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India Chases Clean Energy, but Economic Goals Put Coal First


In the shadow of a retired coal-fired power plant in India’s capital, Meena Devi tries to make her family home — four brick walls with a tin roof — a safe place to breathe.Though the smokestacks at the plant went dormant years ago under a court order, there is no shortage of hazards in her air, ranging from vehicular exhaust to construction dust to ash from crop stubble burning in adjacent states.Emissions from the dozen coal-fired power plants still operating around the New Delhi region feed a toxic smog that hangs over the city each winter, imperiling people of all backgrounds. Sometimes, it is Ms. Devi adding to the smoke with wood fires she burns when her husband, a house painter, has no work and the family has no cash to refill the cooking gas cylinder.While the central government gives poor families a small subsidy for cooking gas as a cleaner alternative to firewood, the main energy subsidies go to consumers of gasoline and diesel, mainly benefiting the middle class, and to prod …

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