China has just approved three new plants in its western provinces that would turn coal into synthetic natural gas. The idea is that this gas would then be shipped to population centers in the east, where it would burn much more cleanly in power plants and detoxify the air in cities like Beijing. Except there’s a huge catch: The coal-to-gas (CTG) plants themselves will create far more CO2 overall than coal alone. It’s basically swapping less smog for more climate change.
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