A key issue is whether natural gas can become a reliable fuel source for China and other emerging economies, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.
The report, released after President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord, said that natural gas may be the best-kept secret in the world, a position that would not surprise economists who say it has been proven to be true elsewhere.
China has long been seen as a key power in the Chinese economy, and its rapid growth has boosted the cost of energy imports, according the report.
That is why China’s coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel-burning sources, like natural gas, are likely to remain the top two sources of energy for the Chinese Communist Party, according WRI.
But China is also building up an array of new technologies that could make natural gas the main source of power in its new global economy, said WRI’s senior fellow John Cooley.
That could mean that China will eventually be the world’s biggest natural gas exporter, he said.
“I think the Chinese will take it as a given that they’re going to be a gas exporters for a long time,” Cooley said.
China will likely use the energy to generate power and to sell natural gas in the domestic market.
But WRI found that Chinese leaders will be hesitant to take that step, as it would be seen as an affront to the country’s economic interests.
For that reason, the Chinese are likely “going to have to look for ways to make that transition,” Coucci said.
Natural gas has been an increasingly important part of the global energy mix for more than a decade, and WRI said China has a long way to go to meet the ambitious goals of its ambitious new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
China’s ambitious goal calls for a shift from coal to gas power plants by 2030, with an ambitious goal of zero carbon energy by 2030 and a target of 50 percent of all energy generated by renewables by 2030 as well.
WRI, which has been tracking the growth of Chinese power since 2009, said the government is taking steps to increase the use of natural gas and renewables, but it has yet to achieve the level of adoption China is looking for.
The new report found that China has been developing the technologies to make natural energy a more cost-effective way to generate electricity, but has not done enough to build out new capacity and install new technologies.
In the meantime, the report said, the world is losing ground on the question of whether the global economy will ever be able to meet its energy needs without imports.
China is currently importing more than $1 trillion a year from the United States, according a study by the Washington-based think tank Third Way.
That figure is expected to rise to $2 trillion by 2030 if China follows the Paris accord and the United Nations climate accord.
The WRI report said China could soon overtake the United Kingdom as the world leader in renewable energy consumption, although it did not give a number.