Choke Point: Confronting Energy Demand and Water Scarcity in China




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Published on Aug 16, 2013

China's soaring economy, fueled by an unyielding appetite for coal, is threatened by the country's steadily diminishing freshwater reserves. Even as China has launched enormous new programs of solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power development, which tend to use much less water and generate much less carbon, energy demand will skyrocket and will primarily rely on supplies of coal, the source of 70 percent of the nation's energy.

These are the conclusions from a comprehensive reporting project that was presented at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on May 6, 2011. The Choke Point: China series, a joint project by the China Environment Forum and Michigan-based Circle of Blue, reveals never-before-reported narrative and facts about the increasingly fierce competition between energy and water that threatens to upend China's progress.

At the event hosted by the China Environment Forum (CEF), Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue's senior editor, Jeremy Schreifels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Jeff Erikson, senior vice president of SustainAbility, discussed the domestic and global implications of China's rocketing coal-based energy demand, steadily diminishing freshwater supplies and the inexorable bond between the two.

Next to agriculture, China's coal mining, processing, combustion, and coal-to-chemicals industries consume more water than any other industrial, municipal, or commercial sector. Currently, more than 70 percent of the nation's energy is generated from coal. By 2020, at least 500 gigawatts of new generating capacity, according to Chinese estimates, will be produced by coal. This coal boom is forcing China into a choke point; one where limited and polluted water supplies could constrain energy development and stymie economic growth.

Keith Schneider // Senior Editor, Circle of Blue
Jeremy Schreifels // U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Jeff Erikson // SustainAbility

Environmental Change and Security Program


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