From: Reuters
Published October 27, 2004 12:00 AM

China Strapped by Energy Shortages as Winter Nears

BEIJING — China's booming economy is driving demand for coal, oil, power, and transport that far outstrips national supplies, potentially leaving millions nationwide in the cold, the China Daily said on Tuesday.

National authorities had warned that shortages of resources could trigger power cuts in at least nine provinces this winter, the newspaper said.

"The coming of winter will once again increase power consumption. Together with reduced power generation in the summer, this sharpens the contradiction between supply and demand of power," Cao Yushu, spokesman of the State Development and Reform Commission, was quoted as saying.

Some 24 provinces suffered blackouts in the first nine months of this year, despite a 14.5 percent year-on-year increase in power generation during the period to 1.56 trillion kilowatts. Nationwide power supplies ran short by 30 million kilowatts over the summer, Cao said.

Coal is the major source of fuel in China, and the country's coal industry, already the world's biggest and most hazardous, has expanded with little regulation to keep up with demand.


Deaths from coal mine accidents surpassed 4,000 in the first nine months of the year. In the worst mine disaster in the country in years, a blast ripped through a mine in central China last Wednesday, killing at least 91 people, with rescuers holding out little hope for 57 still missing, state media said.

But an unflagging national appetite for coal means many mines will continue to push production levels beyond safe limits.

Coal supplies in the country's capital, Beijing, were running below the alert line for both power and civil use, forcing city authorities to secure another 500,000 tons of coal for heating by the end of the year, the Xinhua news agency said.

Lack of water, not power, is proving a more pressing problem in southern China.

More than a million people in normally flood-prone Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong, did not have sufficient drinking water, and tens of thousands of hectares of rich cropland had dried up, the newspaper said.

With water reserves at major reservoirs dropping dramatically across Guangdong, the drought is taking a heavy toll on the cities of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Huizhou, and Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta, China's fastest developing region.

Months of hot weather and drought had also dried hundreds of reservoirs and damaged sugar, rice and corn crops in neighboring Guangxi.

Source: Reuters

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