“An average of 13 Chinese miners die every day in explosions, floods, fires and cave-ins.”
This problem just keeps getting worse…
“Coal mining regions of northern China are reporting soaring levels of defects in newborns, an apparent result of heavy pollution, state media said Monday. Combined with other forms of visible defects and problems that don’t show up until several months after birth, a total of 1.2 million children were born with defects every year, accounting for up to 6 percent of all children born, according to the data.”
The problem is particularly acute because governments across Asia, from China and India to Indonesia and the Philippines, are turning mainly to coal to meet their soaring electricity needs and prevent blackouts, even though coal produces more global warming gases than any other major source of electricity.
China’s increase has been the most substantial. The country built 114,000 megawatts of fossil-fuel-based generating capacity last year alone, almost all coal-fired, and is on course to complete 95,000 megawatts more this year.
For comparison, Britain has 75,000 megawatts in operation, built over a span of decades.
The most talked-about alternative to coal in China involves plans to quadruple the country’s share of power from nuclear energy by 2020. But the plan, which contemplates dozens of reactors, still amounts to just 31,000 megawatts of nuclear power over the next dozen years.
“That’s minuscule,” said Jonathan Sinton, a China expert at the International Energy Agency. China builds more coal-fired capacity than that every four months.
114 gigawatts of coal. The coal generating capacity that China added, last year alone, is roughly equivalent to the entire nuclear generation capacity of the United States.
It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm. It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in Oregon’s Willamette River. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States. This is the dark side of the world’s growing use of coal.