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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: China is doubling down on coal

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Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

It’s been a dramatic week for energy news. Russia interrupted natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, sending prices soaring. And in China, there’s a renewed focus on a different fossil fuel.

China is leaning into its leading source of energy: coal.

This week, state media in China are reporting that the central government wants to boost the production capacity of coal by 7% this year compared to 2021. That’s an additional 300 million tons.

A separate report out this week shows that China still leads the world in building new coal plants. Global Energy Monitor does an annual survey on the topic.

The latest finds that 34 countries are currently planning to build new coal plants. That’s down from 41 about a year ago.

But China plans to add more capacity to produce coal power than the rest of the world combined.

China now has more than half the coal plants in the world, using them to generate about 60% of the country’s electricity.

China’s second leading source of electricity is oil — and it remains the world’s largest importer of oil, much of which comes from Russia.

China also imports coal, though to a much smaller extent than oil.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has refocused China’s attention on domestic energy supplies.

China’s Caixin Media reports that a week ago, Chinese cabinet officials said that coal is an important part of the country’s “energy security.”

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