China's Coal Industry: The Waste Has Us Gasping


Image courtesy of The New York Times.

Turns out China's coal dependence not only fouls skies and waters at home and abroad, leads to deaths and injuries in mines, and pushes China ever closer to the World's #1 Greenhouse Gas Emitter spot - it's also appallingly inefficient. Last week, Xinhua News Agency called China's coal industry a story of "ghastly waste." The world's largest coal producer and consumer, China's "recovery rate" for coal resources is just 30% - less than half the world average. Via Xinhua: "Shanxi, China's largest coal producing province, is estimated to have consumed 20 billion tons of mineral resources since the late 1970s to produce only eight billion tons of coal... 1.2 billion tons of [already scarce] water resources [are] thrown away each year." After reading these figures, it's not just the smog that has us gasping for breath. According to Xinhua, the central government is "appalled," and has set a goal of increasing the mineral resource recovery rate 35 percent by 2010 from the 2005 level. If the target is reached - a big if, given China's struggles last year with meeting its increased energy efficiency target, "the blind pursuit of profit" by many coal mine owners, and use of old, inefficient mining techniques and technology - the national government says that the country could save 250 million tons of coal, 3.25 billion cubit meters of coal-bed gas and seven million tons of oil a year. It's clear that there's a lot of impetus for increased efficiency, but this treehugger isn't holding her breath - though sometimes she wishes she could. ::Xinhua News Agency

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