If you want to know how worthless most environment journalism is then do this simple calculation. First add up the number of stories about Tesla published in the last year. Second, add up the number of stories about China’s plans to build large numbers of plants to convert coal into synthetic fuels as part of their drive to reduce air pollution. Then compare the two.
If you have heard of the second one then you probably do not get all of your information on these issues from mainstream environment journalists. Tesla however sold a few thousand cars last year, while China’s plans for coal-synthetic fuel plants are in full flight.
China Daily today reports on a new one under consideration. Here is what it is capable of:
“Once established, each year the base will produce 30 billion cubic meters of coal gas, 6 million tons of coal-liquefied oil, 1.2 million tons of coal-converted olefin (a synthetic fiber made from a polyolefin, such as polypropylene or polyethylene used in wallpaper, ropes and vehicle interiors) and 1 million tons of coal-converted ethylene glycol, according to the province’s deputies to the congress, who asked for the central government’s approval for the base.”
These numbers are far from loose change, and China is planning a lot more of this stuff. The big problem here is of course obvious. Converting coal into another fuel increases the carbon intensity energy consumption. The laws of thermodynamics are hard to get around. So, it now looks increasingly likely that China’s air pollution drive might result in cleaner air around China’s cities, but also dirtier air in the atmosphere.
I hope to explore this in more detail over at the Energy Collective in the next month or so.