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Energy and water in Asia-Pacific

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   13 July 2010

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For economy-watchers it’s somewhat old news that Asian countries, especially the Chinese and Indian economies, have avoided the economic malaise that starting hitting western countries in 2008.

And now the figures have been reported to back it up.

In the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2010 the Asia-Pacific region’s energy consumption reached 4,147.2 million tons of oil, up from 3,985 in 2008.

In late 2008 several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including China and India, initiated infrastructure projects that were energy-intensive as they stimulated demand for more cement and steel, both energy-intensive products.

The rest of the world was in decline in the 4 to 5 percent range with the biggest declines in the Europe and Eurasia regions. In addition to oil, the only countries that used more coal in 2009 were China and India. Overall, the decline in global energy consumption had been caused by the 2 percent contraction in the global economy in 2009.

These energy consumption rates clearly indicate that China and India are taking their places in the world as economic powerhouses that are likely to outperform established western countries as the 21st century progresses.

However, the economic clout of China and India and Asean countries will arise at a time when global warming is of great concern to all and lurking behind that the widespread shortage of water.

The water shortage issue came to life recently during an interview with some corporate executives from India.

Having recently returned from an assignment in the Great Lakes region of the United States, this writer mentioned that about 30 percent of the world’s freshwater “had been flowing by his window,” during the assignment. For those unaware, that is a true statistic of the Great Lakes. There was a silence at the table and the executives admitted that the water shortage in India had continued to exacerbate, with no forseeable solution, although Singapore is relying on desalinization plants.

So in the 21st century, not only keep an eye on oil but on freshwater. It’s hard to leave home without both.

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