Shoot the messenger
This week the central government took two steps to stem the flow of damaging and irresponsible information. First, it launched a probe into leaks of market-moving macroeconomic indicators by officials, especially officials at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Given general suspicion there’s more BS than S in the initialism, it’s darkly amusing that millions are being made from trading on indicators that are most likely (to wikiquote China’s dauphin Li Keqiang) “man-made” and “for reference only.” Second, when it heard of an informative new website called ibribery.com, which publishes anonymous tips on official bribery in China, the cops snapped into action … and shut down the website.
Two related setbacks to Chinese energy policy. The first item actually happened last week, but stay with us: Russia and Gazprom were not, in fact, deterred by China’s threats to stop buying gas from Russia and exploit its own shale gas reserves instead; the Russians stood by their price point, and talks failed. The second is this week’s news that the PetroChina-Encana shale gas deal is off due to failure to agree on “asset evaluation and the procedures of the agreement.” Both companies were unanimous in blaming technical issues for the failure, but presumably the technical failure of PetroChina to write a check to Encana with the right amount of zeroes on it was part of the problem.
For those who skipped our cover story on shale gas, part of the problem with the technology (called “fracking,” in a nod to Battlestar Galactica, an American television show dedicated to academic discussions of energy policy) is how water-intensive it is to get gas out of rock. Russia knows well that China can’t actually get at its shale gas unless it drains the country dry – and the country is dry already. A story lauding the generating capacity of new dams to be built by the China Three Gorges Corporation was charming in its obliviousness: Water levels at the Three Gorges Dam itself were some five meters above the intakes just weeks ago. A little more emphasis on the “hydro” part of hydro power would do wonders for energy policy.