China’s oil production could peak as early as next year and its coal production in 2020, according to a government-funded study by the China University of Petroleum. China’s rich natural-gas reserves won’t begin to flag until 2040, the study concludes. But gas production is water-intensive and China can’t spare enough water to get all that gas out of the ground. This means that China will steadily produce less oil and coal while greater portions of its population demand a more energy-intensive lifestyle, replete with cars, televisions and other power guzzlers. The study states that China’s goal of deriving 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 won’t fill the looming energy gap. Also, it argues the government will have to accelerate its planned transition to a nation of all-electric vehicles. So far, China has pursued a three-prong strategy to offset its shortfall: speeding development of domestic renewable energy; trying to “manage down” public demand for energy by promoting energy efficiency and conservation, among other initiatives; and forcefully asserting its rights to oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Japan and other nations are competing for the same riches.
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