Business Standard

China digs in on coal, oil gains amid energy crisis

Officials order more than 70 coal mines to ramp up production by nearly 10%

- CHEN AIZHU & SONALI PAUL

China ordered miners in Inner Mongolia to ramp up coal production and oil prices jumped on Friday as a record surge in the cost of gas revived demand for the most polluting fossil fuels to keep factories open and homes heated.

The rebound in economic activity from coronaviru­s restrictio­ns has exposed alarmingly low supplies of natural gas leaving traders, industry executives and government­s scrambling as the northern hemisphere heads into winter.

The energy crisis, which has led to fuel shortages and blackouts in some countries, has highlighte­d the difficulty in cutting the global economy’s dependency on fossil fuels as world leaders seek to revive efforts to tackle climate change at talks next month in Glasgow.

In China, where coal production had been curtailed to meet climate goals, officials have now ordered more than 70 coal mines in Inner

Mongolia to ramp up production by nearly 100 million tonnes or 10 per cent, as the world’s largest exporter battles its worst power shortages in years.

India, the second largest coal consumer after China, is also suffering electricit­y outages because of a lack of coal with over half of its coal-fired power plants with less than three days worth of fuel stocks, data from the federal grid operator showed.

Oil prices rose on Friday, on track for gains of nearly 5 per cent this week, as industries switch fuel.

“A lot of catalysts are out there to keep the oil market tight,” said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at brokerage OANDA.

Reflecting the gravity of the situation, the United States has not ruled out tapping into its strategic petroleum reserves, which it typically only does after major supply disruption­s such as hurricanes, or pursuing a ban on oil exports to bring down the cost of crude oil, though there are doubts it is ready to take such action yet.

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