Category Archives: Uncategorized

China Now Makes Half Of Everything

I wrote last week about how rapidly China’s energy and emissions have grown in the last decade. But how about materials production?

Here is a new rule of thumb: if humans make something, then China probably makes at least half of it. To check how precise this rule of thumb is I spent an hour or so producing the chart below (using USGS stats). This shows what percentage of each of the world’s most important materials reported by USGS is made in China.


As you can see it is roughly half or more for almost everything.

Of course if we are simply thinking in terms of weight and energy required for production, materials are dominated by cement, steel and aluminium.

So, the rule of thumb holds very well. And is likely to hold very well for a long time, unless China sees an economic contraction.

This all raises an obvious question. Has a single country every produced this much of the world’s steel, cement, or aluminium before?

If I find the time I will expand on China’s materials consumption, and its potential impacts on climate change, in a future piece at The Energy Collective.

Latest Column: China Versus America

I have been rather busy with my thesis lately, so have not had much time for energy related business. But my first column in a month is ready for reading for those with more time on their hands than me. It looks at the changing positions of America and China in terms of energy consumption and climate change. Read it here.

Right now I’m too busy for much more than a column a month. Though, the unwillingness of the recent IPCC report to mention which countries actually contribute the most to climate change makes me in the mood to write about that, a subject I have left untouched in the past.

Latest column: burning wood

What is the world’s biggest provider of renewable energy? Most people will probably think it is hydro-electricity, or perhaps wind energy. The more informed might think of all that bio-energy in Africa and parts of Asia.

But most will be surprised that bio-energy is in fact the biggest source of renewable energy in both the EU and the US. Not only this but the historical trend has been reversed. For most of the twentieth century bio-energy declined decade to decade. Now it is having some kind of come back.

I look into this stuff in my latest column. Read it here.

R users may be interested in the packages I used for the plots. The graphs were produced using ggplot2 with the ggthemes packages to give the Economist style look to the graphs. The map produced using ggmaps, which lets you plot on to google maps using R.

A tripling of renewable energy?

The Observer and the BBC are both reporting that the IPCC today will call for a “tripling” of renewable energy to “avert climate disaster.” 

Both reports are classic examples of how badly numbers are reported. What do they mean by renewable energy? Does this include hydro-electricity and biomass? A rather necessary distinction.

When should this tripling occur by? 2030, 2050? This is not stated.

But let’s say we tripled renewable energy, including hydro, by 2030. By itself this is highly unlikely to stop carbon dioxide emissions being higher in 2030 than they are today. Renewables, including hydro, are below 10% of global primary energy consumption currently. Tripling this is fine, but remember that total primary energy consumption increased by 30% in the last decade.

In fact in the last decade coal consumption alone increased by 1319 Mtoe. This is greater than the total consumption, not the increase, from all renewables. See how tripling renewables will not achieve as much as many think? As Hans Rosling has demonstrated most people think renewables deliver far more of our energy than it does.

The IPCC report is coming online shortly, evidently. And then I can find out what they really mean by a “tripling” of renewable energy. My guess is that they mean a tripling of the percentage of total energy consumption from renewables. Or at least I hope that’s what they mean.