China Coal-To-Gas Switch Delayed To Avert Heating Crisis

China puts a freeze on burning coal, leaving millions of families shivering in the cold

China puts a freeze on burning coal, leaving millions of families shivering in the cold

The China Daily opinion and the tankers are the strongest signs yet that Beijing is increasingly anxious, just two weeks into the winter heating season, about the unintended consequences of its experiment to convert the northern part of the country to cleaner burning natural gas from coal. However, before you start jumping for joy at the thought of a mask-free winter, you should know that this ban could mean that millions of people will face sub-zero temperatures this winter with nothing more to protect them than a coat.

Beijing had ordered the nation's northern provinces to convert from coal to cleaner fuel by the end of this year to reduce pollution. Finally, in November, coal-burning bans were set in place in 18 cities and districts surrounding the Chinese capital, in a coordinated effort to ward off annual airpocalypses which plague the city each winter.

Last week, two major consuming provinces, Hebei and Shandong, warned of shortages and were forced to cut gas supply to factories, highlighting China's inadequate infrastructure and insufficient domestic output. While residences, hospitals, and schools are all at the highest priority level, the severe rationing is still, in some cases, making it impossible to provide basic heating.

However, the lack of supply still proved hard as some classes had to be held outdoors due to the lack of means to provide schools indoor warming.

And for those caught burning coal, the government is not bluffing about throwing offenders into a detainment center. Coupled with the recent "safety crackdown" in Beijing which is driving tens of thousands of migrant workers from their homes and out onto the streets, Chinese netizens have begun to joke that Beijing is trying to speed up accomplishing its mission of eliminating poverty in China by 2020 by co-opting the cold.

For some, burning coal has been necessary to stay warm in China, especially during the frigid winter season.

The large-scale switch from coal to gas use has boosted China's gas consumption by between 25% and 30%, driving Asian liquified natural gas prices to a 10-month high.

A Weibo user claimed that using natural gas to heat up his house cost him 85 yuan ($12.85) a day. There has been an acute natural gas shortage this year after the government forcefully pushed forward a program to replace coal-fueled heating systems with natural gas- or electricity-powered ones, Caixin reports.

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