China's anti-pollution drive risks running out of gas

A chronic shortage of natural gas is hurting China's plan to move away from burning coal to heat homes and offices, raising the prospect of more choking air pollution this winter and beyond.

The problem is worst in northern China, where air pollution mainly caused by decades of reliance on coal has lowered life expectancy by an estimated 5.5 years compared to the south, Chinese and international researchers said in July.

The frigid northeastern city of Harbin, home to 11 million people, virtually ground to a halt last week when airborne contaminants were around 50 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization. Beijing had its own emergency in January when air pollution was 45 times the level.

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