China's growth – and yay for that – has a downside or six. The one I’m thinking about today is that although China has done the most amazing work around alternative energy – a high percentage of its energy comes from wind and the sun – the sheer pace of its growth sucks for energy the way a drowning person sucks for air. To meet its needs, China is politically not willing to tie its flag to the renewable mast, so it is also going great guns in pursuit of all the other (polluting) energy-generation processes.
Today’s news, via Greenpeace, is that China is well advanced in its plan to rapidly expand large coal mines in its arid northern and western provinces (for anyone who knows China, that means Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Ningxia); and to build 16 large coal-fired power stations in those provinces by 2015.
Coal mining and coal-fired power generation are extremely water-intensive projects.
Water demand created by this energy strategy, along with the development of related industries in these areas, will consume at least 9.98bn c m of water by 2015, equivalent to one sixth of China's largest river, Greenpeace said. The development will also drain and pollute groundwater resources, which will in turn exacerbate drought.
I really wish they had the wisdom to just take it a bit more slowly – to put all that thinking and planning and building and manufacturing into increasing their sustainable energy flow.
After all, the sooner it happens in major economies like China, the sooner the systems will be developed, and the prices will come down, for you and me.
And in the meantime, the rivers will flow clean and full, and the Mongolian grasslands (pictured above) – already shrinking due to desertification (pictured right) – will grow again, to blow gently in the wind.