China (India) fact of the day

by on May 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm in Data Source, Science | Permalink

China alone loses between 100 million and 200 million tons of coal each year to mine fires, as much as 20 percent of their annual production, according to the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, based in Enschede, Netherlands. The Institute estimates that carbon dioxide emissions from these fires are as high as 1.1 billion metric tons, more than the total carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles in the United States. Second to China is India, where 10 million tons of coal burns annually in mine fires, contributing a further 51 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The full article is here and I thank Jim Ward for the pointer.

1 Mushroom May 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm

“Coal prices in China are their cheapest in 20 months against the benchmark Australian grades, signaling shipments to the world’s second-largest energy user are poised to fall.” wawawawa

2 Yancey Ward May 8, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I was reading The New York Times yesterday, and, as always, got a really, really good laugh at their attempt to portray China as a leader in “Green Energy Revolution”- always held up as a contrast to the United States. I am really trying to understand this, but it misses me every time.

3 david May 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm


Presumably the coal fire spreads and burns other, non-useful-coal, things.

4 Ken May 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Yes, apparently so. If you noticed in the sentence about India, the arithmetic is completely consistent. The ratio (for whatever reason) is 5.1:1.

As you alluded to in your comment, the ratio ought to be around 3:1. So ignoring your sarcasm, you might want to ask “Why is that?” And my answer would be “I dunno, but somebody must know. Let’s find out.”

Probably an email to the International Institute would be a good place to start, so I’ve done that. I will be interested to see a technical reply.

5 Chris May 9, 2010 at 3:22 am

The 1.1B is for China alone. ‘These’ refers only to the China fires. This makes their math consistent with the 51m tons of C02 from India. Of course, none of it makes sense because the ratio is 3.66 C02: 1 Carbon.

6 Chris May 9, 2010 at 3:51 am

Forgot to add that incomplete combustion (generic air burning fire) would yield approx 1 CO2 : 1 CO. Only in a very complete reactions, eg car engine, do you approach 1C:1CO2. Using this, the ratio of CO2 to C is only 3:1.

7 Yancey Ward May 9, 2010 at 11:56 am


Yes, I understand the difference, but that Op-ed didn’t end up in that paper by accident, did it? And, note the “critical” story still assumes that China has a reputation to lose.

8 Chris May 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm


CO cannot breakdown into CO2. Yes, you could have 2 CO->CO2+C, but you would need some sort of activation energy that’s not readily present in the atmosphere.

You could also wander over to wikipedia if you’d like:
“Although molecules containing two atoms of different elements such as carbon monoxide (CO) or hydrogen chloride (HCl) absorb IR, these molecules are short-lived in the atmosphere owing to their reactivity and solubility. As a consequence they do not contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect and are not often included when discussing greenhouse gases”

9 wow leveling May 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm

As a consequence they do not contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect and are not often included when discussing greenhouse gases”

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