2006 with 38 Mt

    Archibald’s non referenced graph of coal production doesn’t quite look right with virtually every other country maintaining their production but China dropping. Yes they probably can’t maintain the current level but will they need to.
    The 2014 BP energy review gives Proved reserves for the USA 237 Bt, PR China 115 Bt and Australia 76 Bt. Proved reserves of coal as stated in the BP review are generally taken to be those quantities that geological and engineering information indicates with reasonable certainty can be recovered in the future from known deposits under existing economic and operating conditions

    What is also interesting and partly agrees with Archibald’s article is the Reserve to Production ratio, basically the years of reserve left is 257 for the USA, 117 for Australia but only 31 for China.

    Archibald has taken the line that China’s coal reserves are fairly fixed, I would prefer the alternative that China will expand its own reserve base with modern exploration and mining development, similar with the his peak oil.
    Most of what is reported as China’s reserve has been defined by basically old prospecting type methods. Other than that they will buy in what they need


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    We’re not going to run out of anything. The following is a description of a space drive developed by the Manhattan scientists in the 1950s. The most extreme designs of the space drive had the ability to launch millions of tons in a single stage to orbit, or to reach 10% of the speed of light.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

    If we don’t find a cheap alternative way to reach space, I think China, given a choice between ruin or glory, will find some unwanted section of the Gobi Desert from which to launch the next stage of human civilisation.


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    PeterK

    Canada will come to the rescue if resources become scarce in the world.

    1. We need to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline and twin the Kinder Morgan (Trans-Mountain) Pipeline to the West coast. Once done, production of oil sands oil will increase and I’m sure that at least 2-million barrels a day could be shipped from here or possibly more.

    2. Our friends in Ontario reelected the minority Liberal Government and gave them a majority. These Liberal folks love their wind turbines (thousands are all over the landscape) and have phased out all of the coal plants, so as you can guess, around 300,000 industrial jobs have left the Province in the last 10-years.

    There are rich mineral resources undeveloped in NW Ontario (Ring of Fire – 1.5 million hectares and the potential of earning $120 billion dollars with around 30 mining and exploration companies currently working in the area. Unfortunately this government is not fostering a can do attitude to get the mining going, so we may have to wait 4-years to kick these bums out before any real development begins (hopefully by that time the people of Ontario will wake up because this government may come pretty close to bankrupting this Province).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ontario_Ring_of_Fire

    3. Nunavut (2,093,000 square kms) and the Northwest Territories (1,140,000 square kms) in the North of Canada are just beginning their real mineral exploration and as I understand it there will many major finds as these are very mineral rich areas. With the Federal Government settling mineral rights with these two territories and the Indigenous People, there will be a major push to build roads and other infrastructure that would bring these minerals to market.

    4. Yukon Territory (482,000 square kms) is also very rich in minerals.

    Although full development is still some years away, we here in Canada know that we have large mineral reserves, that once developed will be there for the world to use if other areas of this globe get mined out.

    So, with regard to peak anything, there is still millions of square kms that have not been prospected and developed. These will be there to fill the demands when needed.


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    Use Trenberth’s missing heat to generate electricity until we reach peak warming.


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    ROM

    It is wise when making predictions to take on board the famous Danish physicist’s Niels Bohr’s version of an older quote ;

    Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

    Or that excellent advice from the famous American base ball coach Casey Stengel, a quote that should be emblazoned in large letters over the entry door to every climate modeller’s work place.

    “Never make predictions, especially about the future”.

    So with that advice on board I’ll put my 2 cents worth of opinion into this discussion

    In the 1970′s Soviet Russia and Mao’s China were facing one another down and sometimes doing a nice side line in fair sized shooting confrontations along the various borders between Mongolia, then in Russia’s political orbit and China and along the Ussuri River on Manchuria’s eastern border and the Russian Far East. It was then that Harrison Salisbury, a former editor of the New York Times wrote a short book called the “Coming War between China and Russia”

    The war never eventuated although it got close in the decade or so afterwards.
    The premise of the book was that China, as it developed and as it’s population continued to expand rapidly through the 1970′s, 80′s and 90′s would need more and more territory for food production. There was only one obvious place where plenty of fertile land was readily available and could be readily brought into food production just to the north of Manchuria in Siberia as well as a large region in the relatively isolated Russian Far East located between Manchuria and the Sea of Japan and the large Island of Sakhalin.

    China is certainly not the first nation to eye off Siberia’s enormous resources which are still only exploited very sparsely in land, minerals, mining, oil, gas and the fertile lands in the river valleys that course everywhere through this enormous region of eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East.
    The highly expanionist Japanese Army before the start of WW2 wanted to go north into Soviet Russia from their bases in Manchuria which they controlled totally as the Japanese satellite Manchukuo

    The IJN, the Japanese Imperial Navy wanted to do south into the Western Pacific in it’s expanionist frame of mind.
    Through a set of armed clash, ill defined border circumstances, the Soviets under Zhukov and the IJA fought a good sized war in August 1939, on the western borders of Manchuria and eastern Mongolia.
    The Japanese Army was utterly destroyed by Zhukov’s Siberian soldiers. The battle involved the largest tank battles the world had then seen.
    It’s strategic impact on the outcome of WW2 was immense and yet the Battle of Khalkhin Gol / Nomonhan remains almost unknown in the west today.

    Because of the IJA’s disastrous defeat at Khalkin Gol at the hands of the Russians the decision was made in the favour of the IJN’s desire to go south for Japanese resources and so was borne the Pacific war of WW2.

    From the Russian side, Stalin’s spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge in around 1941 ascertained that the Japanese Imperial War Council had made the decision to go south into the Phillipines and SE Asia for more resources. This was as well as the IJA fighting a full scale war against the Chinese since 1934.

    Consequently as the German’s advanced and fought their way through to the outskirts of Moscow in late 1941, destroying a number of Soviet Armies in the process and taking some 3 million Russian POW’s. three quarters of whom died in the German POW camps, Stalin knowing the Japanese were now going south and not moving into Russia’s Far East, was free to bring Zhukov and his Siberian armies across on the Trans Siberian rail road to defend Moscow . The rest of that history is quite well known.
    The Germans were forced to a halt on Moscows outskirts and then as the Russian winter set in had to withdraw for some 150 miles in places back from Moscow.
    The strategic consequences for the Germans and the Russians and for the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany were profound . And it was because of those Siberian troops freed from the Japanese threat against the Soviet Far East that came to Moscow’s and Russia’s rescue.

    So what of today?
    Russia is in deep long term trouble with it’s population numbers in free fall and here
    The Russian Far East population is falling even faster.

    This is from Wiki’s Russian Far East article and the larger Siberia and gives an idea of the prize that awaits the Chinese as Russian influence, the centre of which is 5000 to 6000 kilometres and about 5 time zones to the west, wanes in eastern Siberia to the east of Lake Baikal, that is Russia’s Far East as it ‘s population slowly declines and as the Chinese star rises.
    [quoted ]
    The Russian Far East is the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., the extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean. The Far Eastern Federal District, which covers this area, borders with the Siberian Federal District in the west.
    According to the 2010 Census, Far Eastern Federal District had a population of 6,293,129. Most of it is concentrated in the southern parts. Given the vast territory of the Russian Far East, 6.3 million people translates to slightly less than one person per square kilometer, making the Russian Far East one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. The population of the Russian Far East has been rapidly declining since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (even more so than for Russia in general), dropping by 14% in the last fifteen years. The Russian government has been discussing a range of re-population programs to avoid the forecast drop to 4.5 million people by 2015, hoping to attract in particular the remaining Russian population of the near abroad.

    Graph depicting population change in the Russian Far East
    Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians make up the majority of the population.

    75% of the population is urban.
    [ end quote]

    In around 1994 one of my daughters suggested that she wanted to travel to Europe. My reply was basically, Everybody goes to Europe. Go to South America or go on the Trans Siberian [ which was then just opening up to foreigners after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991
    So she threw on the back pack and with another Adelaide girl, she headed for Hongkong and then Beijing where westerners were still an object of great interest particularly two Aussie girls travelling by themselves, Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia then via the Trans Siberian from Chita, the formerly closed Soviet Army city and then Irkutsk on Lake Baikal which I had always wanted to see and on across Russia to Moscow on the 6 weeks trip across Russia and then onto Helsinki in Finland.

    On the trip from Beijing to Ulaan Baator and onto Chita in Russia, where she joined the Trans Siberian the train was full of Chinese traders who my daughter taught to play some simple card game that they didn't know so she was very popular with those traders. They were all heading up into the Russian far East to trade and make money.
    I had previously been to Leningrad [ now St Petersburg , the original name under the Tsars , and Moscow and down to the Caucus at Krasnodar and then Helsinki and elsewhere back in 1991 while it was still the Soviet Union albeit one that was starting to break up.

    The Chinese have a number of very significant problems in their future.
    Around 2020 their demographics indicate they will be, like Japan is now , running out of young workers as factory fodder. They have immense problems with the Islamic ethnic groups on their western borders which is the xenophobic Han races own damn fault for the disdain and the arrogance they treat other races ..
    The Han / Chinese empires of the past always regarded other races as very inferior beings and treated then as such as the Han empires were at the Centre of the Earth, the Celestial Sphere according to ancient Chinese scripts.

    China has India next to it with a population almost equal to China's , a cosmopolitan and increasingly competitive and sophisticated India, an India that is also now starting to accelerate economically and with it's Indian daispora, [ they are every damn where around here ] will swing enormous influence amongst the smaller nations of the world as a counter weight to the exploitive Chinese as we are seeing the Chinese methods of exploitation of the increasingly resentful locals in Africa now.

    Articles that only look at China through a single lens without looking at all the other forces and influences involved will always give a very one sided and arguably incorrect view as this one of David Archibald’s has in always underrating the future impact of other forces and the global political and economic systems on China’s future course as a global super power.

    India is likely to be a direct competitor for economic reasons, as well as in global politics and may be much more influential in global politics than a demonstrated xenophobic China that has little regard for other smaller nations and peoples. India has a whole gamut of different peoples and therefore has a greater tolerance for diversity and can accommodate different viewpoints probably a lot better than China ever will.

    India has a messy but functioning democracy plus a very serious corruption problem which unlike China’s corruption which is swept under the carpet in the single party system, India is fully aware of it’s corruption problems and is trying to do something about it.
    India has an large open littoral as it is partially surrounded by the Indian Ocean where as China is hemmed in by the Maritime Continent nations of the Philippines, SE Asian nations and the world’s fifth largest and accelerating fast country, Indonesia.
    On that basis India has a more open, harder to contain access to all the raw materials that will be brought in by sea freight, a big advantage strategically compared to the hemmed in Chinese waters with their various choke points

    China is the flavour of the month but like the Japanese in the 1980′s where their growth rate was such that it as predicted that the 125 million population strong japanese economy would pass the 350 million population American economy by about the early 1990′s, another over the top economic and MSM prediction that fell flat on it’s face and hasn’t been heard from since, the flavour of the month or year where all sorts of grossly over optimistic or alternatively grossly pessimistic depending on which side of the fence you are sitting re China, are being made about China;s suposedly inevitable progress towards a super power to end all super powers.

    There will be a heck of a lot of nations accept China’s suzerainty if it is done with care and finesse and regard from the Chinese side.

    But if China’s past historical attitudes to foreigners takes it’s usual historical course, China is going to find that like all such despotic overlords, its rule will be challenged everywhere, every time. And despotic ruling empires then spend so much capital staying on top of their growing army of enemies that they are eventually bankrupted economically, politically and ideologically and then fail or are overpowered or break up as the various warlords carve out their own patch.

    A very long historical characteristic of a China that has regularly broken into various warring kingdoms and then has been reassembled by another dynasty of powerful rulers. But the ancient north / south divide in the Chinese nation which shares a common ideographic writing but has a range of not necessarily understood by all languages has historically always been one of the causes of China’s regular break ups into warring kingdoms.
     
    But this is the modern era so of course [ like every single other occasion,? ] this time it is different isn’t it?

    In the end the easy way out for China is to sit out the time. perhaps a half a century, perhaps more and the Russian Far East will slowly evolve into another Chinese province in all but name. From there the Chinese will have access to all of Siberia’s immense resources without antagonizing so many other nations in the process except a declining former super power, Russia which by then will just be another Eastern European power with grand delusions based on it’s past glories.

    Meanwhile a 1.3 billion population India will also begin to have it’s influence on the world as a new economic and military super power.

    And behind India is the 1.1 billions of sub Saharan Black African nations whom as urbanisation rapidly increases across Black Africa will lose the tribalism that is the curse of Africa. Their economic development will consequently start to accelerate as it currently is doing albeit off a very low base. Plus Africa’s immense resources, Black Africa by the end of this century could be evolving into another super power to challenge a fading China and an India on the march.

    To see China as the end threat is merely repeating exactly the same scenario that has cursed the predictions that mankind has made on the future fate of nations down through history.
    We simply do not know what the future holds for us.

    As in international politics as in war, all the most carefully laid plans never survive first contact with the enemy.


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    TdeF

    The graph is puzzling in one respect, no Indonesia. I thought Australia was easily the largest exporter of coal, but recently Indonesian exports matched them. Rest of World must mean Indonesia, which is significant as our neighbour and major competitor. So if Australia cuts back coal exports, nothing would be achieved except to boost Indonesian exports.

    Also about five years ago Victoria had a $300Million contract from India to export Brown coal to India. This was cancelled by the then Labor government partly because the new technology pioneered commercially with Monash University would, according to the Greenist Age newspaper on its front page, make the coal ‘blacker’. In fact half of the energy is lost because the brown coal is wet, but any attempt to remedy the problem is a travesty it seems. So carbon is dirty and blacker coal dirtier? Diamonds must be dirty too, because they are pure carbon? Is CO2 dirty when you cannot see it? Trees must be dirty too because apart from water, they are pure carbon, 86% Carbon by weight. The total lack of any science sets Greens apart. If ignorance was truly bliss, they must be very happy.


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    Paul

    Off Topic but, according to scientists, even the sink hole that just appeared in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia has been caused by Global Warming. I wonder what caused all the other sink holes around the world that have been there over a hundred years?


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    Mattb

    Israel is a tiny country and all of it is coastal. China is not. So that’s the desal comparison knocked on the head. its use does make you question the rest of the article. There is bugger loads of coal. by the time we run out of coal there will be viable alternatives (well there already are really).


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    DMA

    Most of the U.S. efforts to “improve” energy production have been forced by the green lobbies and the legislated funding for renewable sources. Because the renewable sources are diffuse and intermittent, they rely on the grid rather than replace it. Almost unnoticed, during this same period, very dense sources of energy have been developed with nearly no help from the Federal or State laws or funding. Some of these sources are becoming mature enough to be brought into the market in the very near future. They will eventually remove the need for a grid and replace all current sources .

    Look at Blacklight Power who have developed a power source with a million times the power density of a car engine with an anticipated cost of less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour. They project field testable units in 14 to 16 weeks.

    Or Solar Hydrogen Trends who have developed a process to produce hydrogen from water at an energy equivalent cost of 1.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

    Or Lawerenceville Plasma Physics who are nearing proof of concept on a small hot fusion generator that generates no radioactive waste and electricity at a tenth the cost of coal facilities.

    Or Andrea Ross’s E-Cat that expects to announce a functioning 1 megawatt plant this fall that produces no waste product or radiation.

    With these and other innovations in the game I will not lose sleep about peak coal or oil and, although I have no fear of CO2 induced climate catastrophe, they should help those that do to sleep better as well.


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    Richard Hill

    I would like to join others in criticising the graph. The assumption that Australia’s coal output will remain constant is unwarranted. Only a few of the major sedimentary basins on our continent have been explored for coal. A guess is that there is 20-100 times more extractable coal in Australia than current estimates even with current technology. The Australian coal output in the longer term is determined only by price and govt. policy.


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      Alan

      Richard you use a contradiction in terms when you state “A guess is that there is 20-100 times more extractable coal in Australia than current estimates”. You see current estimates (ie resources/reserves not guesstimates) are based upon what is extractable. Can you let me know where the unexplored basins are, maybe we could set up an exploration company – you could provide the money and I’ll provide the expertise.


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        Richard Hill

        Alan, thanks for your offer. A few moments with wikipedia threw up “Australia is relatively under-explored….” and a good map of sedimentary basins, way bigger than the coal potential maps. I couldnt be bothered going further. Do you really believe that the future output of coal from Australis is going to be constant for decades to come as implied by the subject graph?


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        Alan

        Richard I don’t need to consult wikipedia it’s my job. Can you name these under explored basins that have all this coal potential? What sort of depths? What rank of coal?
        Can’t see why Australia’s coal output will not continue similar to the current output. As I mentioned in an earlier post I also suggest that China’s resource/reserves are underestimated because modern exploration has been minimal relative to many other countries.


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    gallopingcamel

    All the nonsense about “Peak This” or “Peak That” is based on Malthusian Mythology. The Malthusian prophets of gloom have always been wrong. Eventually they will be right but by then Cornucopians will be colonizing exo-planets.

    One hundred and fifty years ago we used whale oil to light our homes. Malthusians (correctly) pointed out that whale oil production would decline owing to a falling whale population. Human ingenuity found that kerosene could illuminate our houses for a fraction of the cost. Kerosene has its drawbacks so we switched to tunsten filaments excited by electricity. Tungsten filaments were inefficient so we switched to compact fluorescents and then LEDs.

    Within ten years our TVs will be based on OLEDs and our rooms will be illuminated by thin sheets of OLEDs lining our walls.

    My point is that the present explosion in human population results from the Industrial Revolution that is based on science and engineering “doing more and more with less and less”.

    The huge improvement in the performance of domestic lighting systems is just an example. There are many other technologies that affect our ability to survive to an even greater extent.

    Think about communications systems. In 1950 it took 4,000 pounds per mile of copper wire to transmit a single phone conversation from London to Edinburgh. Today you can transmit that same phone conversation using only 0.23 pounds of glass per mile so it takes 17,000 times less material to transmit a phone conversation. It turns out that you can transmit more than one phone conversation over those glass fibers. Even with today’s (primitive) technology we can transmit 625,000 phone conversations over a pair of glass fibers. Thus the improvement in performance is already 10 billion to one with more to follow as our understanding improves.

    That explains my ability to make a video call to Australia for zero dollars.

    This thread is about energy so ask yourself how technology is enabling us to do “more with less”. Think of a power station that produces one Giga-Watt of electricity. If the power plant is coal fired it will require ~3 million tonnes of coal per year. Switch to natural gas and you will only need >2,000,000 tonnes per year using Combined Cycle technology.

    Generation I & II nuclear reactors that provide ~20% of our electricity in the USA require 100-200 tonnes of fuel per year.

    Existing generation IV fission reactors would require one tonne of fuel per year.

    Reactors using hydrogen fusion will use much less. Two hundred kg of fuel per year?

    Unless scientific progress is wrecked by eco-Luddism it is clear that when a resource runs out human ingenuity will replace it with something that is…….much better and much cheaper.

    Two hundred years ago it took 80% of our population to produce the food we need in the USA. Today, less than 2% of our population works on farms.

    In spite of these huge changes in productivity, human population has increased by less than a factor of ten since the Industrial Revolution. Even with a ten fold increase in population famine is less common than it used to be. In 18th century France there were 11 major famines. How many were there in the 20th century?


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      the Griss

      All this new tech is all well and good, on one very important proviso

      .. we MUST NOT reduce the release of sequestered carbon as CO2.

      .. we MUST NOT allow the atmospheric CO2 level to drop back down below 350ppm, if we want to feed the worlds growing population.

      If possible we should try to increase atmospheric CO2 levels to at least 700 – 1000 ppm.


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    thingadonta

    Mongolia has VAST amounts of untapped coal, apparently more than Australia’s total.

    It hasn’t been mined because it is too far from markets. China wont mind shipping it across, so the region is not going to run out of coal anytime soon.

    China and Mongolia also both have VAST amounts of oil shale, and coal seam methane. They have barely begun their fracking experiment. Some of the graphs are therefore wrong and misleading.

    And then there is the South China Sea. More oil. More gas.


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      Alan

      Mongolia definitely has significant coal but a fair percentage is lignite or brown coal so more for internal consumption. Their higher rank coals are geologically complex and therefore difficult or more expensive to mine.
      The other downside to Mongolia is that they are basically surrounded by the largest (China) and sixth largest (Russia) coal producers in the world.


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