Tuesday, February 02, 2010
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine - articles that refer to China as being the leader in a sector (in this case renewable energy), but with scant reference to the statistics per capita. Denmark is mentioned in the first sentence of the article ("China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States...") but no mention is made that wind power provides for 24.1% of the total energy production in Denmark, more than any other country. On the other hand, the article mentions that China intends to produce 8% of its energy through renewable sources by 2020, double the current 4%. Not only is China still producing only one fifth of the energy per capita that Denmark is compared to energy the countries use, but using total numbers instead of per capita China would only need to produce a bit over 20% to surpass Denmark forever, because then the tiny country would need to produce over 100% of its power from renewable energy in order to match China. Plus, using this measure countries like poor Iceland (population 300,000+) can never be the leader in anything.
This is not to say that China's investment into renewable energy isn't a good thing of course; it's just not the world leader in this area. As China continues to develop we should see more and more of these articles as it becomes the leader in X, leader in Y and leader in Z until (hopefully) we will begin to realize that a country with a population that huge only needs to have a production per capita about a quarter or a third of most developed countries in the world in order to be the "leader" when everything is added together.
And in fact, China makes this argument too when emissions are brought up, since its CO2 emissions per capita are only about a quarter that of the United States. Qatar has the highest by far.