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By Robert Rapier on Jul 6, 2011 with 24 responses

Chinese Energy Policies Harming Neighbors

The following guest post is from OilPrice.com.

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China’s omnivorous energy requirements have been attracting increasing attention as of late, as Beijing attempts to secure any and all sources of power for its growing industrial base.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than Beijing’s policies in the South China Sea, where Chinese assertions of sovereignty are unsettling the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, all of whom have counter claims on the various shoals and islets.

China’s landward neighbors are also feeling the hot breath of Beijing’s mandarins, however, most notably its economic rival India, with whom China fought a brief war in 1962 in the Himalayas over a disputed frontier, where the alpine conflict, according to China’s official military history, achieved China’s policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector in retaining Chinese control of the Aksai Chin with India accepting the de facto borders which codified along the Line of Actual Control.

Now China and India are engaged yet again in a spat, this time over the headwaters of the Brahmaputra River. According to New Delhi, China is planning up to 24 hydroelectric facilities with a cumulative power generation capacity of nearly 2,000 megawatts along Brahmaputra’s source, the Arun River, before it descends into India.

Further east, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos are alarmed by China’s intentions to build three massive dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River, adding to six existing hydroelectric facilities. What is singularly lacking in all these plans is any regional or concerted international effort to counter China’s plans.

India’s concerns are heightened by the fact that most of its major rivers originate in Tibet, which China invaded and annexed in 1950, declaring it an integral part of “Western China.” Both the Brahmaputra and Indus rivers have their origins in a lake  in western Tibet near Mount Kailash.

Complicating India’s efforts to discuss the issue is China’s reluctance to acknowledge the validity of satellite imagery, which Beijing regards as espionage, even though in 2010 China acknowledged as a result of India’s space observation that it was in fact building the Zangmu dam on the Brahmaputra, as the imagery received from Indian satellites confirmed the construction.

Indian strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney observed, “China has always been unapologetic about its refusal to enter into water sharing agreements with any states. It has always maintained that it would take into account interests of the lower riparian states but about half of the world’s total number of large dams are in China. India, with so many of its major rivers originating in Tibet, is going to be among the worst affected. The issue is usually soft pedaled by the water resources ministry, and there is never any international pressure on this though the list of countries suffering because of China’s refusal is quite long including Russia, Kazakhstan, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.”

Chellaney’s list of aggrieved states along China’s landward frontiers is extensive – what remains to be seen is whether the region’s two substantive powers, Russia and India, are willing to confront Beijing, either singly or in concert, over Beijing’s efforts to harness Asia’s river flow to power its industrial miracle. So far, the signs are not encouraging, as Chinese economic “soft power” seduces Russia and India as covertly as it does America’s economy.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Chinese-Energy-Policies-Harming-Neighbors.html

By. Dr. John C.K. Daly for OilPrice.com. For more information on oil prices and other commodity related topics please visit www.oilprice.com

  1. By Wendell Mercantile on July 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

    China’s omnivorous energy requirements have been attracting increasing attention as of late, as Beijing attempts to secure any and all sources of power for its growing industrial base.

    Move back in time to the first half of the 20th Century, and the same paragraph could just as easily apply to the U.S. and Western Europe, wouldn’t it? A time when U.S. and European oil companies (with the backing of their governments) were grabbing oil all over the world from Iran and Saudi Arabia, to Nigeria, to Venezuela, to Indonesia.

    Isn’t that what Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power was about — securing any and all sources of energy to support growing economies and their industrial bases?

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  2. By Kit P on July 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Another leap of logic Dr. John C.K. Daly. Looking at it a different way, when China was exporting slave labor coal, it made it hard for other countries compete.

    Energy is a cheap commodity. Using a little energy allows for a huge increase in productivity. Productive people want to drive cars and eat steak.

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  3. By Wendell Mercantile on July 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Productive people want to drive cars and eat steak.

    That’s right Kit, all all those Chinese have dreams of someday driving a Buick. A big fossil-fuel burning Buick they can drive to KFC. (Not only steak, but they also like to eat chicken. KFC opens a new store in China every 18 hours.)

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  4. By Optimist on July 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Complicating India’s efforts to discuss the issue is China’s reluctance to acknowledge the validity of satellite imagery, which Beijing regards as espionage…

    Commies refusing to act like grown-ups? What’s new?

    It has always maintained that it would take into account interests of the lower riparian states but about half of the world’s total number of large dams are in China. India, with so many of its major rivers originating in Tibet, is going to be among the worst affected.

    I guess I’m slow today: How does a hydro-electric dam affect downstream water users for the worst? Sure, it will have some effect, but some of these, such as flood management, would be beneficial to downstream users. This seems to be nothing more than standard leave mother Nature alone hysteria.

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  5. By Optimist on July 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Productive people want to drive cars and eat steak.

    More to the point: productive people can afford to do those things. Which reminds me, I need to get back to being productive…

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  6. By Wendell Mercantile on July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    How does a hydro-electric dam affect downstream water users for the worst?

    As an example, the lower Nile has changed dramatically since the Aswan Dam was built. The annual flooding of the Nile used to recharge the soil. The flooding was bad temporarily for the people that lived there, but after the water receded, the soil was more fertile. The annual flooding of the Nile and recharging of the soil, had much to do with the early advances of Egyptian civilization 4,000 years ago.

    That annual recharging of the soil has now stopped, and they instead have to rely on fertilizer.

    All that sediment that used to recharge the soil is also now being trapped behind the Aswan Dam.

    Water behind a dam is also much colder than in a free-flowing river. When that cold water is released it affects those downstream differently than before the dam was built..

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  7. By Kit P on July 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “had much to do with the early advances of Egyptian civilization 4,000 years ago.”

     

    Another society based on slavery. I imagine living someplace where even the poor have clean drinking water, good food, and shelter. Wait Wendell you do not have to imagine just look around the town you live in.

     

    One of the ‘downstream’ effects of having electricity is the ability makeup things about the present and romance the past.

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  8. By biocrude on July 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Optimist said:

    I guess I’m slow today: How does a hydro-electric dam affect downstream water users for the worst? Sure, it will have some effect, but some of these, such as flood management, would be beneficial to downstream users. This seems to be nothing more than standard leave mother Nature alone hysteria.
     

    Umm…. it can use up all the downstream water?  Especially when you are talking about that many dams.  There might not be any trickling down to India, and that would certainly piss me off!  Also, Wendell brings up a good point about nutrient transport for the soil, as well as fish are surely affected by dams.  Peak Oil, then Peak Water, or as Murphy’s Law would have it, both will hit us where it hurts at the same time!
     

     

    @ Wendell, when you refer to Chinese wanting Buicks, what they want are Flex Fuel Buick Regals!  Run ‘em on Flex Fuel, add some methanol, E4 Enivrolene, mixed alcohol, whatever!  The point is that the Regal, while finally showing up on roads across the world, deletes most of the mpg penalty associated with Flex Fuel.  If you take RR’s 30% penalty out of his “fun with numbers” essay on ethanol, Flex Fuel starts to look a lot more attractive.  Besides, real world driving doesn’t show 30% decrease in mpg of E85 vs. gas.  It’s about 18% when comparing E85 vs. E10 gasoline.  

     

    Now, with that being said, I’m going to go swim in a lake, downstream of a dam, but upstream of a river… :)

     

     

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  9. By mac on July 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Optimist said:

    “I guess I’m slow today: How does a hydro-electric dam affect downstream water users for the worst? Sure, it will have some effect, but some of these, such as flood management, would be beneficial to downstream users. This seems to be nothing more than standard leave mother Nature alone hysteria”
    .
    Optimist, perhaps the East Indians are worried that China will use the water for irrigation, drinking water and industrial uses, dramatically reducing the flow onto India.

    This is the case with Colorado River which some years doesn’t even make it to the Pacific.

    “The Colorado River Basin offers a major renewable water supply in the southwestern United States. About two-thirds of the water flowing in the Colorado River and its tributaries is used for irrigation, and the other one-third supplies urban areas, evaporates into the atmosphere, or provides water to riparian (streamside) vegetation. Without Colorado River water, the region would support few crops, and major cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona, would not have grown so rapidly.”

    “Today nearly 17 million people depend on the Colorado’s waters. The basin population has expanded dramatically in recent years, with most growth occurring in urban areas, where about 80 percent of the region’s residents live. Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada are the largest cities in the basin, and they use the Colorado River and its tributaries as their primary source of water.”

    “Water from the Colorado River is taken from its primary route and transported to locations far from the Colorado River Basin. For example, water is diverted eastward across the Rocky Mountains to Denver and other cities in Colorado. The Colorado River Aqueduct carries water to metropolitan Los Angeles, and the Central Arizona Project supplies the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The All-American Canal provides water for the Imperial Valley of southern California, a productive agricultural region converted from a desert.”

    http://www.waterencyclopedia.c…..Basin.html

    In the case of the Colorado River, upstream use of the river is not such a big deal since the Colorado only flows about 80 miles through Baja Mexico to the Pacific,

    If the Chinese control the headwaters of major river systems that flow through India and siphon all the water off for agriculture, drinking water and industry, then I can understand why the Indians are concerned. India needs water for agriculture, and industry just as China does.

    If the Chinese were just going to build dams and let the water run through the pen-stocks downstream, then that would be one thing, I have a hunch the Chinese have a lot more than that in mind. Perhaps, something like what has been done with the Colorado River ???

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  10. By Optimist on July 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Umm…. it can use up all the downstream water? Especially when you are talking about that many dams. There might not be any trickling down to India, and that would certainly piss me off!

    Good to see I’m not the only one being slow: generating (green, CO2-free) hydro-electricity does NOT convert liquid water into thin air. There is a temporary reduction in flow, as the dam is filled, and then flow resumes as previously. Except it is now more predictable, and sometimes, as Wendell points out, colder than before. But the water does NOT disappear due to hydro.

    Optimist, perhaps the East Indians are worried that China will use the water for irrigation, drinking water and industrial uses, dramatically reducing the flow onto India. This is the case with Colorado River which some years doesn’t even make it to the Pacific.

    Hold it right there, champ. You are comparing sparsely populated mountains along the China-India border to densely populated desert communities in the SW of USA. Apples and oranges. I doubt there is any agriculture, industry or populations in the area that could consume enough of the great rivers’ water for India to notice a difference.

    Peak Oil, then Peak Water, or as Murphy’s Law would have it, both will hit us where it hurts at the same time!

    Relax, BC. As I have pointed out before: There is NO coming Peak Water. Just pinch your nose, and drink up!

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  11. By mac on July 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Optimist,

    No,YOU hold it right there you self-appointed “CHAMP”

    “You are comparing sparsely populated mountains along the China-India border to densely populated desert communities in the SW of USA” says Optimist.

    The snow-pack in the Himalayas feeds the streams and rivers of India just as run-off from the Rockies, Cascades, Appalacian Mts. etc. feed streams and rivers in the U.S. Don’t you get it yet ?

    Water runs downhill !!!

    What ???

    Like, the Chinese are going to build a dam on some inconsequential , useless stream 2 feet wide on top of Mt. Everest or K-2 ????

    By the way “hot shot” India IS densely populated even more so than the American Southwest..

    On a more civil note, it simply boils down to this: If China is just going to build these dams to generate electricity, that might be tolerable. My strong suspicion is that the Chinese have in mind a lot of other uses for this “dammed up water” other than electricity production.

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  12. By mac on July 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Canada just announced the purchase of nearly 70% of U.S. upstream water rights,

    When the Canadian Prime Minister was asked about this, he simply said:

    “As you all know, Canada posses the second greatest proven oil reserves in the world.”

    “You Americans have called Canada “America’s attic, long enough.”

    “Payback time ……..”

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  13. By mac on July 8, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Robert,

    Just interjected this previous “fanciful” comment to get people to actually “think.”
    That’s all……

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  14. By Wendell Mercantile on July 8, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I doubt there is any agriculture, industry or populations in the area that could consume enough of the great rivers’ water for India to notice a difference.

    Optimist,

    Dams upstream of another country can also be used as a weapon. Either to deny water, or to let a sudden surge of water flow downstream. If China controls the flow of water through India, they could use that as leverage as some point in the future. (I don’t know what the tripping point might be, but China and India have not always been on the best of terms and did fight a war in the 1962.) The Coming China-India Conflict: Is War Inevitable?

    The same situation exists in the Middle East where Turkey has built the Atatürk Dam on the Euphrates. That gives the Turks complete control of the water that flows into and through Iraq, and was a contentious issue even when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Atatürk Dam

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  15. By rufus on July 8, 2011 at 12:46 am

    China might get one more doubling of their economy from, primarily, fossil fuels. After that, they are going to have to be Heavily into Renewables.

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  16. By mac on July 8, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Okay Wendell.

    It’s, a geo-poltical conflict, more than war about ‘alternatives”

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  17. By mac on July 8, 2011 at 1:55 am

     

    Optimist.

     

    My appologies.


    I never reakized that someone could actually “know everything about everything ” and issue bizarre ‘summary statements about energy without any-one actually challenging them.

    Glad to know that you “know”  “Every thing nabout energy” 

     

    (in your own mind at least)

     

    mac

     

     

     

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  18. By mac on July 8, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Optimist,

    Look. the Indians know what’s going on. What’s taking you so long ???

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  19. By thomas398 on July 8, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Kit P said:

    “had much to do with the early advances of Egyptian civilization 4,000 years ago.”

     

    Another society based on slavery. I imagine living someplace where even the poor have clean drinking water, good food, and shelter. Wait Wendell you do not have to imagine just look around the town you live in.

     

    One of the ‘downstream’ effects of having electricity is the ability makeup things about the present and romance the past.

    The U.S. economy was far more dependant on slavery than the Ancient Egyptians.  You use the same “we’ve got it all figured out and always have” tone when you talk about the Nuclear Power industry.  Let’s hope your level of expertise is higher there than in comparative history.
     

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  20. By rufus on July 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

    9.2% Unemployment.

    Would have been worse if a couple hundred thousand hadn’t “Left” the Labor Force (gave up looking.)

    The economy started slowing down when gasoline went over $3.25. It hit a brick wall at $3.50.

    It’s Now at $3.60, and heading for $3.75.

    Them’s the facts, Jack.

    Meanwhile, we’re paying farmers Not to plant 30 Million Acres.

    We need to start, today, building an ethanol refinery in Every County in the United States.

    If we can Guarantee a $16 Billion Loan for a Nuclear Power Plant, we can sure as hell guarantee a bunch of loans for cellulosic ethanol plants (especially since our problem is transportation fuel, not electricity.)

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  21. By Kit P on July 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    “The U.S. economy was far more dependant on slavery than the Ancient Egyptians.”

    Well Thomas, I do not believe I said anything about slavery in the US. Judging from the above statement, I think I know a lot more about American history than Thomas does. I certainly would not want to defend treatment American coal miners 100 years ago by today’s standards. I would suggest that today US coal miners have a high standard of living and would think it would be great if Chinese (or any coal miners) shared the US standard.

    The point here is that a small amount of energy greatly improves quality of life and allows the creative human mind to focus on more than manual labor. Furthermore, American is not a great country because of the amount of coal we have.

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  22. By Optimist on July 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Water runs downhill !!! What ???

    Glad to see things are sppeding up for you, mac!

    My strong suspicion is that the Chinese have in mind a lot of other uses for this “dammed up water” other than electricity production.

    Diverting water from one catchment to another is possible, but typically VERY expensive. If that’s what the Chinese are planning, you may indeed be right. It would be odd that the author never mentioned it in his breathless article, though…

    Dams upstream of another country can also be used as a weapon. Either to deny water, or to let a sudden surge of water flow downstream. If China controls the flow of water through India, they could use that as leverage as some point in the future.

    China is going to build enough dam volume to deny water for any length of time from some of the biggest rivers on the planet? If their plan is to pick a fight with India, there has to be a better (quicker, more cost effective) way. Ditto for the surges of water theory.

    That gives the Turks complete control of the water that flows into and through Iraq,…

    Yes, but Iraq is a desert country, unlike India.

    I don’t see it guys. If the Chinese are planning something untoward, it will take a lot more information to convince me. This article falls way short of the mark. No, mac, I’m not claiming to know everything. But that’s exactly why I’d give the Chinese the benefit of the doubt right now.

    We need to start, today, building an ethanol refinery in Every County in the United States.

    Leave it to the free market. If ethanol is so profitable, I’m sure (greedy) ADM will soon be building those. If not, well that should tell you cheerleaders something.

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  23. By Wendell Mercantile on July 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    We need to start, today, building an ethanol refinery in Every County in the United States.

    Rufus~

    What proactive steps are you taking to get that county ethanol plant built in Tunica County?

    * Have you ever stood before the Rotary Club (or any of the other civic organizations) in Tunica and given a presentation on why your county needs an ethanol plant?

    * Have you ever written a letter to the editor of the Tunica Times trying to rally support of your idea?

    * Have you ever gone to the richest guy in Tunica (assuming it’s not you) and said, “Here’s what we need to do to make this a prosperous, thriving community?” and then presented your idea?

    * Have you ever asked for a meeting with Representative Bennie Thompson (2nd District of Mississippi) to ask for his help? (I see he graduated Tougaloo College, he should understand small ethanol.)

    Posting your thoughts on Robert’s fine blog may make you feel good, but it isn’t going to make that ethanol plant in Tunica County happen.

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  24. By rufus on July 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    :) Trust me, It ain’t me.

    No, Wendell, I haven’t. It’s not time to “sell it’ in Tunica. Not yet. You’re obdurate, and obstreperous, but you are, from time to time, correct. Until there is a full-size “working’ model there’s no sense in getting all worn out.

    I figure around the summer of ’13 is about the right time.

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