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A coal depot at Sakata Kyodo Coal Power Plant in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture: Coal could make up more than half of Japan's energy mix by 2030. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
The Big Story

Why Japan finds coal hard to quit

Addiction to coal-fired power undermines Tokyo's green credentials

ERI SUGIURA and AKANE OKUTSU, Nikkei staff writers | Japan

TOKYO/KOBE, Japan -- In Japan's port city of Kobe, a pair of 150-meter high white chimneys tower over the bay. Located just beside a residential area only 15 minutes by car from the city center, the chimneys belong to a giant 1.4-gigawatt coal-fired power plant that is about to loom even larger over residents' lives.

Brushing aside protests from environmentalists and locals, plant owner Kobe Steel started construction last month on a huge expansion project that will double the size -- and the emissions -- of the Kobe Power Plant. More than 14 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants are expected to belch each year from the enlarged plant's chimneys by 2022 -- more than the entire CO2 emissions of the 1.5 million-strong city of Kobe.

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