China Adds to Coal Use, While Already Burning More than Rest of World Combined

(p. B1) LINFEN, China — Desperate to meet its electricity needs, China is opening up new coal production exceeding what all of Western Europe mines in a year, at a tremendous cost to the global effort to fight climate change.

The campaign has unleashed a flurry of activity in China’s coal country. Idled mines are restarting. Cottage-sized yellow backhoes are clearing and widening roads past terraced cornfields. Long columns of bright red freight trucks are converging on the region to haul the extra cargo.

China’s push will carry a high cost. Burning coal, already the world’s single biggest cause of human-driven climate change, will increase China’s emissions and toxic air pollution.

. . .

China is expanding mines to produce 220 million metric tons a year of extra coal, a nearly 6 percent rise from last year. China already digs up and burns more coal than the rest of the world combined.

The effort is infused with patriotism. “Guarantee the supply” has become a national slogan, appearing frequently now in state media and official statements and even on red banners on the front of coal trucks.

. . .

(p. B4) Coal shortages were not China’s only electricity problem by September. A lack of rain in southwestern China meant hydroelectric dams generated less power. Calm skies in northeastern China meant wind turbines also contributed less.

Coal prices nearly doubled. Utilities, prevented from raising prices, began running power plants less. Blackouts followed as China’s factories ran flat out to meet strong demand. Heavy rains and flooding in Shanxi in early October briefly delayed China’s initial ability to dig extra coal. The Shanxi government said on Thursday [October 28, 2021] that all but four mines have reopened.

Officials have responded by partially deregulating electricity tariffs. Depending on the province, energy-intensive industries like steel or chemicals production now face cost increases of as much as 50 percent. That may prompt them to embrace energy efficiency, said Yan Qin, a lead analyst at Refinitiv, a data provider.

For the full story, see:

Keith Bradsher. “China Hurries to Burn More Coal, Putting Climate Goals at Risk.” The New York Times (Friday, October 29, 2021): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 28, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

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