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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs