Energy is an indispensable resource of our time. Nevertheless, energy consumption has some nasty side effects, such as air pollution, resource depletion and global warming. This dual nature of energy has thrust the world into a dilemma: How can we maintain developmental momentum, while protecting the environment and saving resources for future generations?
The answer may lie in part in the use of so-called cleaner energies, such as solar, wind, hydraulic, tidal, biomass and geothermal power, as well as newly developed energies like nuclear and hydrogen power. These are seen as better alternatives to traditional fossil fuels such as coal and oil, since they fit the modern concept of sustainable development by helping the world progress with little or no harm to the environment.
As an emerging economy, China also depends on energy consumption for its historic takeoff. Statistics show that China is now among the world's energy-consuming heavyweights, with coal accounting for nearly 70 percent of total energy consumption. The heavy use of largely traditional energies has caused catastrophic damage to China's ecological environment, turning the country into a principal producer and user of ozone-depleting substances and the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
In the face of these grim challenges, the Chinese Government has gone all out in recent years to transform the country's energy-consumption pattern, advocating renewable energies, making energy use more economical, and focusing on developing more environmentally friendly fuels and technologies. These unremitting efforts have already borne fruit. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's overall energy consumption last year dropped as compared with 2007, while the use of cleaner or renewable energies had grown to 9 percent, up from 7.5 percent in 2005.
For China, the development of cleaner energies represents an inevitable course the country will take both for now and in the long run, and it may also prove to be a new engine for more robust economic growth. Much more, however, needs to be done to reach that end. The government should formulate more relevant and preferential policies, while providing necessary funding, subsidies and other support for clean-energy businesses to emerge and grow. It must also alert the general public and business leaders, in particular, to the critical situation and help them realize the pressing need to use cleaner energies and protect the environment so that it becomes the common view of the whole nation.