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China's factories sputter as gas shortage bites

Xi's clampdown on coal leaves households and industry scrambling for alternative

A chemical factory in Yunnan Province, where some companies have suspended operations due to a lack of natural gas.

SHANGHAI/CHONGQING -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's campaign to curb air pollution by reining in coal use has created natural gas shortages nationwide, forcing businesses that rely on the clean but increasingly scarce fuel to halt production.

The switch to natural gas has not been smooth since China relies heavily on coal for power generation and heating. Domestic supplies are falling well short of demand -- despite a global glut -- and prices have spiked. The average price of liquefied natural gas briefly topped 10,000 yuan ($1,500) per ton in December, tripling from a year earlier.

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