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New energy must be cheaper for China to end its reliance on coal

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-23 11:17

The Gevernmet in the United Kingdom recently shut the country's last deep coal mine, which has been hailed as progress in the move toward clean energy. However, government orders will not help optimize China's energy structure. Only when we have more convenient and more efficient energy sources will the old high-polluting ones be given up, said Jing Chengzi, chief editor of Luogic Show, a domestic online knowledge community, in a column for Beijing News:

When coal was first massively used centuries ago, it was called "black gold" and it well deserved that name. It was a clean energy source in the 1700s and 1800s because it produced less smoke than wood, which was widely used before that time.

It was coal that propelled the Industrial Revolution and helped drive Britain's global power. In a way, it even helped protect the environment because people no longer cut down forests for wood. Now the UK has given it up because it has better, cleaner energy sources.

Many people are calling for China to give up coal, too, and use oil instead. For that wish to be realized, people have to change their habits and make new energy more economical. In other words, we must improve clean energy generation to make it cheaper so that people will choose to use it, instead of being forced to.

Oil, although long discovered, did not gain the upper hand over coal until the 1960s, when it could be transported in large quantities at lower cost; shale gas is clean but it costs too much to extract it from underground; nuclear energy is considered the future but it requires technologies that are beyond the reach of many nations and regions.

Only when new energy sources are competitive in price will they replace coal. France and Japan have long closed their coal mines, while Germany said it will close all its coal mines by 2018; they are doing so because they have cheaper, cleaner energy sources. Actually, the UK still generates one-third of its electricity by burning imported coal, which is cheaper than mining its own. Coal is also the third-largest energy source for the United States.

For China, coal is still cheap enough to be the main energy source. If China means to end its reliance upon coal, it needs to develop new measures to make other energies cheaper and affordable to all.

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