THE Chinese are in an unenviable position. On one hand, they have large reserves of cheap coal, enough to meet the rising demands of energy consumption. On the other, they have to contend with the fact that with greater use of coal, higher is the output of the dreaded carbon dioxide (CO2) gas which contributes to global warming. But this has not deterred them from going ahead with their coal extraction process.
China's heavy reliance on coal could catapult it into becoming the single largest producer Of CO2 surpassing the us and other industrialised nations by the second or third decade of the coming century. China's mines yielded 1.2 billion tonnes of coal last year, the highest in the world and the numbers are only increasing. Says Vaclav Smil, an expert on China's environment from the University of Manitoba in Canada, on the Chinese usage of coal, "It meets the needs of today, but it doesn't meet the needs of tomorrow."