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Πέμπτη 22 Ιανουαρίου 2015

China's air quality dire but improving (Greenpeace)

The skies of China's notoriously smog-filled cities saw a marginal amelioration last year, according to figures released by Greenpeace Thursday (Jan 22), but pollution remained far above national and international standards...
China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use, and it has become a major source of discontent with the ruling Communist Party. Retired senior officials have acknowledged that it may kill as many as half a million people a year.
Levels of PM2.5 - airborne particulates with a diameter small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs - fell year-on-year in 71 of the 74 cities monitored by the ministry of environmental protection, the figures showed.
But in China's most polluted city, Xingtai, they still averaged 131.4 microgrammes per cubic metre. In Beijing, they were 83.2 microgrammes per cubic metre, and 52.2 in Shanghai, the country's financial centre. By comparison, New York's PM2.5 level averaged 11.2 last year and Tokyo's was 15.8 for the fiscal year ending in March 2014, the most recent figures available.
The World Health Organization recommends a maximum average exposure of 25 microgrammes per cubic metre in a 24-hour period, and 10 microgrammes per cubic metre over a year. China's own standard is 35 microgrammes per cubic metre over a year.
The statistics released by Greenpeace were based on official data from China's ministry of environmental protection. It makes current levels available online but does not publicly release historical data or averages. The figures were compiled by Fresh-Ideas Studio, the operator of a popular pollution monitoring app.
The numbers showed that Xingtai, in the northern province of Hebei, enjoyed a 15.3 per cent improvement, with Beijing levels falling 7.7 per cent and Shanghai dropping 14.0 per cent. Xian, home to the Terracotta Warriors, saw the most dramatic decline at more than 27 per cent.
But despite the drops none of the 74 cities achieved the WHO recommended annual mark, with the least polluted, Haikou on the island of Hainan, averaging 22.4.

The environmental campaign group also released a short film on the subject by renowned director Jia Zhangke, whose award-winning 2013 movie A Touch of Sin was denied a Chinese release by the country's censors.
Smog Journeys tells the story of two families, one in China's coal belt and the other in Beijing, showing how neither wealth nor education can defend against smog. It closes with a child in Beijing drawing pictures on dust-covered cars of a world he hopes to live in, complete with a radiant sun.
"The character setting is meant to point out that no one gets to be different when it comes to smog," Jia said in an interview posted by Greenpeace on YouTube. "One thing that fascinated and shocked me the most was the fact that even on smoggy days, people still live their lives as usual."
Public discontent about the environment has grown in China, leading the government to declare a "war on pollution" and vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. But it has shied away from pledging to cut total national coal use.
One factor contributing to the decline in parts of northern China is likely to have been the car use restrictions, factory closures and public-sector holidays imposed during a November meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing.
The result was stunning skies popularly dubbed "APEC blue" by online commentators mocking their temporary nature, and even Chinese President Xi Jinping himself used the phrase in a speech.
Pollution is a perennial issue on Chinese social networks, with users on Thursday poking fun at efforts by officials in the southwestern city of Chongqing to clean up dirty air by banning residents from smoking bacon, a traditional method of preserving pork - the latest scientifically dubious theory about its cause.
Environmental activists called for further steps to reduce pollution, cutting coal use and shifting towards renewables.

"Clean air is a basic necessity for healthy living," said Yan Li, Greenpeace East Asia's head of climate and energy. "It's sad if children grow up with more smog than clean air and blue skies, as depicted in Jia's film. Bringing back clean air needs to be a priority and it requires urgent action."
In a commentary piece for the Lancet, a leading medical journal, China's former health minister Chen Zhu and environmental officials said "that between 350,000 and 500,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of outdoor air pollution in China".
- AFP/xq


Τρίτη 6 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Beijing city raises subsidies for scrapping polluting vehicles

Beijing car owners with emissions-heavy models can now earn more money from scrapping their vehicles after the city raised its subsidy for doing so by an average of 2,000 yuan (321.8 US dollars), environmental protection authorities said Tuesday.

According to the new plan, owners who used their vehicles for more than six years and disposed of the vehicles at least one year earlier can receive an average of 8,000 yuan subsidies. The highest subsidies for cars will reach 8,500 yuan, and 21,500 yuan for heavy duty diesel vehicles.

The plan is to be effective throughout 2015 and 2016.

Owners who trade in their old vehicles for new ones will receive another subsidy for purchasing new cars.

Old-vehicles used for more than 10 years with high pollutant emissions are still running on the road, said Li Kunsheng, with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

"They are the target of our pollution monitoring work," he said.

The new plan is to be announced in detail soon, according to Li, and all vehicle-owners who scrapped their vehicles after Jan. 1 are qualified to apply for the new plan.

Beijing's average PM2.5 density in 2014 dropped by four percent compared with 2013, but some pollutants rebounded, said the municipal environmental protection bureau earlier this week.

The average density of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, was 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter in 2014, compared with 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter in 2013, the bureau said in a statement Sunday.

The reading was still 1.5 times higher than the national standard of 35, which was set by the State Council in 2012.

As part of efforts to curb pollution, Beijing reduced coal use by 2.6 million tonnes to keep it below 19 million tonnes. The capital also removed 476,000 outdated vehicles from roads and shut down about 375 factories in 2014.

In 2015, Beijing aims to cut PM2.5 index by around five percent and reduce the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by six percent.

 Source: Xinhua - globaltimes.cn

Πέμπτη 9 Οκτωβρίου 2014

Severe air pollution hits North China, government issues orange alert

The latest wave of severe air pollution continued to smother China's northern regions including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Henan provinces on Thursday, and is likely to last until Saturday. 

The National Meteorological Center (NMC) upgraded northern China's smog alert from yellow to orange on Thursday afternoon. Most northern regions were severely affected. The NMC forecast that Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province will all suffer from dense smog that could bring visibility down to less than 200 meters in some places on Friday, NMC said on its website.

The smog, which first hit Henan Province on Tuesday, was said to be the worst in northern China since July.

According to Beijing's contingency plans, outdoor sport events and school activities should be cancelled while an orange alert is in effect and it is suggested that residents wear masks while outside and wash faces afterwards.

Some cities in Hebei Province, such as Langfang and Handan, began to limit the number of vehicles on the road by prohibiting cars with certain license plate numbers from being driven, in an attempt to curb air pollution.

  • Two thirds of Henan's cities have been shrouded by air pollution for several days this month, and the Department of Environmental Protection of Henan Province attributed the smog to farmers burning straw in their fields, which helps crops grow, the Guangming Daily reported.

However, environmentalists do not buy the explanation offered by Henan's government.

"The occurrence of the smog is by no means an accident," Du Shaozhong, former deputy director of Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, told the Global Times.

China's current industrial production methods that rely heavily on traditional, polluting energy sources and vehicle exhaust fumes should be blamed for causing the smog, Du said.

Du called on the public and government to work together to change the production methods, to supervise emissions and to curb smoke produced by restaurants.

"Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei will never see blue skies if we do not deal with pollution caused by vehicles, burning coal and various industries," Du said.

[By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times]

Πέμπτη 14 Αυγούστου 2014

US Using Diesel in Fracking Poses Health Threat

MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) -A report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) on August 13 discloses that 351 wells across 12 states in the United States were fracked with the unauthorized use of diesel fuel that pose severe risk to human health.

“EIP identified numerous fracking fluids with high diesel content for sale online, including over a dozen products offered by Halliburton [a US oilfield services company]. 

Operators are clearly buying these products without obtaining permits to use them,” the EIP report released Wednesday read.

EIP, an NGO that advocates the enforcement of environmental law, investigated 33 companies across 12 states based on data provided by the industry to FracFocus, a fracking chemical disclosure registry, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As recently as February the fracking industry insisted that diesel fuel is no longer used in fracking without authorization, yet closer inspection showed that 351 fracking wells used diesel without possessing Safe Drinking Water permits. In June, the US Government Accountability Office also compiled a report indicating the lack of permits.

Texas, Colorado and North Dakota were among the states with the highest volumes of diesel fuel used.
“Fracking with diesel fuel can pose a risk to drinking water and human health because diesel contains benzene, toluene, and other chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems,” the EIP report reads.
While a mandate under the Safe Drinking Water Act allows the EPA to regulate the use of diesel fuel, US Congress exempted fracking fluids from the act in 2005, referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole.”

According to the EIP report, up to 30 explosions from a fracking-related mishap at a well site in Clarington, Ohio on June 28 led to the uncovering of 9,000 gallons of diesel among the fracking supplies at the site.

“Unfortunately, diesel fuels are not the only fracking fluids that pose significant threat to human health, which is why the Halliburton Loophole is both wrong and potentially dangerous,” the EIP report states.
The report calls upon the EPA to further investigate the 351 fracking wells identified and urges operators to voluntarily agree to disclose information on their fracking products, stating that “companies that continue to supply diesel-containing fracking products should be required [by states] to label their products and notify operators of the need to obtain permits prior to fracking.”

Fracking in the US is going through a boom, causing great environmental concern. 

In the first half of this year the United States overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer, with 11 million barrels of oil extracted every day, according to News Week statistics reported this July.

Δευτέρα 26 Μαΐου 2014

China will destroy 5,000,000 cars this year to battle air pollution (Polluting vehicles to be scrapped)

China is going to make air cleaner by taking 5.33 million ageing cars off its roads, according to a government document. The move is part of a broader campaign for battling deep environmental crisis that’s gripped world’s second-biggest economy.
The vehicles in question are so-called ‘yellow label’ cars that do not meet Chinese fuel standards and are thus meant to be ‘eliminated’ this year, the Chinese State Council document published on Monday and cited by Reuters, says.
Chinese authorities, spurred by overwhelming public outcry, have lately boosted efforts for tackling the growing ecological crisis, a byproduct of decades of massive economic growth amid neglect for environmental protection.

The plan for cutting the number of old vehicles is part of a broader action plan to cut emissions over the next two years. Chinese authorities say the country had not been able to catch up with its pollution reduction plan for 2011-2013 period and now had to come up with some tougher measures. 

In Beijing, 330,000 cars will be disposed of, while 660,000 will be taken off the streets of the neighboring Hebei province, home to seven of China's smoggiest cities in 2013.
The document does not specify how exactly the process of getting rid of old cars is going to be implemented. Car owners who agree to have their old cars scrapped could be getting subsidies, as was earlier done by Beijing municipal government, which offered sums between 2,500-14,500 yuan (US$400-2,300) to those ready to say goodbye to their ageing vehicles.
The level of the hazardous airborne particles known PM 2.5 in Beijing air is over four times the daily level recommended by the World Health Organization. A third of all PM 2.5 in the air of the Chinese capital comes from vehicle emissions, according to Beijing’s environmental watchdog.
"Many vehicles have problems and many didn't even meet the standards when they came out of the factory, and fining them on the streets isn't the way to solve this problem," Li Kunsheng, director of the Vehicle Emissions Center of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told Reuters......http://rt.com/news/161528-china-destroy-millions-cars/

  • Polluting vehicles to be scrapped...
The Chinese government announced on Monday that the country will pull 6 million highly polluting vehicles off the roads and scrap them before the end of 2014.

The rule applies to vehicles that do not meet exhaust emissions standards. Of the vehicles to be scrapped this year, 20 percent are in the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as Hebei Province, all northern regions frequently troubled by smog in recent years.

More vehicles will be scrapped next year, including up to 5 million in the nation's economically developed regions such as the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei regions, according to an action plan published by the State Council.

"Strengthening control on vehicle emissions will be a major item on the agenda for the country's energy savings, emissions reductions, and low-carbon development during the next two years," said the action plan.

A report from environmental authorities showed that 31.1 percent of air pollution in Beijing comes from vehicle exhaust.

In addition to eliminating polluting vehicles, experts are calling for the development of less polluting fuel.

According to the action plan, accelerating the elimination of highly polluting vehicles will help China hit several of its green targets for the next two years, including annual reductions of 3.9 percent in energy consumption per unit of economic output, 2 percent in emissions of sulfur dioxide and 5 percent in emissions of nitrogen oxides.

To achieve these goals, the government will also push forward other work such as slashing outdated production capacities, reducing coal consumption, and introducing green technologies that are conducive to emissions control and energy savings.


Τετάρτη 19 Μαρτίου 2014

Kerch bridge will be designed for cars and trains. Underwater tunnel is optional. - ministry

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s Transportation Ministry on Wednesday to launch the construction of two bridges over the Kerch Strait.
“We need there two bridges both for automobile and railway transportation,” Putin said addressing a session with the members of the Russian government.
Russian Transport minister Maxim Sokolov told the president that there was also a variant of constructing a transportation tunnel under the Kerch Strait.

The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov at the same time separating Russia’s Taman Peninsula and the Kerch Peninsula in Crimea. The strait ranges in its width between 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) and 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), and is up to 18 meters (almost 60 feet) deep.
Transport minister Maksim Sokolov has also added that Russia’s transport links with Crimea are operating without disruptions.
According to the minister, currently there are seven pairs of passenger trains running between Moscow and Crimea. Also, there are three flights from Moscow a day. If it needed, the number of flights may be increased to fourteen, he said.

Strait of Kerch:Google Maps


Κυριακή 16 Μαρτίου 2014

France limits vehicle use in Paris amid pollution

PARIS, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The French government on Saturday decided to limit vehicle use in Paris and suburbs on next Monday after air pollution reached high levels in several regions in France.
In a statement posted on Matignon website, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault decided to set a system of "alternating traffic" in Paris and suburbs in March 17 from 5:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) as pollution was expected to continue unabated through the weekend.
"We forecast an improvement in the situation tomorrow. However, the forecasts show a rise in pollution from Sunday night and on Monday and Tuesday," Ayrault's office said.

The prime minister said limiting vehicles' use was "necessary" to deal with the new peak of air pollution despite the "difficulties that this measure may cause to the everyday lives of Parisians."
Following recurring spikes in French air pollution, the government offered free public transport over the weekend while Parisians were called to use Velib and Autolib, public sharing services of bicycle and electric cars.
Adding to that, officials recommended to reduce driving speeds, avoid intense physical activity and outdoor walks with children under six years old, and a prohibition against lighting fires outside.
According to Ecology Minister Philippe Martin, France would implement a plan of atmosphere protection in the next few months.
"By the summer, the most affected areas will be the subject of atmosphere protection plan that will provide appropriate measures: reducing emissions from construction sites, transfer of companies and administrations and reducing traffic speeds on certain sections of high-traffic," the minister told the daily Liberation.
On Saturday, the Airparif Association, an environmental body responsible for monitoring air quality of Ile-de-France, expected the pollution index to be high for the fifth consecutive day at 90 due to increased pollutant of PM10.
The increase in pollution level was caused by searing temperatures heating up traffic and industrial pollutants and the hot air re-circulating slowly across densely populated north France and the capital. 

Σάββατο 22 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Measures taken to tackle heavy air pollution in N. China

Efforts are being made in northern China to tackle the dense smog affecting the region, after weather authorities issued a yellow air pollution alert on Saturday.

Beijing, Tianjin Municipalities and parts of Hebei province have been choking under a blanket of heavy air pollution since Thursday. To curb emissions, Hebei has slowed down certain projects under construction, while all surface mines and open quarries have been closed. The province also plans to tear down a number of steel and iron production facilities.

In the capital Beijing, the construction of new metro line has been halted. According to weather authorities, this round of heavy pollution will last until next Thursday.


Παρασκευή 21 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Beijing issues rare air pollution alert

When the air gets really bad, Beijing says it has an emergency plan to yank half the city's cars off the road. The only problem is: It may be difficult to ever set that plan in motion.
A rare alert issued Friday was an "orange" one, the second-highest in the four levels of urgency. It prompted health advisories, bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, but no order to pull cars from the streets.
Beijing's alert system requires a forecast of three days in a row of severe pollution for the highest level.

Ma Jun of the non-governmental Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing said the government is reluctant to adopt the most disruptive measures, because it would be nearly impossible to notify all drivers of the rules. 


Τετάρτη 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Gazprom plans gas filling stations along South Stream pipeline

MOSCOW, December 18 (Itar-Tass) - Gazprom was considering plans for constructing a network of CNG filling stations along the ground section of the South Stream pipeline, Gazprom Export’s chief specialist Yevgeny Pronin told Creon Energy’s conference CNG 2013.

“We do not discount the possibility of a gas filling system along South Stream, along its coastal section,” Pronin said, adding Gazprom may make up 15 billion cubic metres on the European market of gas engine fuel that may reach 45 billion cubic metres by 2020.
Gazprom announced plans to establish gas fuel joint ventures in the countries crossed by the pipeline, Vietnam, and China.

On December 12 Gazprom’s board considered the information about the company’s expanding natural gas use as motor fuel abroad and adopted a plan to strengthen the company’s position in foreign markets in 2014-2015. Special emphasis will be placed on developing gas fuel markets in the countries participating in South Stream project.

In the European market, Gazprom is now represented by Gazprom Germania GmbH and Vemex. Gazprom Germania GmbH owns 21 CNG filling stations that refuel automobiles with compressed natural gas (CNG) in Germany, while Vemex has 7 stations in Czech Republic.

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