Energy shortages experienced in the summer could return with a bitter chill this winter after authorities warned that many cities face a shortfall in heating fuel. At present Beijing has only 50% of the coal it needs for the winter, while Jilin has stores of 40%, half the level of this time last year, the China Daily said. Upwards of 200m people in 14 provinces across northern China, plus Shandong and Henan, could be affected by the shortage, the paper said. Officials said that coal production in 2004 had failed to match China's demand for power, which has risen sharply as increased affluence has boosted the country's appetite for consumer electronics. The news came as municipal authorities fired up boilers and heating systems on November 15, the traditional warm-up day for central heating systems as the bitter northern winter sets in.
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