More imports may help China address pollution problems, official says

China will need to import more oil, gas, and coal if it expects to address its air pollution problems in a meaningful manner, an official said. “If we really care about energy security, we should import more resources and not use so much of our own because they aren’t as good environmentally,” said Qiang Liu, secretary general of the Global Forum on Energy Security, an annual conference in Beijing.

“Nowadays, China is the biggest importer of crude oil, the biggest producer of coal and electricity, and the biggest polluter of its skies,” he said during a Nov. 16 conference on US-China Energy Cooperation: Risks, Opportunities, and Solutions at the Hudson Institute. “Morally, we must pay more attention to our dependence on coal instead of higher cost, less polluting sources.”

Qiang noted that many believe China will remain an important crude oil market, but added that its growth rate could slow down as vehicles there become more efficient. Other import options include both gas through long-distance pipelines and as liquefied natural gas; production of more domestic shale gas and coalbed methane, and cleaner coal from the US, Australia, and elsewhere, he indicated.

“It’s essential to better balance financial and environmental costs when it comes to using energy and controlling emissions,” Qiang said. “We are facing a new revolution based on a cleaner atmosphere. You cannot ignore environmental consequences for long. We have lost many lives, and can see the price we’re paying for excessive dependence on dirtier energy sources. We must lead a revolution not just on supplies but demand.”

He was part of a panel which also included Fuqiang Yang, a senior advisor on energy, environment, and climate change at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s China Program, and Damien Ma, a fellow at the Paulsen Institute in Chicago where he focuses on investment and policy programs.

Contact Nick Snow at

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