Comments on Recent Energy Statistics from China

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Nothing can substitute for improvements in China's apparatus for collection of energy statistics, which will take significant resources and time to achieve. In the meantime, analysts must be aware of the problems afflicting China's energy statistics, and use common sense in interpreting them. While "triangulation" with statistics that are closely related to energy output and consumption is not a full solution, it at least offers a way to evaluate official statistics and make adjustments. The preliminary data now available are insufficient to confidently assign numbers to the indicators of interest, or to fully assess the structural and technical factors behind recent developments. Given those caveats, the evidence currently available seems to indicate that China has indeed experienced rapid growth in coal use and energy use overall in 2002, and very likely also in the first eight months of 2003, driven by an episode of overheated investment and economic expansion. However, if China follows the example of its similar episodes in the past decade, growth in the economy and the energy system will soon return to more moderate levels.

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