China “R” Us
China’s booming economy is straining the country’s energy resources to the breaking point. Last year its oil imports rose by a third, it became the world’s largest steel importer (surpassing the U.S.), its domestic coal production rose by 100 million tons — and still there were intermittent blackouts as electricity consumption jumped by 15 percent. With energy needs expected to more than double by 2020, the ruling Communist Party has plans to build more than 100 coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear power plants. While China has made conservation efforts — fuel-efficiency standards more strict than those in the U.S., clean-energy projects — most analysts expect environmental protection to fall victim to the country’s ravenous energy needs. “The fundamental problem is that China is following the path of the United States, and probably the world cannot afford a second United States,” said Zhang Jianyu of the Beijing office of Environmental Defense.