• cartridgewebsite-com-big-banner-02-09-07-2016
  • 05 02 2016 429716a-cig-clearchoice-banner-902x177
  • Print
  • 4toner4
  • 7035-overstock-banner-902x177
  • mse-big-banner-new-03-17-2016-416716a-tonernews-web-banner-mse-212
  • mse-big-new-banner-03-17-2016-416616a-tonernews-web-banner-mse-114
  • 2toner1-2
  • big-banner-ad_2-sean
  • Video and Film


 user 2005-08-31 at 10:21:00 am Views: 38
  • #12454

    A Big, Dirty Growth Engine

    Pollution still chokes China, but green technology is starting to emerge
    The 2008 Beijing Olympics don’t look like much today. At most of the
    sites around the city, ground has barely been broken. But look a little
    closer and you’ll find that the games have already had a dramatic
    impact in the form of a thorough pollution clean-up.

    China’s leadership knows the Olympics may define the country’s
    international image for decades. So officials have spared nothing in
    their efforts to show how green they can be. On clear days it’s now
    possible to look down Changan Avenue and see the peaks of the Western
    Hills, which had been obscured for years. Most homes and businesses
    have converted from coal heat to natural gas, many diesel-belching
    tractors and trucks have been banned from city streets, and 58% of
    sewage is treated. Beijing has moved nearly 130 factories out of the
    city and is building cleaner, gas-fueled power stations while
    installing scrubbers in older ones. It’s even putting up wind turbines
    to help power the Olympic village. When the Games start three years
    from now, the city and its residents will have spent $13 billion on the
    transformation. By the time the Olympic torch is passed, a sparkling
    Beijing may well wow the world.

    And the world will be misled. The reality is that despite all the
    effort spent on cleaning up the capital and a handful of other big
    cities, China is at best at a standstill in its fight against
    environmental degradation. For all its efforts, China’s unrestrained
    growth makes it one of the world’s worst polluters. Most of the nation
    is still reeling from the devastation wrought by three decades of
    communist industrial development and the subsequent 25 years of
    quasi-capitalism. In 2025, China will consume 14.2% of the world’s
    energy, compared with 9.8% in 2001. Because most of China’s electricity
    comes from power plants that burn high-sulphur coal but lack effective
    emissions controls, acid rain falls on one-third of the country. And
    70% of its lakes and rivers are heavily polluted, largely because more
    than 80% of China’s sewage flows untreated into waterways. Six of the
    world’s 10 most-polluted cities are in China, according to the World
    Bank, which estimates that pollution costs China more than $54 billion
    a year in environmental damage and health problems.

    China’s soaring energy use and resulting pollution are a serious threat
    to the country’s continued prosperity and growth, not to mention the
    well-being of its citizens. China has spent more than $85 billion on
    environmental cleanup in the last five years and could shell out $380
    billion — 4% of gross domestic product — between now and 2010. But
    even those outlays aren’t enough to offset the pollution generated by
    the country’s annual growth rate of more than 8%. The problems are
    compounded by China’s inefficient use of electricity, oil, and coal.
    China consumes nearly five times as much energy as the U.S. to produce
    each dollar of GDP — and almost 12 times as much as Japan. Alarmingly,
    the nation is getting less efficient, not more. After making steady
    progress in energy efficiency for two decades, China has been consuming
    energy at a rate faster than its GDP since 2002.


    IN most of the country, enforcement of environmental regulations is
    lax. The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), which
    oversees the environment nationally, is woefully understaffed, with a
    workforce of just 300 in Beijing and only 100 more for the rest of the
    country. That means monitoring and enforcement generally fall to local
    officials, or even factory managers — whose first priority is to
    create jobs, whatever the environmental cost. A chromium factory was
    ordered to close in May, 2004, after dumping toxins into a river for
    five years. But just two months later the local environmental
    protection bureau let the plant begin producing again even though no
    new environmental protection measures had been installed, the
    state-controlled China Youth Daily reported. “The environmental bureaus
    of local governments would rather develop GDP than perform their role”
    as pollution watchdog, says Zhao Jian Ping, senior energy specialist at
    the World Bank in Beijing.

    What’s more, even where waste-treatment gear is installed, some Chinese
    companies opt to pay fines rather than operate expensive equipment. The
    cost of cleaning up wastewater from a yeast plant can reach $610 per
    1,000 cubic meters, while the penalties are just $490 per 1,000 cubic
    meters. Furthermore, noncompliance is preferred by local officials,
    since fines shore up budgets. SEPA says that while most major
    industrial plants have water-treatment facilities, one-third don’t
    operate them at all and another third only use them occasionally.


    Coal may be the biggest culprit. China has tens of thousands of small
    mines that pay scant attention to environmental concerns or safety.
    Such neglect helps keep costs down, making coal the preferred source of
    energy. Even though the price of Chinese coal has jumped 29% in the
    past three years, that’s far below the 79% increase globally. So
    coal-based electricity generation costs a fraction of alternative
    energy sources. In Inner Mongolia, for example, wind power costs about
    6 cents per kilowatt hour, more than twice the price of coal power.

    The good news is that plenty of companies selling green technology are
    sensing an opportunity in China. Chinese enterprises are buying
    everything from scrubbers for coal-fired power plants to alternative
    power sources such as wind turbines and methane gas from decomposing
    solid waste. China will invest $61 billion in city wastewater treatment
    facilities between now and 2010. Scrubber sales could reach $1 billion
    a year. “China is at a crossroads, shifting from a focus on buildup of
    capacity to more environment-friendly and energy-conserving
    technologies,” says Steven Fludder, chief executive of GE Power China,
    which has sold more than $1 billion worth of natural gas and wind
    turbines to the country since 2003.

    GE isn’t the only foreigner helping out. Some 400 non-Chinese companies
    now sell pollution-control equipment in the country. A joint venture
    between Westport Innovations of Vancouver, B.C., and Cummins Inc. has
    equipped more than 2,500 buses in Beijing with engines powered by
    natural gas at a total cost of $26 million. Veolia Environnement of
    France has invested $800 million in 10 water-treatment projects — some
    under contracts that stretch to 20 and 50 years and offer a 12% rate of
    return — and two facilities that generate power with methane gas
    released from solid waste. Sweden’s Purac Environmental System has sold
    equipment to dozens of companies in China. Its biggest customer,
    state-owned Huatai Paper in Shandong Province, has spent nearly $7
    million to clean up effluent that looked like “thick, cloudy Guinness
    beer” flowing into the river, says Purac China chief Lennart Huss.

    Those foreigners are facing increased local competition. Beijing
    Monitor Environment Technology Co. last year saw revenues of $3.1
    million selling emissions-monitoring equipment to power and
    petrochemical plants. Beijing-based Golden State Environment Corp. had
    sales of $60 million last year and has worked on more than 2,000
    water-treatment plants and landfills in some 250 cities. And Anhui
    Guozhen Environmental Protection Science & Technology Co. says it
    has won five contracts worth $13 million annually to build and operate
    water-treatment plants for cities around the country.

    One promising development occurred on Feb. 1, when the Kyoto Protocol
    on greenhouse gases took effect. The accord allows companies in
    developed countries to purchase gas emission “credits” from enterprises
    in developing nations. Effectively, corporations in Japan and the West
    buy the right to keep emitting carbon dioxide pollution. But under the
    terms of the protocol, the companies that sell their emission credits
    then have to reduce their pollution levels, the cost of which is
    presumably covered by the proceeds of the trade.

    Such deals in essence subsidize the sale of pollution-control equipment
    in the developing world, where it’s often cheaper to make bigger gains
    in emissions reduction. Three Chinese projects are benefiting from the
    trade in credits: a wind farm on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, a
    power station fueled by methane released during coal mining in Shanxi
    Province, and a power-generation project using methane produced by
    solid waste in Anding, south of Beijing. “This is the beginning of a
    market that has vast potential,” says Andres Liebenthal, head of
    environment and social development for China at the World Bank’s
    Beijing office. Clean air is a commodity China desperately needs