Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Fights Smog and Pollution by Building Coal Plants

China Coal-fired Power Plant

(Photo : AP) Workers cycle past a coal-fired power plant on a tricycle cart in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province, Dec. 17, 2010.

As part of a bid to fight the country's suffocating pollution and smog, China is building new coal plants that produce dark steam and stinky fumes.

This might seem like an odd way to fight pollution, but the coal-fired power plants turn low-grade coal into methane gas that can be brought to China's cities. The cleaner-burning gas replaces the dirtier fuels used for cooking, heating homes, and producing energy, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

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Chinese authorities have called for faster development of the coal plants, and now more of them are being built.

However, this technology can potentially bring more harm to the environment. In 2013, the Energy Policy journal published a study that showed producing and transporting the coal-generated gas produces 82% more carbon emissions compared to direct burning of coal to generate electricity.

If all the government-approved plants are constructed, they could up China's yearly carbon emissions by over 7% the 2012 levels, a co-author of the study said in an analysis.

Robert Jackson, a professor of environment and energy at the Stanford University, said these facilities will "lock in emissions." He also said China and the rest of the world will suffer the consequences for many years.

The magnitude of this development would deliver a big blow to the world's consolidated efforts to cut carbon emissions, which are causing global climate change and turning the oceans into more acidic waters.

Chinese authorities admit that carbon emissions pose a significant long-term threat to the country but for now, they are focusing on the main issue which is dirty air. The present level of air pollution in China is chopping off more than five years from the life expectancy of 500 million citizens in the northern part of the nation, based on an analysis published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

As part of the solution to the suffocating smog and as an answer to the public's call, China's State Council announced in September that the coal-to-gas industry development would be expedited within the next decade.

In the past ten years, the development of the energy industry has transformed Inner Mongolia into one of the biggest coal-producers in China. Although this improvement has brought prosperity to the region, it has also brought tension as some of the ethnic Mongolians have been forced to leave their grasslands to make way for the construction of mines, roads, and industrial facilities.

Environmentalists in China hope the state will halt its efforts to develop an industry that produces a lot of carbon. But the coal industry continues to push for its expansion into new markets.

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