The New Normal in Beijing is sending their children to school with gas masks (about $ 60 each) and, for those who can afford it, stocking IQAir HealthPro air filters inside (about $ 1,000 per room). Another newly coveted product: pressurized shelters to cover the fields of sports school so the school can play outside. The polite term is “Sports Dome”, not “pollution dome“, and so far only elite private schools can afford. There is also a feisty millionaire businessman, Chen Guangbiao, selling pressure fresh air in a can, apparently to make a statement both as a benefit: the air “flavors” include “pristine Tibet” and there is little scientific “post-Taiwan industrial “. Test, unfortunately, of how well they work such coping mechanisms.
While the fact of the Beijing air pollution and smog clouds on many other Chinese cities is self-evident, the road to cleaning is not. Comparisons are often made on a dirty old London 1950 or 1980 Los Angeles, and are useful to reflect that many Western cities have survived a grimy stage and largely recovered. However, as a leading Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun said, Beijing is facing a perfect storm: the burning of coal and factory chimneys created rampant harmful London “fog”, emissions from vehicles emit insufficiently dark haze over Los Angeles. Currently, Beijing is facing two problems at once, and with a population that continues to grow rapidly, increasing inputs to boot.
As the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. documented in a January 29 report, China now burns coal almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Its coal consumption has tripled in a decade and continues to grow rapidly. About half of that coal is used in large power plants where emissions are increasingly regulated, but the other half is burned in small and difficult to monitor, including households. One factor contributing to “smogapocalypse” in Beijing last month was the time: It happened to be one of the coldest winters of northern China in three decades, and while the center of Beijing has become natural gas heating outside the city many families still burn coal.
Unlike the coast of Shanghai, at least experiences occasional sea breezes, and Shenzhen, south, where it is too hot to burn coal much, Beijing geography clearly works against it, which is basically a container that traps pollution blown in surrounding areas. As Deborah Seligsohn, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego and a member of the World Resources Institute ChinaFAQs network explains Beijing’s pollution comes from a “six-province air basin.”
The role of vehicle emissions has recently drawn increasing attention, including from Chinese media in January newly emboldened finally scrapped the euphemism of “fog” to call what is pollution. On January 23, Shanghai Securities News reported in a headline, “high sulfur content in the oil exceeds 15 times the levels in Europe.” Depending on where action is taken, the vehicle emissions can contribute a quarter to half of the particles “fine” of pollution-those less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (called PM 2.5)-in the cities Chinese.
What we do know for sure, says Vance Wagner, senior researcher at the Council based International Clean Transportation and former member of China’s national broadcasting center for policy research vehicle in Beijing, is that with an estimated 20 million new cars expected to hit the road in 2013, “The vehicles are a significant and increasing pollution and put stricter controls fuel quality in place at national level is the only way to air quality Beijing can improve and eventually achieve an international standard. ”
In the U.S., fuel standards and tailpipe emissions are regulated jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is important because the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies to automobiles. That is, filtration devices in cars and trucks can only work optimally if the fuel itself is sufficiently pure. Seligsohn says: “If you have luxury vehicles with better pollution abatement equipment, they need a better fuel.”
In China, the Ministry of Environment regulates tailpipe emissions, but the standards for both petrol and diesel are set by a special committee composed mainly of representatives of the major national oil companies of the country, PetroChina (PTR) and Sinopec (SNP). “It is the key regulatory bottleneck,” says Wagner. “Imagine if fuel standards in the U.S. were established by ExxonMobil (XOM).” In fact, an earlier draft of Chinese fuel standards released solicited public comments online to be sent to a “@ Sinopec” e-mail.