China’s Solution to Coal May be Worse than Coal
By Lindsay Abrams
The so-called airpocalypse, in which the air quality in Beijing officially became a public health hazard, seems to have spurred China into action toward reducing carbon emissions. But one of its best plans to do — converting coal to natural gas — so may end up being even worse for climate change.
China has already approved nine proposals to open synthetic natural gas plants in areas far away from its major cities. As many as 30 more are awaiting approval. Businessweek explains the overlooked consequence of this purported solution:
None of these planned plants are located near large Chinese cities, so the emissions generated in producing the gas will not hang directly over metropolises. But that doesn’t mean the coal-to-gas conversion process is clean. According to a new study (PDF) in Nature Climate Change, the entire life cycle of harvesting coal and turning it into gas produces from 36 percent to 82 percent more total greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal directly—depending on whether the gas is used to generate electricity or power vehicles.
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