China Resorts to Blackouts in Pursuit of Energy Efficiency

Despite Thomas Friedman’s general optimism about Beijing’s ability and willingness to reverse decades of environmental degradation, this article in the Guardian shows that, on the ground, there is still a long way to go:

Anping County, in Hebei Province, cut electricity to homes, factories and public buildings for 22 hours every three days in a radical move that has highlighted both the serious last-minute effort that China is making to achieve environmental goals and the immense long-term difficulty of shifting away from a dirty, wasteful model of economic growth.

There are less than four months left until the end of China’s current five-year plan, during which the economy is supposed to have become 20% more energy efficient. That target (which measures relative to GDP growth) is crucial for a nation that wants to move up the economic value chain and prove to the world that it is making a significant contribution toward tackling greenhouse gas emissions.

Progress towards this goal was initially good, with a 14.4% gain in efficiency until last year. But it was tilted off track in the first three months of 2010 by huge infrastructure spending – largely on energy-intensive steel and cement projects – aimed at warding off the worst effects of the global economic downturn.

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