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China’s need for oil

The Story

For decades the bicycle was China's chief mode of transport. Driving was reserved for chauffeurs who took Party officials on their rounds. But as China catches up to the Western world, the Party has decided that every Chinese family should have a car. And every one of those cars needs gas. Between China's new car culture and its heavy industry, demand for oil is soaring. CBC's China correspondent, Patrick Brown, wonders if there's enough to go around. No longer can China supply all its own oil. So it's turning to the global market, to the Middle East and the Alberta oil sands, to feed its needs. The hunger for oil also has political implications for China's relationships with Russia, Japan, and Iran. An oil industry analyst says there's enough oil for everyone, but the hungry dragon of China's economy is unlikely to slow down. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Jan. 21, 2005
Guest(s): Jiang Lao, Vaclav Smil, Yin Hong Sun, David Wong
Reporter: Patrick Brown
Duration: 11:30

Did You know?

• The Chinese automobile market grew by an estimated 10 per cent in the first half of 2005. By 2015, China will have a projected 150 million cars.
• Once a car has been purchased, Chinese drivers face numerous obstacles before they can drive. The city of Shanghai, for example, auctions off a maximum of about 6,000 new licence plates monthly. Each plate can fetch as much as $4,000.

• Another primary source of energy in China is coal, which is mined extensively throughout the country. Due in part to emissions from burning coal, China has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities.
• Hydroelectricity is another source. In 2009, the massive Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River is scheduled to begin producing power.

• As a result of China's population, expanding industry, and energy use, environmental devastation is widespread. Polluted waterways and other ecological disasters prompt as many as 70,000 protests yearly.
• "Almost every natural system in China shows the effects of thousands of years of hard use," wrote reporter Bill McKibben in the December 2005 issue of Harper's magazine.

• McKibben goes on to describe mass deforestation, disappearing grasslands, advancing deserts and annual spring dust storms that plague Beijing.
• Increasing demand on freshwater supplies is also taking a toll. "Some northern cities will simply be out of water in eight or 10 years," environmental author Ma Jun told McKibben.

• A 2005 study by the Worldwatch Institute concluded that China's growth was affecting the global environment. "China is becoming the sucking force, taking raw materials from across the planet, because it alone doesn't have the resources it needs to sustain its growth," Lisa Mastny, the study's project director, told National Geographic.
• China's economy grew by nine per cent in 2004, compared with five per cent for the world economy overall.

• "This is unsustainable," Mastny continued. "We're not blaming China. It's just that if all the countries that are entering the consumer society try to emulate the patterns of the United States and other countries, clearly there is not going to be enough [resources] to go around."
• In 2001, Americans - and Canadians - used about nine times more energy per capita than Chinese.

• In 2006, the Chinese automaker Geely unveiled a prototype that it hoped to sell in the United States - the first Chinese-made car on the U.S. market. Geely's compact sedan, the 7151 CK, made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2006.
• Geely planned to begin shipping cars by 2008. With a retail price of under $10,000, it projected that it would sell 25,000 cars in 2008 and 100,000 annually by 2013.



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