That's a sentiment with which the NDRC agrees—ordering Chinese coal mines to boost output in order to stabilize prices in early December as well as raising the total amount of coal to be sold under contract to 769 million metric tons. The NDRC will also freeze such contract coal prices for 2011 at 570 renminbi ($85.50) per metric ton. The price of such coal in the market is currently closer to 800 renminbi ($120) per metric ton.
That will not help greenhouse gas emissions—or any of the other problems associated with coal, from pollution to the hundreds of miners who still die each year in Chinese collieries. "In the near future, it is our priority to increase the proportion of nuclear and renewable energy in our energy mix," Zhang says, both of which combined—not including dams—currently make up less than 3 percent of China's electricity supply. But "for the foreseeable future, coal will continue to take up a big part of our energy mix."
Editor's Note: Reporting for this feature took place as a result of a Jefferson Fellowship from the East–West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.