Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dam Dirty Statistics

But making their lives more energy intensive means burning more fossil fuels. Particularly in the early stages of development, it means burning nasty, polluting, carbon-emitting anthracite coal, which Vietnam not only uses for its own electricity, but increasingly exports to China. Vietnam has just about as many people in it as Germany, emitting a fraction of the carbon. Even if Germany cut its emissions in half, or more, it would not make up for Vietnam's industrialization.

Well, shut mah mouth, but Vietnam's energy picture is greatly more diverse and sophisticated than McArdle would have us believe. According to our own Department of Energy, Vietnam currently derives 12% of its electricity from coal-fired generating plants, and in 2004 consumed 8.1 MMst (million short tons) of anthracite coal while exporting 10.1 MMst, primarily to China and Japan. As industrialization progresses, it's forecast that up to 25% of Vietnam's electric capacity will come from the burning of coal. In 2004, 52% of the 40.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated came from the burning of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum and natural gas, the latter currently accounting for 29% of generating capacity. In 2004, fully 48% of consumed electricity was generated by hydroelectic plants, and ongoing construction of new dams and upgrades to existing plants will likely maintain that high figure. In fact, by 2020, Vietnam plans to have completed 74 new power plants, 48 of which will be hydroelectric. Of the total energy consumption by Vietnamese, 50% is oil, hyrdoelectric 20%, Coal 18% and natural gas 12%. In 2004, energy-related carbon emissions weighed in at 57.5 million metric tons, of which oil acounted for 59%, with coal, natural gas and renewables making up the rest.

Vietnam's carbon emissions will go up as it consumes more energy, but not as much as McArdle imagines they will, because the Vietnamese - hold on to your pointy straw hats - clearly know how to do more than burn coal, and are taking advantage of the panoply of options available to them. In fact, being signatories to the Kyoto Accord protocols, they seem to be planning for future needs with an eye towards keeping carbon emissions low, McArdle's visions of dark satanic mills notwithstanding.

To view the US DOE's figures on Vietnam's energy outlook, click here.

To send complaints about patronizing American twits to the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, email uscongenhcmc@state.gov.


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