Will Peak Oil short-circuit China's rise?
My colleagues and I at the Daily Reckoning talk frequently about two big themes: The reality of Peak Oil, and the rise of China. But what happens when those two big themes intersect? A question I put recently to DR Australia editor Dan Denning. He writes:
You see all these trajectories of China's growth. But it assumes the energy will
magically appear to make that happen. Cheap energy must be the limit
on growth…you'd think so anyway.
That's why China is racing ahead with all sorts of energy projects.
But even those may not be enough…in which case I'd guess China's
breakneck growth will accelerate the depletion of resources…and lead
to higher energy prices faster. Sort of a positive feedback loop that
ends….with a contraction in global growth…a massive energy shock
lasting many years.
The wild card is how quickly other sources of transportation fuel or
base load for the electric grid can come on line and be scaled
up…biofuels…renewables…nuclear…this whole portfolio of
alternatives needs to get moving. But it IS moving…we just don't
know if it's fast enough or robust enough to support a massively
I sure wouldn't want to live in Shanghai for more than a few weeks.
So the race is on. In a sense, the question is: Will China grow quickly enough to fully industrialize before energy becomes so expensive that the phenomenon of rising energy prices itself will short-circuit industrialization? Sorta like the question of whether China can grow rich before it grows old — and have enough resources on hand to care for an aging population.