China? Coal? Shortages?

Coal shortages? China? China is a net exporter of coal, I thought.

China is experiencing an acute power shortage with a nationwide electricity shortfall at 70 gigawatts, the equivalent of almost Britain’s entire generating capacity.
State media has described the crisis as China’s worst-ever power shortage. With coal prices soaring and supplies disrupted by some of the most severe winter weather in years, it is certainly the most acute since 2004 when demand outstripped supply by 40 gigawatts. A rush for individual generators and to buy diesel to fuel them sent state firms into the international markets, provoking a spurt in crude oil prices.
China is the world’s top coal producer and consumer and remained a net exporter of the fuel in 2007 but its net exports plunged to just 2 million tonnes, compared with 25.1 million tonnes in 2006.
Chronic winter shortfalls of coal, which fuels 78 per cent of China’s electricity supply, have been aggravated by transport disruptions due to unusually heavy snow across central, eastern and northern China. The unusually icy temperatures have prompted a surge in demand for power as people try to keep warm.

And here:

It is reported that China, the world’s largest coal consuming nation, used more coal than it produced in 2007 and will stay short through at least 2010.

Mr Wu Chenghou executive director of the Coal Sale and Transportation Association of China said China’s demand for coal is expected to rise to 2.76 billion tonnes in 2008 from 2.62 billion tonnes in 2007.

Mr Wu estimated that China produced 2.58 billion tonnes of coal in 2007, slightly above an estimate of 2.52 billion tonnes issued by the State Administration of Work Safety. He did not comment on whether the country had drawn down coal stocks in 2007 to remain a net exporter, despite producing less than it consumed. China has not yet issued official output data for 2007 and often revises that figure several times.

Mr Wu at an industry conference said that by 2010, China’s coal consumption will reach 3.06 billion in 2010 up 10% compared with last year more than will be satisfied by domestic production of between 2.9 billion and 3 billion tonnes. He said Coal output in 2008 could be reduced by a number of factors, including a crackdown on mines that are unsafe, polluting or wasteful of energy.

And it is not just coal:

China, the world’s second-biggest energy consumer, faces a shortage of 6 billion tons of oil and 600 million cubic meters of natural gas over the next few years, as the country has entered a phase of rapid mineral consumption amid its rapid industrialization, the official media reported Monday.
“An insufficient supply of resources has become a major bottleneck for the country’s development,” Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources, told a national geological survey conference in Beijing, according to the China Daily. Given the goal of doubling the nation’s gross domestic output, China is expected to consume 510 million tons of oil, 20 million cubic meters of natural gas, 3.7 billion tons of coal, 400 million tons of steel, 6.6 million tons of copper and 13 million tons of alumina by 2010, Wang noted.

Rapid industrialization has a price…for China and the rest of us: Another slice of insufficient resources–at least for the present–that is sure to drive up prices world-wide.