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China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined

China’s Coal Escapades

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By —— Bio and Archives October 9, 2018

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China's Coal Escapades
China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined. The dirty fossil fuel has powered the country’s rapid expansion over recent decades, the main reason China is the world’s largest polluter ahead of the United States. This is a problem China wants to fix and it’s retiring the worst sources of pollution while bringing great gobs of cleaner power online. The country has pledged to begin reducing its rising greenhouse gas emissions no late than 2030.  1

Yet newly released satellite photos appear to show continuing construction of coal plants that China said it was canceling last year. Most of the new plants would be much more efficient than the Chinese average. Of course, it would be better news for the climate if they were replacing those old coal plants with zero-carbon power.

Ted Nace reports, “Like an approaching tsunami triggered by a distant earthquake, a massive cohort of hundreds of new coal fired power plants are on course to be added to the already overbuilt Chinese coal plant fleet. This wave of new capacity, compared to the size of the entire US coal fleet, is the consequence of a little reported surge in permit approvals at the provincial level from late 2014 to early 2016.” 2

While China’s central authorities have sought to mitigate the surge through a series of special regulatory measures, new satellite imagery and plant-by-plant research show the measures have been only partially effective. Rather than canceling unneeded coal plants, China’s officials in many cases have merely rescheduled them.

China’s developmental pipeline places it on a trajectory to exceed its own announced 1100 GW coal power cap through 2020 with coal power capacity already at 993 GW in 2018. The amount of new coal power being added is wildly out of line with the Paris climate agreement.  2

This makes President Trump’s statement on the Paris pullout prophetic: “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can’t build the plants but they can, according to the agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Even Europe is allowed to double its coal production by 2020.”  3


  1. Nathaniel Johnson, “China said it was done with these coal plants. Satellite imagery shows otherwise,” September 25, 2018
  2. Ted Nace, “New report- tsunami warning- can China’s central authorities stop a massive surge in new coal plants caused by provincial over permitting?”, September 20, 2018
  3. Robert Bradley, Jr., “Trump’s Paris decision one year later; looking better and better,”, June 1, 2018

Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.