News / Asia

China Approves Massive New Coal Capacity Despite Pollution Fears

FILE - The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.
FILE - The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.
Reuters
China approved the construction of more than 100 million tons of new coal production capacity in 2013, six times more than a year earlier and equal to 10 percent of U.S. annual usage, flying in the face of plans to tackle choking air pollution.
 
The scale of the increase, which only includes major mines, reflects Beijing's aim to put 860 million tons of new coal production capacity into operation over the five years to 2015. Such an increase is greater than the entire annual output of India.
 
While efforts to curb pollution mean coal's share of the country's energy mix is set to dip, the total amount of the cheap and plentiful fuel burned will still rise.
 
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top planning authority, approved the construction of 15 new large-scale coal mines with 101.3 million tons of annual capacity in 2013.
 
“Given that China's total energy consumption is still growing along with the economy, then coal production will continue to grow,” said Helen Lau, senior commodities analyst with UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong.
 
“While China is trying to foster consumption from other sources like hydro and nuclear, we expect actual coal production to grow 2-3 percent a year in the next five years,” Lau continued.
 
Chinese coal production of 3.66 billion tons at the end of 2012 already accounts for nearly half the global total, according to official data. The figure contrasts with production rates of just over 1 billion tons each in Europe and the United States.
 
Much of China's new capacity is in regions like Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, reflecting a strategy to close small mines in marginal locations like Beijing and consolidate output in a series of huge “coal industry bases” that will deliver thermal power to markets via the grid.
 
While expanding output at such bases, China has shut more than 300 million tons of old capacity in the last decade. However, critics say new mines are rapidly outpacing closures and the policy merely shifts China's environmental problems elsewhere.
 
“Despite the climate change pressure, water resource scarcity and other environmental problems, the coal industry is still expanding fast in northwest China,” said Deng Ping, a campaigner with environmental group Greenpeace in Beijing. “The scale of these coal bases has been rarely seen in other places in the world, with open-cast coal mines, coal power plants, and coal chemical plants all combined together.”
 
The list of approvals does not cover all mines launched in 2013, with many smaller projects under the purview of local authorities and not the central government. According to rules issued in December, coal mines producing more than 1.2 million tons per year need Beijing's go-ahead, while local governments can approve the rest.
 
It takes the NDRC months to announce new mine approvals, so other projects may have been passed in the fourth quarter. One 46 million-ton mine was approved in December but the NDRC has yet to publish details.
 
An NDRC spokesman was not available to comment.
 
Tackling Smog
 
With major cities hit by smog last year, the government has promised to ease its dependence on coal, a major source of air, soil and water pollution as well as climate-warming emissions.
 
It has issued guidelines to restrict mining in residential areas, improve quality and reduce overcapacity. However, coal remains cheaper than all the alternatives and China is the world's biggest producer as well consumer. It is also far more reliable than intermittent energy sources like hydropower or wind.
 
The 2011-2015 plan stated that around 860 million tons of new coal production capacity will be brought into operation, as well as 300 more giga-watts of coal-fired power, twice the total generation capacity of Germany.
 
While Beijing said in September that it would cut the share of coal in its primary energy mix to “less than 65 percent” by 2017, down from 66.8 percent in 2012, consumption will still rise in absolute terms, with total energy demand set to grow 4.3 percent a year over the 2011-2015 period.
 
“The replacement of coal hasn't been as fast as expected, and other sources of energy are not only expensive but also face a lot of technical and environmental problems,” said UOB's Lau.
 
The government's 2011-2015 energy plan put coal production capacity at 4.1 billion tons by 2015, but Lau said it may be much higher.
 
“We estimate China's total coal production capacity will be 4.7 billion tons by 2015 - I think the government figure is a big underestimation,” said Lau.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs