Stuart Staniford on Chinese Transportation Growth

Stuart Staniford is blogging. This is wonderful. As some of you may remember, Staniford disappeared from The Oil Drum a couple of years ago, after doing some astonishingly brilliant work on peak oil, biofuels and all sorts of stuff. Now Staniford and I disagree on a number of things, but he's a genius with data, and genius is important. Whenever Staniford annoys me, I think of what Emerson said of Carlyle: "If genius were cheap, we might do without Carlyle, but in the existing population he cannot be spared." I'm glad we've got Staniford back - we can't spare him.

His latest takes Chinese national statistics on transportation and demonstrates that if they are accurate, the size of the Chinese highway system will soon exceed the American one, that Chinese air travel is rising rapidly and that the transition to a car-centered and oil dependent economy is proceeding apace. This, of course, is problematic. Now it is easy to blame China for wanting what we have - and a dream we spent bazillions exporting to them, but that's not the point. The point is that the brakes are off, and we are heading towards a bang against hard limits on multiple fronts now.

Staniford's conclusion is this:

In summary, if present trends continue, the Chinese expressway system will likely grow larger than the US interstate highway system within the next couple of years, and Chinese car ownership will exceed US car ownership by somewhere in the neighborhood of 2017. So while the al-Shahristani plan for Iraqi oil production seems like it aims for an extraordinary increase in oil production in a hurry, it's not at all hard to see where all that oil can go. Oversimplifying greatly, it's as though the US borrowed a pile of money from China in order to fight a war to free up oil supply in Iraq in order that China could become the greatest industrial power the world has ever seen.

Oh, and you can see why China wasn't too keen to strike a deal in Copenhagen.

Read the whole article.


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Sharon, should you have some spare time,lol, could I recommend a book, if you haven't already read it. Jeff Rubin's "Why Your world is about to get a whole lot smaller". Mr. Rubin was the Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets for almost 20yrs. This is a Canadian book, but it covers pretty much everyone,as he takes a more North American global approach. He was one of the first economists to predict soaring oil prices in 2000. It's not a hugely difficult read, but he covers the oil&gas quandry and fall out. It's nice to see an economist who isn't spouting the all is getting better so you can return to your previous lives banter, as he sees the next wave coming.

I have to wonder about this. There's a lot of fear in the West concerning China--its voracious appetite for oil and raw materials, its abusive economic and currency policies, its flagrant disregard for its own ecology and that of the world, its human rights abuses and so on. However for all its might, China seems intent on hobbling itself with a petroleum and car-centric infrastructure that will be of no more use to it than ours will be to us when the more dramatic effects of peak oil are manifest. China's massive economic explosion in recent years may be a short-lived phenomenon, because it's as subject to the second law of thermodynamics as the rest of us.