According to a recent study by Tsinghua University the total cost of coal usage in China has to be completely reviewed.

The report by Tsinghua University’s Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy (Tsinghua 3E) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated that direct combustion of coal led to about 31 percent of the PM2.5 pollution in 2012. And it gets worse when also the indirect PM2.5 pollution generated by coal-fired power plants and boilers is taken into account, then coal contributed to about 63 percent.

Teng Fei, associate professor at Tsinghua 3E and lead author of the report, said that the increased coal consumption and the unreasonable use of this fuel have led to high levels of PM2.5 and more smoggy days.

According to Teng the environmental and public health costs of using coal have been significantly overlooked in the coal-pricing mechanism. Environmental taxes on coal need to be raised by five to tenfold to reflect the real costs of burning it, he suggested.

Zhou Fengqi, former director of the Energy Research Institute (ERI) under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) which is in charge of drafting and supervision of China’s energy policies, said he expects the government to impose carbon taxes and environmental taxes, but that initially these won’t be very high.

Coal’s dominant role in the energy mix is unlikely to continue and its consumption will gradually fall, but this will take time, he said.

The China National Coal Association said that the country’s coal consumption totaled 3.03 billion metric tons, a drop of 1.2 percent year-on-year in Q1-Q3 and the coal production declined to 2.85 billion tons.

The National Energy Administration (NEA) announced on Oct 28 that new coal mining projects will not be approved in east China, new coal mines with annual output of less than 300,000 tonnes and 900,000 tonnes for coal and gas outburst mines respectively are forbidden anywhere in China.


Featured Image (cropped): Zeng Han Jun/Flickr