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Blue skies return to China as coronavirus cuts coal consumption

February air pollution readings drop to 6-year low in many cities

View of Shanghai, Feb. 22. (Photo by Yusho Cho)

SHANGHAI -- The slow recovery of Chinese industrial activity from the coronavirus outbreak has prolonged a seasonal drop in coal usage by power companies, contributing to an unexpected return of blue skies in such polluted cities as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Six major Chinese electricity companies, including China Huaneng Group and China Datang, are burning a total of about 400,000 tons of coal daily almost a month after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. This is down by a third from the average daily consumption five years earlier, after accounting for the shift in holiday timing.

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