China's Energy, Transport Shortages To Worsen

By Agence France-Presse Drastic power shortages in China are set to worsen as the creaking rail network struggles to deliver coal to plants scrambling to meet the country's insatiable appetite for energy, officials said June 21. "We still see no change in sight or things getting better in this regard," Ma Liqiang, a ranking official of the National Development and Reform Commission, told the China Daily. "The supply is still tight," Ma said. China is in the midst of an electricity crisis as its booming economy creates massive demand that could result in the worst power shortfall since the 1980s. Despite government efforts to address the problem, shortages will only worsen this year, Ma said. Twenty-four Chinese provinces and regions, including booming Shanghai, have been forced to restrict electricity usage, as a gap between supply and demand widened to 20 million kilowatts in the second quarter of this year. Ma forecast the shortage would widen to 30 million kilowatts over the peak summer months, with one-third of Chinese state-owned coalmines already fighting to meet production targets, Ma said. With coal, grain, oil and fertilizer getting priority treatment for transport, huge bottlenecks for other goods were being created. Currently the railway system is only able to meet about 35% of transportation demands, despite the use of the country's entire fleet of locomotives, Ma said. To relieve the overloaded system and boost coal supplies at major power plants, the government planned to add 6,800 extra freight cars between July 19 and Aug. 7, the Ministry of Railways said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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