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Energy in China: Understanding Past Trends and Future Directions


  • Fisher-Vanden, Karen


China's growing influence on world energy and global environmental issues make it an important country for study. The purpose of this paper is to identify and measure the relative importance of factors driving China's past energy trends and to explore the implications of factors that are likely to drive China's energy future. China's rank as the second largest consumer of energy and the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world has been the result of the government's past promotion of heavy industry and the country's abundance of coal resources. China's transition to a market economy — which has spurred large efficiency improvements and a shift away from heavy manufacturing sectors to service-oriented and consumer products sectors — has resulted in a dramatic fall in the country's energy intensity over time; however, rapid economic growth as a result of these reforms has led to higher energy use, swamping these energy efficiency gains. China's energy intensity is likely to continue to fall and a shift from coal to other fuels (e.g., oil) is expected with the continued growth of the consumer products, transportation, and service sectors. However, China will continue to be a dominant energy consumer with coal as its primary source. This has serious implications for a number of environmental issues, including climate change, which will require China's involvement to address.

Suggested Citation

  • Fisher-Vanden, Karen, 2009. "Energy in China: Understanding Past Trends and Future Directions," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 3(3), pages 217-244, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jirere:101.00000026
    DOI: 10.1561/101.00000026

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    Cited by:

    1. Karen Fisher-Vanden, Yong Hu, Gary Jefferson, Michael Rock and Michael Toman, 2016. "Factors influencing energy intensity in four Chinese industries," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(China Spe).
    2. ZhongXiang Zhang, 2014. "Energy Prices, Subsidies and Resource Tax Reform in China," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(3), pages 439-454, September.
    3. Zhao, Xiaofan & Ortolano, Leonard, 2010. "Implementing China's national energy conservation policies at state-owned electric power generation plants," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(10), pages 6293-6306, October.
    4. Zhongxiang Zhang, 2018. "Energy price reform in China," CCEP Working Papers 1805, Centre for Climate & Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

    More about this item


    China; Energy; Environment; Global climate change;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • P21 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Planning, Coordination, and Reform
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • Q00 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - General


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