Costliest Gas in World Clouds China’s Campaign for Bluer Skies

China has promised to make its skies blue again, but having some of the world’s most-expensive natural gas isn’t helping.

The biggest energy consumer on earth wants to use more of the cleaner-burning fuel in place of the coal that’s choking its skies and causing pollution far exceeding the World Health Organization’s daily recommended limit. China has the ability to increase imports and is seeking to raise domestic production, but high prices risk suppressing demand growth and jeopardizing the country’s ambitious targets.

Premier Li Keqiang in March pledged to make China’s skies blue again, three years after the country declared a “war on pollution.”

Progress has been steady but slow. Last year in Beijing, average concentrations of PM2.5 — small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health — fell almost 10 percent, the biggest annual decrease in the past four years.

That trend is reversing this year as power generation and steel output grow, according to a research note from a Greenpeace analyst in late May, making air quality goals for this year seem increasingly unattainable.

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