The Double-Edged Sword Of Coal In China

Coal usage is transforming China into an industrial nation at an alarming cost to both the Chinese people and the world. A new coal plant built using antiquated technology goes up almost weekly. [View the video, "China's Dark Cloud".]
June 13, 2006, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. And it has increased coal consumption 14 percent in each of the past two years in the broadest industrialization ever. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.

The sulfur dioxide produced in coal combustion poses an immediate threat to the health of China's citizens, contributing to about 400,000 premature deaths a year. It also causes acid rain that poisons lakes, rivers, forests and crops.

To make matters worse, India is right behind China in stepping up its construction of coal-fired power plants -- and has a population expected to outstrip China's by 2030.

One-fifth of the world's population already lives in affluent countries with lots of air-conditioning, refrigerators and other appliances. This group consumes a tremendous amount of oil, natural gas, nuclear power, coal and alternative energy sources.

Now China is trying to bring its fifth of the world's population...up to the same standard. One goal is to build urban communities for 300 million people over the next two decades. "

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, June 11, 2006 in The New York Times
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