(NaturalNews) One of the primary reasons why the U.S. does not sign onto global treaties limiting so-called greenhouse gas emissions is because some of the world's biggest polluters won't sign on or, worse, will sign on and cheat, leaving American industry and business at a huge economic disadvantage.
In fact, in terms of energy production, the Obama administration's EPA is working overtime to shutter U.S. coal-fired plants, though of course, the agency doesn't have any realistic recommendations for replacing those lost plants.
The world's biggest polluter - China - is preparing to get even bigger. As U.S. plants are in danger of being shut down, China's about to build behemoth plants that will triple the pollution.
Per Science Daily:
Coal-powered synthetic natural gas plants being planned in China would produce seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas plants, and use up to 100 times the water as shale gas production, according to a new study by Duke University researchers.
Tons more toxins in the atmosphere
In a bid to meet its growing domestic and export industrial needs, China has largely ignored the environmental costs it is inflicting on its territory and people, which could put the country on an irreversible and unsustainable path for decades.
"Using coal to make natural gas may be good for China's energy security, but it's an environmental disaster in the making," said Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Environmental Sciences and director of the Duke Center on Global Change.
"At a minimum, Chinese policymakers should delay implementing their synthetic natural gas plan to avoid a potentially costly and environmentally damaging outcome," added Chi-Jen Yang, a research scientist at the center. "An even better decision would be to cancel the program entirely."
Yang is lead author of the new study, published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change.
As part of the largest-ever investment in coal-fueled synthetic natural gas plants in history, the central government in China has adopted construction plans for nine of the behemoth plants, which are said to be capable of producing more than 37 billion cubic meters of synthetic natural gas every year.
Private companies plan to build an additional 30 plants, which will be capable of producing as much as 200 million cubic meters of natural gas per year - which far exceeds the country's current demands.
"These plants are coming online at a rapid pace. If all nine plants planned by the Chinese government were built, they would emit 21 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a typical 40-year lifetime, seven times the greenhouse gas that would be emitted by traditional natural gas plants," said Jackson.
"If all 40 of the facilities are built, their carbon dioxide emissions would be an astonishing 110 billion tons," he added.
The study by the Duke researchers found that if gas produced by the new plants was used to generate electricity, the total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions would be somewhere between 36 and 82 percent higher than pulverized coal-fired power.
Moreover, if the synthetic natural gas produced by the plants were applied to fuel vehicles, the lifecycle emissions would be twice as high as gas-powered vehicles.
Extreme water use also a problem
"The increased carbon dioxide emissions from the nine government-approved plants alone will more than cancel out all of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from China's recent investments in wind and solar electricity," Yang said. "While we applaud China's rapid development in clean energy, we must be cautious about this simultaneous high-carbon leapfrogging."
The researchers said the plants would also spew hydrogen sulfide and mercury, which, if not scrubbed and treated properly, are potentially harmful to humans.
They said they were also concerned about excessive water consumption at the plants.
"Producing synthetic natural gas requires 50 to 100 times the amount of water you need to produce shale gas," Yang said. "The nine plants approved by the government -- most of which are located in desert or semi-desert regions in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia -- will consume more than 200 million tons of water annually and could worsen water shortages in areas that already are under significant water stress."