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Editorial comment

This week, the International Energy Agency published its World Energy Outlook 2010, and it makes very interesting reading. From a natural gas perspective in particular, inferences such as ‘China could lead us into a golden age for gas’ prove to be particularly encouraging reading. The report’s ‘New Policies Scenario’ predicts that global natural gas demand will grow steadily from now until at least 2035. Natural gas will also be powering ahead in the popularity stakes, being the only fossil fuel enjoying higher demand in 2035 relative to 2008. Gas trade will expand by approximately 80% in this timeframe, with ‘well over half of the growth in gas trade tak[ing] the form of LNG.’ So who or what exactly do we have to thank for these positive predictions? The answer is implicit within the report: China.

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China, and its 1.3 billion citizens’ future growth will go hand in hand with the growth of the global energy markets. Its demand for energy will rise by 75% between 2008 and 2035, as urbanisation and per-capita energy consumption levels increase. And although China remains a non-OECD country with no formal commitment to international carbon reduction schemes such as the Copenhagen Accord, it is increasingly presenting itself as a nation dedicated to reducing the burgeoning impact of its carbon emissions.

This week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has led the largest ever government delegation to China to undertake trade talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Low carbon deals have been high on the agenda, underscoring China’s growing commitment to decarbonisation. And a good job too – since according to the New Policies Scenario, non-OECD countries including China ‘account for all of the projected growth in world emissions’.

China has recently established ‘carbon partnerships’ with Rolls Royce and Brunel University to employ technology to reduce fuel consumption in China Eastern Airline’s fleet of planes, and to introduce Regenerative Engine Braking

Stop/Start technology in the manufacture of the country’s diesel engines respectively. In other news, the Beijing government’s guarantee to cut carbon emissions has prompted it to fund the China Clean Energy company in signing up seven new thermal power plants to use its biofuel; created from waste oil collected from restaurants and factories. Looking forward, use of crude oil is moving aside to make room for less carbon intensive fuels such as natural gas. In a very literal sense then, natural gas, and LNG in particular, continue to trade on their practical and environmentally sympathetic reputations.