China is the largest consumer of coal in the world. Coal, the most abundant energy source for China generates about 70% of electricity for the country.
But a continued reliance on coal certainly contributes to China’s air pollution. 2013 was the smoggiest year in half a century. The Ministry of Environmental Protection says only three of 74 major Chinese cities managed to meet official minimum standards for air quality last year. State-owned companies like Shenhua, the world’s largest coal company, are busy building what are called “coal bases” — huge industrial plants to convert coal into synthetic fuel that could make city air cleaner.
But is that the whole story? Let’s dig a little deeper with Chip Jacobs and William Kelly, authors of Smogtown, The Lung Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. And their latest book is People’s Republic of Chemicals.