China’s coal gas plants to emit massive greenhouse gases

China’s newest efforts to build scores of coal gas plants to produce methane would greatly increase the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, The Associated Press reported.

Researchers from Duke and Stanford universities estimated that if China builds all 60 coal gas plants it has planned, the plants would produce about three quarters of the carbon emissions of the entire United States.

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The plants gasify coal to create methane, similar to natural gas. The gas is then used to produce electricity, the AP said.

Only one of the plants is operating, in a remote area of the Inner Mongolia region. Twenty-one others have been approved. The entire project is estimated to cost $65 million.

“Once you have invested in it, China will have locked itself in a high water-consuming, high carbon-emitting path,” Chi-Jen Yang, a Duke energy researcher, told the AP. “This short-term mistake will become a mistake that will be hard to turn around for decades.”

China’s building the plants to fuel its rapidly growing economy. Coal gasification’s benefit is that it can be done in remote areas, and the gas can be brought to cities.

But it produces 36 to 82 percent more carbon dioxide than burning coal directly to generate electricity, the AP said.