More Catching Up–China’s Coal Consumption

I missed the chance to blog about some interesting things last year, due to being in China and not having access to WordPress.

In May of 2014 the DOE’s EIA published a report on China’s coal production and consumption. Given that China recently made an agreement with the U.S. about future emissions, the DOE report is worth another look 8 months later.

“Chinese production and consumption of coal increased for the 13th consecutive year in 2012. China is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for 46% of global coal production and 49% of global coal consumption—almost as much as the rest of the world combined. …China’s coal consumption increased by more than 2.3 billion tons over the past 10 years, accounting for 83% of the global increase in coal consumption. …Coal accounts for most of China’s energy consumption, and coal has maintained an approximate 70% share of Chinese consumption (on a Btu basis) since at least 1980.”

China coal

In 2012 China consumed about 103.6 quads, close to 20% of the world’s total. 70 of those quadrillion BTUs were produced by burning coal.

China intends to double its energy consumption between 2014 and 2026. The EIA projected that China would burn about 162 quads in total by 2030 and that China’s reliance on coal will drop to 63%. If they are correct, the quads produced by coal in China will go from 70 in 2012 to 102.5 quads in 2030. That is a lot of coal to be burning. For perspective, the entire world including China used coal to generate 157 quads last year.

However, I think it is actually worse than that. I project China’s energy consumption will rise to 246.6 quads in 2030 and that coal will provide about what it does now–70% of the total or 172.6 quads.

That’s because I believe China will continue to accelerate their consumption of energy until they match Western per capita levels. They were at 59 mbtu per person back in 2010. The U.S. was at about 309 mbtu. Do the math.

That would mean 172.6 quads produced by burning coal. By China alone. Just to remind you all, that’s why I’m worried about climate change. Even with a low sensitivity of the atmosphere to concentrations of CO2, at some point there’s just too much CO2.


International Energy Outlook 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration released its 2014 International Energy Outlook while I was inconveniently located in mainland China and unable to access this blog.

It turns out that that’s okay–the EIA has changed to doing a full report in odd-numbered years and a shortened version in even number years. So the 2014 report does not cover very much of what interests me. It is focused instead on production of (and a bit on demand for) oil and other liquid fuels.

I don’t know when they finished writing it, but it looks like they hit the publish button about two minutes before the price of oil started falling through the floor.

“In the IEO2014 Reference case, world oil prices fall from $113 per barrel (2012 dollars) in 2011 to $92 per barrel in 2017, then rise steadily to $141 per barrel in 2040.” The price of Brent right now is about $47.


You’ve gotta feel for these guys. They probably thought they were being brave to put a decline in their reference estimate. Their Low Price estimate showed prices falling to $70 by 2016, and again they probably thought they were sticking their necks out.

As for their macroeconomic outlook, (I don’t mean to sound snarky–I like what these people do) they finally noticed the slowdown in India and started including it in their models for growth. Unfortunately, my models think they did this right when India hit the floor. Their new prime minister Modi, in my opinion, is going to spur growth there almost immediately. They took the opposite tack on Brazil, projecting strong growth there just as the Brazilian economy took a nose dive. You can’t win.

Brazilian economy

As for China, they sold 18 million new cars last year and the EIA quite properly notes that liquid fuel consumption will probably double by 2040. (I wonder if that will show up in their 2015 estimates of future global energy consumption…)

I think the overall situation is too (please forgive me) fluid to really make strong assertions on liquid fuels. All consumers are benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s war on American shale. As a consumer, you should root for a long and bloody struggle. As an environmentalist, I can only say this is the perfect time to end subsidies and raise taxes on liquid fuels. When prices are low, people won’t notice.

Speaking of which, is there a luckier politician anywhere than Indonesian Joko Widodo (Jokowi)? He took office hoping to find a way to lower fuel subsidies, which take up a fifth of Indonesian government spending. The crash of oil prices allowed him to remove the subsidies altogether–and right now fuel prices in Indonesia are lower without subsidies than they were a month or two ago with subsidies. If Jokowi spends this windfall properly, Indonesia might replace Australia as ‘the lucky country.’



I like him because he reminds me  a little of Barack Obama. Pity Obama never had that kind of luck.

Decadal Rises in CO2 Emissions

Taken from NOAA data starting in 1959.

1959-1969: 8.65 ppm

1970-1979: 11.1 ppm

1980-1989: 14.39 ppm

1990-1999: 13.98 ppm

2000-2009: 17.85 ppm

2010-2014: 8.7 ppm

There are those who say that it is the actual introduction of new CO2 into the atmosphere that causes the temperature to change. There are those who say that the concentrations play a larger role.

Whatever the case, concentrations are not only rising, they are rising more quickly than in the past.

Surprising information about CO2 concentrations–something important here… but it’s halfway down the post…

In yesterday’s post I briefly mentioned Alexander Cockburn’s writing about the lack of correlation between CO2 emissions and concentrations (hat tip to pottereaton, who flagged this up in a comment to a previous post). Cockburn wrote, “Now imagine two lines on a piece of graph paper. The first rises to a crest, then slopes sharply down, levels off and rises slowly once more. The other has no undulations. It rises in a smooth, slow arc. The first wavy line is the worldwide CO2 tonnage produced by humans burning coal, oil and natural gas. It starts in 1928, at 1.1 gigatons (i.e., 1.1 billion metric tons), and peaks in 1929 at 1.17 gigatons. The world, led by its mightiest power, plummets into the Great Depression and by 1932, human CO2 production has fallen to 0.88 gigatons a year, a 30 percent drop. Then, in 1933, the line climbs slowly again, up to 0.9 gigatons.

“And the other line, the one ascending so evenly? That’s the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, parts per million (ppm) by volume, moving in 1928 from just under 306, hitting 306 in 1929, 307 in 1932 and on up. Boom and bust, the line heads up steadily. These days it’s at 380. The two lines on that graph proclaim that a whopping 30 percent cut in manmade CO2 emissions didn’t even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere’s CO2. It is thus impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from people burning fossil fuels.”

Although Cockburn didn’t extend his research to more recent times, it’s relatively easy to do. The NOAA publishes annual mean CO2 concentrations and the DOE’s CDIAC publishes annual emissions data. And in fact, the lack of 1 to 1 correlation between emissions and concentrations is surprising.

CO2 concentrations have climbed from 338.68 parts per million in 1980 to the current level of 398.55, a rise of about 60 ppm in 35 years, or a bit under 20%. However, although CO2 emissions have varied significantly, the rise in concentrations has in fact been very steady. The average annual rise has been 1.76 ppm (but hold that fact in mind as you read below. It’s important.)

The years with the largest increases in emissions also had most of the largest increase in concentrations, which is a bit reassuring given what follows. The highest increase in concentrations was in 1998, 2.94 ppm and the lowest was in 1993, 0.69 ppm.

We noted yesterday that in 9 years since 1980 that emissions actually fell. In none of those years did concentrations drop. What Cockburn noted about the Great Depression is also true today. In 2009 during the Great Recession, emission declined by 43 million metric tons, due to energy consumption falling by 5 quads and GDP falling by $3 trillion dollars. But concentrations rose by 1.78 ppm, higher than average. In fact, in four of the nine years when emissions fell, concentrations rose by an amount higher than the average.

The beginning of the 80’s was marked by four consecutive years when emissions fell. During those four years CO2 concentrations rose by 6.25 ppm, 10% of the entire rise in concentrations during the period we’re looking at. I find this surprising–I can understand a one-year disconnect between emissions and concentrations, but four? That’s odd.

However, I noticed something else odd in the data that troubles me even more. When a journalist ‘buries the lede’, it means that the most important information in an article is not at the top of the story, but buried deep inside. To an extent, that’s what I’ve done here.

Because looking at the data, I notice that the mean rise in concentrations from 1980 to 1993 has a fairly modest average of 1.45 ppm. However, the average from 1993 to 2013 jumps to 1.96 ppm. Early in the data series, there is only one year over 1.6 ppm increase. In 1994 the increase jumps to 1.75 ppm and from 1994 to 2013 there are only two years with an increase below 1.6 ppm.

Although concentrations have not shown much, if any, effect on surface mean temperatures (the pause is real, after all, even if James Hansen prefers to say temperatures have stalled), the fact that we are emitting very high levels of CO2 is showing up in concentrations.

Here’s the data:

Date Global CO2 Emissions Annual Change in CO2 CO2 Concentrations Mauna Loa Change
31-Dec-80 5315 <54> 338.68 1.9
31-Dec-81 5152 <153> 340.1 1.42
31-Dec-82 5113 <39> 341.44 1.34
31-Dec-83 5094 <19> 343.03 1.59
31-Dec-84 5280 186 344.58 1.55
31-Dec-85 5439 159 346.04 1.46
31-Dec-86 5607 168 347.39 1.35
31-Dec-87 5752 145 349.16 1.77
31-Dec-88 5965 213 351.56 2.4
31-Dec-89 6097 132 353.07 1.51
31-Dec-90 6127 30 354.35 1.28
31-Dec-91 6217 90 355.57 1.22
31-Dec-92 6164 <53> 356.38 0.81
31-Dec-93 6162 <2> 357.07 0.69
31-Dec-94 6266 104 358.82 1.75
31-Dec-95 6398 132 360.8 1.98
31-Dec-96 6542 144 362.59 1.79
31-Dec-97 6651 109 363.71 1.12
31-Dec-98 6643 <8> 366.65 2.94
31-Dec-99 6610 <33> 368.33 1.68
31-Dec-00 6765 155 369.52 1.19
31-Dec-01 6927 162 371.13 1.61
31-Dec-02 6996 69 373.22 2.09
31-Dec-03 7416 420 375.77 2.55
31-Dec-04 7807 391 377.49 1.72
31-Dec-05 8093 286 379.8 2.31
31-Dec-06 8370 277 381.9 2.1
31-Dec-07 8566 196 383.76 1.86
31-Dec-08 8783 217 385.59 1.83
31-Dec-09 8740 <43> 387.37 1.78
31-Dec-10 9167 427 389.85 2.48
31-Dec-11 391.62 1.77
31-Dec-12 393.82 2.2
31-Dec-13 396.48 2.66
398.55 2.07

Variations in fossil fuel emissions compared to variations in global energy consumption

This blog is a frequent user of DOE energy data–I’d like to thank them once again for their hard work, even if I am occasionally critical of their findings. (It’s appropriate to thank them as I get visitors from their site here.)

Usually I am taking data from their Energy Information Administration. Today I am going to compare the EIA’s figures for energy consumption with another branch of the DOE called CDIAC, the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. I will also compare these variations with World Bank figures for global growth in GDP later.

I got an additional 15 minutes of blogosphere fame last year when I pointed out that according to CDIAC we had emitted a third of all human emissions since 1998, the start of the ‘pause’ in the current warming period. I may have been the first to do so. I made the point then (and repeat it here) that although this doesn’t ‘disprove’ global warming (the globe has warmed and during this warming we have gone from about half a million cars to almost a billion, from about 500 coal-fired power plants to about 23,000–I’ll let you tell me about the growth in the numbers of airplanes, washing machines and data centers…), it is a fairly straightforward argument against high sensitivity of the atmosphere to increasing concentrations of CO2.

I noted previously that global energy consumption , while rising dramatically since 1980, has not risen uniformly (or monotonically, if you prefer). There have been years with very low growth and 4 years with an actual decline.

The same is true for CO2 emissions (CDIAC actually adds up fossil fuel emissions, gas flaring and cement production to get their totals.) Although our measurements of CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa are pretty much monotonic, our emissions have a lot more variability.

[This is something that leftist writer Alexander Cockburn noted before his death–that during the Great Depression, CO2 emissions fell but there was no change in the growth in CO2 concentrations. This led him to write an article critical of the climate consensus, for which he was promptly labeled a denier, senile and all around bad guy. Requiescat in pace, Mr. Cockburn.]

In 1980, CO2 emissions, flaring and cement production amounted to 5,315 metric tons of carbon. (To convert to CO2, multiply by 3.667. I don’t know why CDIAC reports in this fashion, but I will keep their figures without conversion.)

1980’s 5,315 metric tons of carbon was a decrease of 54 metric tons in 1979. And 1980 was not much of an exception. In 9 years between 1980 and 2010, emissions declined (see below). However, the increases were larger than the declines and in 2010 our emissions had increased to 9,167 metric tons of carbon. The nine years of decline were all in the 80’s and 90’s (including the famous 1998, when CO2 emissions declined by 8 million metric tons… go figure). The median figure was growth of 142 million metric tons.

In two years, 2003 and 2010, emissions increased by more than 400 metric tons. However, while 2010 showed corresponding growth in both energy consumption (which grew by 28 quads, the highest one-year growth in the time series) and GDP (which grew by $6 trillion, the second highest in the series), 2003 was very ordinary in terms of energy consumption (13 quads) and GDP growth ($4 trillion).

I think I’m going to try and expand on Mr. Cockburn’s observation about emissions not being closely linked to concentrations. But that’s another post…

Here’s the data.

Date World GDP GDP Growth Quads Growth in Quads Global CO2 Emissions Annual Change in CO2
31-Dec-80 11.16 2 283.1474 0 5315 <54>
31-Dec-81 11.45 0.5 280.9213 <3> 5152 <153>
31-Dec-82 11.35 0 280.5326 0.5 5113 <39>
31-Dec-83 11.6 0 284.3379 4 5094 <19>
31-Dec-84 12.04 0.5 299.6706 15 5280 186
31-Dec-85 12.66 0.5 308.0872 9 5439 159
31-Dec-86 14.98 2 315.773 7 5607 168
31-Dec-87 17.04 2 325.6042 10 5752 145
31-Dec-88 19.08 2 338.0998 13 5965 213
31-Dec-89 20.02 1 343.8671 6 6097 132
31-Dec-90 22.52 2 346.983 3 6127 30
31-Dec-91 23.64 1 348.0959 2 6217 90
31-Dec-92 25.31 2 347.7992 <1> 6164 <53>
31-Dec-93 25.74 0 342.6242 <5> 6162 <2>
31-Dec-94 27.69 2 356.0476 14 6266 104
31-Dec-95 30.64 3 364.511 8 6398 132
31-Dec-96 31.3 1 373.7722 9 6542 144
31-Dec-97 31.21 0 376.7177 3 6651 109
31-Dec-98 31.09 0 378.8662 2 6643 <8>
31-Dec-99 32.24 1 387.075 9 6610 <33>
31-Dec-00 33.28 1 398.276 11 6765 155
31-Dec-01 33.09 0 400.5864 2 6927 162
31-Dec-02 34.33 1 408.0402 8 6996 69
31-Dec-03 38.56 4 421.4558 13 7416 420
31-Dec-04 43.41 5 441.3221 20 7807 391
31-Dec-05 46.96 3 455.1495 14 8093 286
31-Dec-06 50.88 1 467.5628 12 8370 277
31-Dec-07 57.33 7 478.7327 11 8566 196
31-Dec-08 62.86 5 485.7181 7 8783 217
31-Dec-09 59.54 <3> 480.0048 <5> 8740 <43>
31-Dec-10 65.22 6 507.9768 28 9167 427
31-Dec-11 72.14 7 520.2721 12.5
31-Dec-12 73.51 1 528.7973 7.5
31-Dec-13 75.59 2 0

Bang for our bucks–what do we get from a quad?

I’ve done a couple of posts now on variability in global energy consumption. It’s about time to start thinking about the figures on display.

Assuming the World Bank is right about GDP and that the U.S. Department of Energy is right about global energy consumption, we can confidently say that USD $60.54  trillion dollars in GDP growth is correlated with 245.5 quads in additional energy consumption. Whether energy consumption enabled GDP growth or additional GDP growth enabled energy consumption is of course, like the tallness of aunts, something the reader can choose for her/himself.

Growth in energy consumption and GDP is shown by the figures in earlier posts to be roughly correlated but with some surprises. Make no mistake, the correlation is rough, but very clear and strong.

The top years in GDP growth also show robust growth in energy consumption. However, years like 1987, 1988 and 1994, which showed high growth in energy consumption and little growth in GDP, mean that there is not a 1 to 1 relationship between the two.

The top 5 years of GDP growth added USD $30 trillion to the total, half of all GDP growth in the period we’re discussing. But those same years saw only 78.5 additional quads in energy consumption, less than a third of the 246 ‘new’ quads that were consumed.

Similarly, the bottom seven years taken together subtracted $3 trillion from GDP, but nonetheless added about 1.5 quads to energy consumption.

I suspect that macro-political and economic effects play a large role in all of this–my suspicion is that armed conflict has a lot to do with it. I’ll try and explore it later. But I also want to look at correlations between the growth in energy consumption and CO2 emissions, to see if they move in lock-step or not. So that’s what I’ll do next.

Trying to explain variability in global energy consumption

Another sexy blog post title, right?

Yesterday I showed DOE EIA figures exhibiting large variation in annual global energy consumption from 1980 to 2012. I am now going to spend some time looking for correlates with this variability to see if we can find one with explanatory power.

The first and obvious choice is global GDP. While energy consumption grew from 283 quads in 1980 to 529 quads in 2012, GDP grew from $11.16 trillion to $73.51 trillion in constant U.S. dollars.

During the 33 years covered, energy consumption grew at a 1.91% annual rate, while GDP grew at a 5.88% annual rate.

Two years grew at $7 trillion each (2007 and 2011), one at $6 trillion (2010), two at $5 trillion (2004 and 2008) and one at $4 trillion (2003). The median was $2 trillion and six years showed essentially zero growth. Analysis to follow


Date World GDP GDP Growth Quads Growth in Quads
31-Dec-11 72.14 7 520.2721 12.5
31-Dec-07 57.33 7 478.7327 11
31-Dec-10 65.22 6 507.9768 28
31-Dec-08 62.86 5 485.7181 7
31-Dec-04 43.41 5 441.3221 20
31-Dec-03 38.56 4 421.4558 13
31-Dec-05 46.96 3 455.1495 14
31-Dec-95 30.64 3 364.511 8
31-Dec-13 75.59 2 0
31-Dec-94 27.69 2 356.0476 14
31-Dec-92 25.31 2 347.7992 <1>
31-Dec-90 22.52 2 346.983 3
31-Dec-88 19.08 2 338.0998 13
31-Dec-87 17.04 2 325.6042 10
31-Dec-86 14.98 2 315.773 7
31-Dec-80 11.16 2 283.1474 0
31-Dec-12 73.51 1 528.7973 7.5
31-Dec-06 50.88 1 467.5628 12
31-Dec-02 34.33 1 408.0402 8
31-Dec-00 33.28 1 398.276 11
31-Dec-99 32.24 1 387.075 9
31-Dec-96 31.3 1 373.7722 9
31-Dec-91 23.64 1 348.0959 2
31-Dec-89 20.02 1 343.8671 6
31-Dec-85 12.66 0.5 308.0872 9
31-Dec-84 12.04 0.5 299.6706 15
31-Dec-81 11.45 0.5 280.9213 <3>
31-Dec-01 33.09 0 400.5864 2
31-Dec-98 31.09 0 378.8662 2
31-Dec-97 31.21 0 376.7177 3
31-Dec-93 25.74 0 342.6242 <5>
31-Dec-83 11.6 0 284.3379 4
31-Dec-82 11.35 0 280.5326 0.5
31-Dec-09 59.54 <3> 480.0048 <5>