By Brian Merchant
13 February 2014
(Motherboard) – China, faced with ever-worsening pollution in its major cities—a recent report deemed Beijing "barely suitable for living"—is doing what so many industrializing nations have done before it: banishing its titanic smog spewers to poor or rural areas so everyone else can breathe easier. But China isn't just relegating its dirty coal-fired power plants to the outskirts of society; for years, it's been building 16 unprecedentedly massive, brand new "coal bases" in rural parts of the country. There, they won't stifle China's megacities; they'll churn out enough pollution to help smother the entire world.
The biggest of those bases, the Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base, spans nearly 400 square miles, about the size of LA. It's already operational, and seemingly always expanding. It's operated by Shenhua, one of the biggest coal companies in the world. China hopes to uses these coal bases not just to host some of the world's largest coal-fired power plants, but to use super-energy intensive technology to convert the coal into a fuel called syngas and use it to make plastics and other materials.
Syngas is healthier to breathe when burned than typical coal—but as Motherboard has noted before, synthesizing the stuff emits nearly twice the carbon pollution. That's why when Inside Climate News, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative environmental outfit, traveled to China to investigate the operation, they, and a number of climate experts concluded it would "doom the climate." [more]