China's Energy Strategy: Economic Structure, Technological Choices, and Energy Consumption

By Xiannuan Lin | Go to book overview
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7
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

"To live is to transform energy" ( Hooker et al., 1984, 3). Energy plays a critical role in modern society. It is a necessity in our daily life, helping to cook our food, light our houses, power our appliances, keep us warm in winter and cool in summer, and fuel our vehicles. It is also a fundamental input to the economy--it is essential for growing crops, mining ores, manufacturing products, transporting output, constructing facilities, and delivering services (OTA, 1990). Almost everything a consumer buys on the formal market nowadays requires, directly or indirectly, some energy to produce ( Slesser, 1978).

The consumption of energy, however, has costs as well. These include the capital, labor, and natural resources devoted to obtaining energy--and hence not available for other purposes--and the negative environmental and sociopolitical impacts of energy supply and use ( Holdren, 1992). Many analysts believe that the costs of supplying and consuming energy have been increasing since the 1970s and that the world is embarked on a transition to costlier energy, as is pointed out by Holdren ( 1992, 1).

Civilization is not running out of energy resources in any absolute sense, nor running out of technological options for transforming energy resources into the forms our patterns of energy use require. What is running out, rather, is the capacity to expand energy supply at low cost--a capacity which was fundamental to the growth of material wealth in today's industrial nations and which had been the basis of expectations that today's less developed countries would be able to follow a similar path to prosperity.

One way to cope with higher energy costs is energy conservation--improving energy efficiency and reducing the amount of energy required to provide goods and services. Technological advancements and management innovations have generated large potentials for energy-efficiency improvements in both

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