China’s anti-pollution drive risks running out of gas

by
October 29, 2013

BEIJING | A chronic shortage of natural gas is hurting China’s plan to move away from burning coal to heat homes and offices, raising the prospect of more choking air pollution this winter and beyond.

The problem is worst in northern China, where air pollution mainly caused by decades of reliance on coal has lowered life expectancy by an estimated 5.5 years compared to the south, Chinese and international researchers said in July.

The frigid northeastern city of Harbin, home to 11 million people, virtually ground to a halt last week when airborne contaminants were around 50 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization. Beijing had its own emergency in January when air pollution was 45 times the level.

“I suspect we will have severe incidents of air pollution in Beijing again this winter,” said Alvin Lin, China Climate and Energy Policy Director for the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

China sees natural gas as the way to cleaner air. Authorities have said Beijing’s urban core should use only gas for heating. But domestic output cannot keep up with demand.

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