I never really knew what coal burning smelled like before. Even in the city it isn't allowed, but once we left and went to a smaller town outside Beijing that's when I really got it. It is the heat source for 99% of the population, plus it powers most of the factories. There were days where we were told we shouldn't be outside unless absolutely necessary (which was, since my husband had to commute to his job at Microsoft). At night if you blew your nose your tissue would be grey. If you took a shower, the water would run grey from dust wherever your skin had been exposed. Your clothes would be dusted in a thin layer of gray that never really went away. We tried to combat this by changing out of our clothes just inside the front door and putting them straight into the wash, but it never really went away.
(By then, the steel mills, and the respective steel-worker housing, were a heartbreaking ghost town for miles along the Monongahela river.)
There are also the stories of the London "fogs" (really bad smogs) in the late 1800s. Coal is better than no power, but it has nasty consequences. Getting past it is tough, and it takes time and investment.
Of course, this means you don't get to control your heat, and it never heats up that much, just keeps you from freezing. And if winter comes early, you still have to wait for November 15 for when the heat gets turned on.
I live in Russia, we have the same system (coal and gas plants generating not only electricity but heat for homes) and this system is perfectly capable of delivering +28C inside when it's -30C outside. It varies from house to house, but "keeps you from freezing" is not the default.
This happens in the first world, too. In Minneapolis (where I currently live) landlords are, on paper, required to provide at least 68°F starting October 1st. In my experience they turn on the heat a week or two after that, whenever they get around to it, basically. You have nothing for the cold late-September days. You don't control your heat in multifamily buildings, and sometimes it's more like 60° or below and you have to nag the landlord for a week to turn it up. There was a week right around Christmas where I could practically see my breath.
I imagine you can buy your way out of this by paying (a lot) more to rent a nicer, more modern place, but for many, of course, that's not an option.
Maybe I've just been unlucky but the housing law story in MN seems extremely unfavorable to tenants. Washington, DC was much better. I heard it has tenant-friendly laws but I never had to test that.
Think of the poor college students in southern china who don't have heat at all in their dorms (the government, in their wisdom, said heat isn't needed south of the Yangtze). Every year more than a few of them die in fires using some haphazard electrical device to try and stay warm.
This is a very interesting comment. Right now in Canada, we have a Conservative majority government that is absolutely hell-bent on environmental deregulation. Their supporters almost exclusively bring up China as the primary reason why environmental deregulation is so important to them ("if we kept our existing regulations, our economy would tank since China would make so much more money").
I very much doubt seeing the skies in Beijing would change anything, but I wonder. Perhaps a campaign in Canada to show images of what China is like would make a difference; on the other hand, the supporters of the environmental deregulation are not the type of people to care about air quality. They value a "strong economy" and money above absolutely everything else, and think that Canada needs to pollute more and more, as much as it can in fact, in order to be a reasonable country in the future.
Also, people are weird. In the last few decades, there was a huge push to reduce American coal burning plants SOx emissions because of acid rain. It was surprising how much people responded to lakes dying.
that is only true if it is taxpayers who foot the bill for the technology/equipment. If you were a plant operator, you wouldnt want to install expensive air scrubbers to reduce polution, but which won't actually net you any extra profit.
The gov't has to create incentive schemes - otherwise, the rational actor will use the path of least resistance to profit, and i suspect that path won't include pollution reduction measures.
Small changes in incentives have large effects:
Getting rid of the agricultural price supports in the US would probably help the runoff situation in the Gulf of Mexico, too.
Tell me, what do you think the next step will be after they shutdown?
People need that energy after all - it's not like people will just shrug and go "oh well, no heat for me".
You will actually end up making things worse, under the guise of making things better. Just like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, an analysis in isolation is worse than useless - it can actually cause you to promote actions that result in the diametric opposite of what you want.
You have good company: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5051285 did the same as you and was rightly skewered for it.
Pollution controls cost money, and some energy. They will only be installed if customers (or customers via the government) demand it.
I pulled the 10% number out of thin air, so I'm kinda curious how you decided that was thermal efficiency.
Who is this "they" that goes for a more complete burn? Power plant operators will go for the cheapest unit that works reasonably.
Average coal power plant in the US has ~32-33% thermal efficiency with plenty in the sub 30% range. The best singe cycle coal power plant has 42% thermal efficiency so saying there is a 10% difference is a good ballpark a for thermal efficiency. X thermal energy times (0.3 + .1) is ~30% more than X thermal energy times 0.3.
PS: I do find it hard to be clear when doing lots of efficiency calculations using %'s.
Also, the city (an many others) grew a lot since 2008. Lots more traffic, heating, etc.
Not defending the government, but the problem has also grown bigger.
Their fuel of choice (coal) doesn't help and in many ways what is happening there is comparable to what the industrial revolution did to England not all that long ago.
In 1952 (long after the start of the industrial revolution but before the end of major emissions in the UK) this culminated in the 'great smog':
Which in turn led to the clean air act.
My father designs those systems and travelled to China in the late 80s to early 90s; China bought a little but had no interest in outfitting all of its coal-fired plants.
And then you go on to prove the point...
The industrial revolution was all about generating profits, the Chinese are doing just that, without much regard for the consequences. They won't be able to do that much longer by the looks of it. Extrapolating from the effects of the 1952 incident to Chinese scales is scary.
As far as I can see this is just history repeating itself, until the problems are acute nobody will give a damn about the longer term consequences.
On the other hand, I don't think I'm any better informed than Chinese policy makers or technologists in the energy sector. I mean, the technology we're talking about really isn't rocket science: a precipitator is just a pair of plates charged to high voltage with dirty air forced through.
Moreover, Chinese elites certainly travel to the US and Europe and Hong Kong (indeed, many attend colleges abroad) and they get the differences in air quality very well. I would be very shocked if said elites never went back home and inquired as to the difference and what it would take to eliminate it.
My guess is that they could substantially reduce power plant emissions for an increased electrical cost of at most a few percent. On the other hand, I think China uses coal with a much higher sulphur content than is typically used in the US and they have substantial non-power-plant coal burning....
There may be an incompetence factor but it sounds on paper rational. Between freezing and coughing what would you pick?
The urban middle class buys portable air filtration systems, it's a huge market.
I was going to say that the US was the largest contributor to CO2 emissions, so it would be fitting if they were also the quickest to take measures to reduce them. But this page shows otherwise:
I'm surprised that India emits so much less than China, since the Kyoto discussions made it sound like China's per capita pollution was absolutely necessary for development.
Also shocked that Gibraltar produces 158 tons per capita (for comparison, the US is the highest per capita emitter among large economies with 18 tpc). Gibraltar is mediterranean, I wouldn't expect they'd need much heating and cooling. Maybe they're making a lot of extra power for export?
I would love to see China's numbers when the population numbers are reduced to those who are living within the major population centers and not counting those in outlying areas who may not even have electricity.
So count people who have homes which are on the grid or its equivalent.
For now. Check the relative growth of both countries.
The US's 7% decline is likely an artifact of the coal -> natural gas transition, but if sustained would see the country halving use in a decade.
Having more efficient power-plants, catalytic converters on cars, filtration, less use of coal, and more advanced engines in general leads to more complete combustion and less smog (less CO too).
I'm sure Beijing has lots of cars and people, but so does for instance NYC , and they don't have the same smog problems.
I was there. The truth is, it doesn't just _look_ like an smokers' lounge.
I dodged this one by a single day, ha. Literally the day after I left it went from a week of sun (unheard of) to <30m visibility. Can't really be too happy, because I'm still sick with a sinus infection right now.
It's weirdly interesting to look outside and to see the streets almost empty and the darkened sky at noon.
It was worse from Friday to Saturday, but is still pretty bad. People were warned to stay inside and some schools won't function tomorrow.
According to the weather forecast it will only get better around Wednesday; when it will get a bit windy.
The tradeoff between economic growth driven by energy use (for production) and pollution.
"The environmental Kuznets curve is a hypothesised relationship between environmental quality and economic development: various indicators of environmental degradation tend to get worse as modern economic growth occurs until average income reaches a certain point over the course of development. Although the subject of continuing debate, some evidence supports the claim that environmental health indicators, such as water and air pollution, show the inverted U-shaped curve.
It has been argued that this trend occurs in the level of many of the environmental pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, lead, DDT, chlorofluorocarbons, sewage, and other chemicals previously released directly into the air or water."
From what I understand, much of the pollution comes also from other industrial cities and accumulates in this general area of the country (someone that knows more about it please correct me if this is wrong).
The government seems to be taking some actions, but it is hard to know how hard they're tackling the problem.
So sometimes the figures are the same, but that usually only happens when coming down from the peak of a particularly bad day, when the average from the previous day's readings are pulling up the official Chinese numbers while the US figures have already fallen to reflect current conditions.
The only lasting solution is to fix the hell.
But today, the air is really bad and even in my apartment now, i can smell it. The best i can describe the smell is that of a campfire.
EDIT -> A campfire that someone threw a plastic bottle into.
In just a year before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they reduced Beijing's pollution levels to "enough to see the blue sky", in time for international visitors to arrive.
They have a billion citizens. Their livelihoods cost nothing. Nothing except their face ("public image") will make them improve living standards for the masses.
China planning 'huge fracking industry'
Chinese plans to expand fracking for shale gas prompt fears over local water and international climate impacts
Pollution levels were at super high, stay inside or die today.
I can now predict the pollution levels by "how bad the air tastes".
Copper is one.
If zombies were to come walking down the street here, I would not bat an eye.
I live in an apocalyptic /hyper capitalistic waste land.
Insulted by just reporting the data. Maybe shamed is the better word.
credit to the author on the watermark.
They have 886 trillion cubic feet and the USA only has 750 trillion of it.
But anyway Saturday was nasty in Beijing, it I have no idea if it is psychosoma or real, but I still have the smell in my nose, and headaches.
for example, i'd expect a PM10 number to always be higher than PM2.5.... is that true? I can't find both numbers reported together to verify. :(
I doubt it. At the insane particulate levels they're discussing the air should be a lot cleaner coming out of the car than it was going in. Even if they don't have catalytic converters (anyone??) they've at least got _air filters_.
No, that would be an 8-lane highway straight into unintended consequences territory.