The politics behind the three Es in China

Economic growth, energy security and environmental protection

Authored by: Xu Yi-Chong

Handbook of Transitions to Energy and Climate Security

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781857437454
eBook ISBN: 9781315723617
Adobe ISBN:


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Energy is a bundle of issues not only because it consists of a variety of sources each of which has its distinct issues, but also because there is an inseparable relationship between energy and development, energy and environment, energy and social and economic justice and energy and security – these are the entangled three E issues: economic growth, energy security and environmental protection. Energy has fuelled industrialization, modernization and urbanization. It is a necessary ingredient for modern society – no country has developed without adopting modern (commercial) energy and the more developed a country is, the higher its energy consumption. Not all countries are rich in natural energy endowment and access to it is a concern. Energy thus is a national as well as global issue: wars have been waged on its behalf; people are deprived of development opportunities due to lack of it; companies are enriched from discovering, producing and trading it; and the environment is threatened by burning it. Energy is a political issue as choices have to be made and making choices pits one group of interests against another. 1 Energy companies seek to benefit from high energy prices which affect end-users adversely. We like to maintain and improve the comfort of our living (driving SUVs and keeping electric appliances on stand-by) but do not want to see power plants, hydro dams, transmission grids, or uranium disposal sites in our backyard. While development of renewable energy is urgent and needs more resources, traditional fossil fuels refuse to retreat from their dominant positions. Energy exporting countries want to have the market power over production and marketing while energy importing countries hope to ensure adequate supplies at an affordable price. Developing countries need better access to modern energy in order to reduce poverty and want few restrictions on their development opportunities while few who take modern energy for granted are willing to sacrifice their economic well-being or standard of living by limiting or reducing their energy consumption. These contradictory demands exist in all countries. Yet, how they are balanced varies significantly across countries, depending to a large extent on the availability of natural resources, the stage and speed of economic and social development, popular demands, and the capacity of government to manage competing demands.

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