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China’s Coal Boom Shows Its Empty Climate Commitments Are Red, Not Green

The CCP is accelerating coal-fired power plant construction — while we remain blind to the danger of the nation’s ‘environmental’ claims.


The Biden administration has placed tremendous importance on cooperating with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But based on new reports out of China, when it comes to their “commitment” to environmentalism, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is clearly saying one thing and doing the opposite. 

I warned a year ago in The Federalist that China’s surge in coal-fired power plant construction was about developing energy resiliency to prepare for war. Their green energy efforts support the electrification of the transportation sector via coal, and their wind-powered electric vehicles and trains are designed to displace imported oil. But the military utility of China’s environmental claims is cloaked with the added propaganda benefit of a green patina. 

It was a year ago, on Aug. 30, 2022, when Joe Biden’s climate czar John Kerry, former secretary of state and formally the U.S. special envoy on climate change, proclaimed that China has “generally speaking, outperformed its [climate] commitments.”

The reality on the ground in China tells an entirely different tale — one that should thoroughly embarrass and discredit Czar Kerry — if that were even possible in today’s regime media of environment cheerleaders. 

In one decade, 2010 to 2020, China’s coal-fired electricity generation rose roughly 57 percent, with China consuming more than half of the world’s coal. China’s carbon footprint is billowing up under a massive wave of coal use with 243 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity permitted or under construction in 2022. The nation’s hunger for coal power is so acute that “8 gigawatts of previously shelved projects were revived” in the first half of 2023 — equivalent to 10 times the maximum output (when the wind is blowing just right) of Texas’ massive Roscoe Wind Farm — the largest in Texas, with 627 wind turbines sprawled over 100,000 acres. 

Put into context, China is building or plans to build the equivalent of the entire operating U.S. coal fleet, plus 23 percent. China’s reversal of plans not to construct new coal power comes within one gigawatt of an entire year of American coal-fired powerplant retirements alone — this is on top of their coal power capacity, which is nearly five times that of the U.S. 

In contrast, America’s coal fleet has been shrinking since 2007. Last year, the U.S. had under 201 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity — that’s after more than 9 gigawatts of plant retirements each year from 2012 to 2021 and additional projected retirements equivalent to almost 7 gigawatts per year through 2029. 

Not well-endowed with its own large oil and natural gas reserves, China’s energy push can be seen through the lens of a national imperative to achieve energy independence. In recent years, China has imported 10-11 million barrels of oil a day. But its expanding fleet of electric vehicles promises to displace much of that demand with coal-powered cars. 

Further, China’s ongoing embrace of coal-to-liquid production allows the nation to convert its vast coal reserves into high-quality fuel and synthetic lubricants — similar to the efforts of Nazi Germany with its coal reserves during WWII. However, the challenge from an environmental standpoint — as if China cared — is that converting coal to gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel produces double the carbon dioxide emissions as refining those fuels from crude oil.

John Kerry epitomizes the self-absorbed Beltway elite. As the formal U.S. special envoy on climate change, Kerry spent four days in mid-July in the PRC being lied to by the CCP. Both countries committed “to keep 1.5 alive” — referencing the unenforceable and infeasible promise to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above an arbitrarily set global average.

China isn’t “outperforming” its climate “commitments” at all, nor is it “keep[ing] 1.5 alive.” Rather, it’s mashing its carbon-black jackboot on the accelerator of coal-fired power plant construction. The agreed-upon fiction is that China is heading for peak carbon emissions in 2030. But Kerry doesn’t care about these lies — talk for the sake of feeding his ego is his game. In fact, he helpfully added, “We — our team and the United States administration — came to Beijing in order to unstick what has been stuck since almost last August.” 

Greenpeace’s communist mouthpiece in Beijing, Li Shuo, also commended Kerry’s trip, saying, “Further engagements should help unlock more ambition in reducing coal consumption” — because, of course, “unlocking more ambition” is clearly the goal while China accelerates the pace of coal power plant construction. 

Continuing with the theme of praising talk for the sake of itself, the federally chartered U.S. Institute for Peace opined, “[A]ny progress toward a shared climate agenda cannot be taken for granted after nearly two years of frozen relations.” Even so, Ilaria Mazzocco, an expert in Chinese business and the economy for the Beltway’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, dryly noted that the CCP is “unlikely to revise its climate targets since a more rapid timeline on phasing out coal could affect economic growth and energy security…”

The bottom line is that China’s energy policy threatens to make irrelevant blockades of China’s oil imports through the Strait of Malacca. This would remove what was once a powerful deterrent to Chinese aggression against Taiwan and other nations in the region. 

But the brilliance of China’s energy strategy is how the CCP has cloaked its efforts in a cape of green, allowing Czar Kerry and his court to remain blissfully blind to its military utility.

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