Coal in the Qilian Mountains

Workers gather coal in the Qilian Mountains, a range that rises up to 19,000 feet and lies on the border between Qinghai and Gansu Provinces. Coal is the most detrimental to health of any type of air pollution in China and caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013, according to Chinese and American researchers. Still, China made up 50 percent of the world’s coal consumption in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the nation’s use of the fuel will keep growing until 2025, when overall growth in energy consumption is expected to slow and the effects of environmental policies take hold. The Chinese government’s most recent five-year electricity plan calls for an increase in coal-fired power capacity from 900 gigawatts in 2015 to as much as 1,100 gigawatts by 2020, a 200-gigawatt surge that is more than the entire power capacity of Canada.

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