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How China’s Anti-Smog Push Left Citizens Freezing

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China President Xi Jinping pledged to unleash an “iron hand” to protect the environment and deal with chronic pollution. Among the main strategies is reducing the reliance on smog-spewing coal and switching industrial factories to cleaner natural gas. But there’s a problem: Increased gas burning has resulted in shortages in some of the chilly northern provinces as winter approaches, leaving citizens freezing and businesses hamstrung. It’s gotten so serious some regions are being ordered to fire up those coal-burning plants again.

Chinese have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, with some claiming their coal-fired heaters were dismantled and elderly people and children were suffering from the cold. State media chimed in too: A China Daily editorial said local officials were being too hasty in implementing the gas-for-coal drive. Other examples from local reports: Hebei province, home to more people than the U.K., signaled gas shortages of 10 to 20 percent and called on businesses to curtail use; distributors limited supplies in Shaanxi and Shandong provinces; and cooks in Wuhan have been asked to avoid simmering soups before lunch and dinner.