Tomorrow will be an odd day in Paris. The government has triggered a pollution control law which allows it to ban half the private cars in the greater Paris area.
Cars with registrations ending in odd numbers will be allowed to drive today. If the air pollution alert continues, it will be the turn of the even-numbered cars on Tuesday.
Over 1,000 police officers will be mobilised to hand €22 on-the-spot fines to offenders. The law, first triggered last year, allows the government to limit traffic if micro-particles in the atmosphere rise above 50 microgrammes a cubic metre.
The use of the law has provoked a spat in recent days between two of France’s best-known female Socialist politicians.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, asked for the restrictions to be imposed last Friday. The environment ministers, Ségolène Royal, complained that a ban on even-numbered cars without advance warning would be a “punitive” attack on suburban commuters.
The two women have a long-standing quarrel, believed to be private in origin. President François Hollande intervened. He ruled in favour of Ms Hidalgo and against his former romantic partner, Ms Royal.
You won’t see much about this in the mainstream media in the US, of course. In the eyes of the American Establishment the only only air pollution in the world that’s dangerous is in Beijing.
In truth, there are long-standing reasons for much of the air pollution in the world – including geography and topography. Which everyone living in Albuquerque or Denver well knows. Correcting the political economy at the root of most air pollution takes time measured in decades, no magic bullets. Beijing’s problem is almost identical to the cause of London’s famous smog – not the fog – and will take longer to clear than current solutions aimed at transport and electric power generation.
Half of Beijing’s smog comes from coal-fired home fires used for heating and cooking. That will take a network of natural gas pipelines to resolve. Right down to the last mile, the last block, house-by-house.
And in related news? In Los Angeles, exposure to both nitrogen dioxide and small particulates has dropped dramatically since the late 1990s.
Children living in five notoriously smoggy parts of greater Los Angeles showed improved lung growth of about 10% between the ages of 11 and 15, compared with children at the same age 20 years ago.
It’s a never-ending fight, folks. Albuquerque’s determination that MTBE added to winter gasoline also increased deadly smog led to the removal of what was a common additive. And more whining.
A worker cleans the exterior of a new urban complex in Beijing – REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution…
The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around $8 billion and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 metric tons. It did not detail the related projects.
The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.
China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.
Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.
The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.
Beijing is the Auld Reekie of the 21st Century. For those of you who don’t know the term, it described Edinburgh [and London] not only in the years before World War 2, but, especially afterwards during the efforts to ramp industrial production back up to speed in the UK.
Then, as now, though industrial use was a significant portion of the air pollution, everyone’s attachment to their wee coal fire heating the main rooms of home was a tough cultural obstacle – just as central to established urban life in Beijing. The solution has to be the same – replacing those coal fires with natural gas or electricity generated by means other than burning coal.
The cost of bringing large volumes of natural gas to locations in and around Beijing also lays the groundwork for local provision and access to that cleaner substitute for coal. Smart idea.
The world’s longest high-speed rail line, which spans over half of China, began operating on Wednesday, further cementing the country’s high-speed railway development ambitions.
Two trains departed from stations in Beijing and Guangzhou at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively, to mark the opening of the 2,298-km line.
Running at an average speed of 300 km per hour, the new route cuts travel time between Beijing and Guangzhou from over 20 hours to about eight.
A total of 155 pairs of trains will run on the new line daily and alternative schedules have been made for weekends and peak travel times, according to the Ministry of Railways…
There will still be 183 pairs of trains running daily on the old Beijing-Guangzhou line that runs parallel to the high-speed line, allaying concerns that the new line will increase passengers’ travel costs.
A second-class seat on the new high-speed line costs $138 while a sleeper on the old line sells for around half that amount…
With the opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line, China now has more than 9,300 km of high-speed rails in operation.
The new line is one of four north-south lines expected to serve as a backbone for the country’s planned high-speed railway network, which also features four east-west lines…
Research by the Development Research Center of the State Council showed that the Beijing-Zhengzhou section of the new high-speed line will add $44 billion to the country’s GDP by 2030…
The full operation of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway will accelerate China’s urbanization progress, as it will help large cities to better perform their role as central cities, boost the development of medium-sized cities along the route and foster the birth and development of new small cities and towns, said Sun Shuli, a chief engineer responsible for designing sections of the new line.
I’m a fan of any kind of railroad that runs quiet and reasonably fast. Our own shiny new railroad connecting north/south in central New Mexico is quiet, on time, and not especially fast. Though it has a roadbed capable of high speeds.
I sort of knew the opening run of the bullet trains was happening, yesterday [US time], from mentions on the news on CCTV9; but, wasn’t paying close attention. It was a kick when I switched to the channel mid-afternoon and realized I was watching a live feed of the train setting forth from Beijing’s central RR station. Cameras along the track and inside the engine and passenger cars showed the kind of excitement I know I would have felt to be on such a trip.
Obama and his administration have a clear idea of the benefits of high-speed rail to our economy and logistics in general. Congress and conservatives owned pretty much lock, stock and barrel by motor freight and fossil fuel industries couldn’t care less. I doubt if we’ll see any success at repairing existing infrastructure much less upgrades to our rail network – in this century.
Ronnie Coffman, right, with project collaborator Germa Bedada
Top wheat experts reported a breakthrough in their ability to track strains of a deadly, rapidly mutating wheat pathogen called stem rust that threatens wheat fields from East Africa to South Asia.
Using data submitted by farmers and scientists, creators of Rust-Tracker, a global cereal rust monitoring system, say they can monitor 42 million hectares of wheat in 27 developing countries in the path of a wind-borne disease so virulent it could quickly turn a healthy field of wheat into a black mass of twisted stems and dried-up grains.
At a symposium in Beijing organized by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Sept. 1-4, scientists reported significant progress developing and introducing 20 new varieties of rust-resistant wheat…Studies presented in Beijing reported on progress with isolating genes that confer resistance to the Ug99 fungus in a wild relative of wheat from Israel and Lebanon. An estimated 85 percent of wheat in production, including most wheat grown in the Americas, Asia and Africa, is susceptible to Ug99 and its variants…
In using Rust-Tracker specialists use smartphones and tablets to collect and submit field data that generates “risk maps.” Researchers use the maps to determine the path of virulent strains of stem rust, assess the severity of the threat and prepare farmers to resist it.
“The only manageable solution for farmers who cannot afford fungicides when rust hits is to replace their crop with new rust-resistant varieties,” Ronnie Coffman said. “Planting only 5 percent of a nation’s wheat fields with seed from resistant varieties would allow replacement of susceptible varieties within a year, if Ug99 should appear.
“It’s frustrating,” Coffman continued. “We have the technology to prevent a tragedy that could destroy crops in one of the world’s most important wheat-producing regions. But the funding is not in place to get enough rust-resistant wheat seed multiplied fast enough and into the hands of the people who need it….”
Because China is the largest wheat producer and consumer in the world, threats to its wheat crop or any significant decline in production could have an impact on food security, according to Coffman, who is also director of international programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Wheat is the third leading grain crop in China after rice and maize, with 24 million hectares under cultivation. Yearly production stands at 115 million tons, which is 17 percent of the world’s production.
Though I have to wonder to what extent alternative methods of planting and cropping might aid resistance?
Beijing authorities have arrested 160 individuals on charges of stealing personal information, according to the Chinese news site Sina. Police have also shut down 13 online platforms that were alleged to have traded in stolen personal information. It follows the arrest of 1,700 suspects in China on similar charges last month.
The raids are part of an ongoing crackdown on online identity theft in the country.
In a co-ordinated raid, 400 police homed in on 10 districts including Dongcheng, Xicheng and Chaoyang to make the arrests.
The suspects are believed to have registered fake commercial consultancies and legal affairs research firms. They are also accused of illegally using professional spying equipment to obtain large volumes of personal and company information. It is claimed the details were then sold for a profit.
A Beijing-based lawyer is among those detained. Sina reports that he had been the subject of a police investigation since October 2009. It said the suspect had been identified while using an online chat program. He is alleged to have told a lawyers’ group that it could be “profitable” to pass on company information.
Sina reported that he had subsequently searched for clients online and had obtained documents from Beijing’s Industry and Commerce Department, with the help of a fake introduction letter from the law firm he worked at.
The news site said it was believed that he went on to recruit other lawyers to obtain further information from local businesses, and raised more than 40,000 yuan ($6,310) from selling it on.
Some of the script kiddies sell essential stolen information for as little a $1 a pop at Chinese sites. Always nice to see authorities in any nation make this part of their daily practice.
An official with the Food and Drug Administration covers his nose from the unpleasant smell from over 50 tons of confiscated fake medicine to be destroyed during a campaign to mark World Consumer Rights Day in Beijing.
A picture is worth more than it takes to stand next to crap, sometimes.
Architectural practice SOM’s 17.6-sq km master plan for Beijing Bohai Innovation City has won an international design competition for the redevelopment of the region. The design is focused on a redevelopment corridor along the high-speed rail connection between Beijing, and the port of Tianjin. Though incorporating existing infrastructure, the scheme constitutes an ambitious planned city, and one which, if fully realized, may set a new standard for environmentally-conscious urban planning.
Half of the allocated site will be green in the literal sense – devoted to natural and other open areas. But perhaps the plan’s greatest claim to environmental soundness is its commitment to greener modes of transport – high speed rail for getting in and out of the city, but with a focus on foot traffic within the urban center itself…
But the plan by no means relies on pedestrians. A rapid transit bus system and electric car fleet are envisaged. Streets are designed to be cycling-friendly, and SOM hopes that combined, the bus system, walking and cycling will account for 80% of private inner city journeys.
SOM (short for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP) additionally claims that its scheme sets “aggressive goals for water, energy, waste, renewable energy and building design efficiency”, incorporates a wetland park habitat, and incorporates a storm water filtration and cleaning system to return uncontaminated water to the region’s rivers…
The competition was entitled “Beijing Bohai Rim Advanced Business Park“, held by Beijing Tongzhou District Taihu High End Headquarters Construction Management Committee and Beijing Xinghu Investment and Development Co. Ltd. In winning it, SOM have further cemented their reputation as leaders in the field of Chinese development, having carried out numerous projects in Tianjin, and submitting an award-winning master plan for the the expansion of Beijing’s central business district.
A two-and-a-half ton German satellite came within minutes of crashing into Beijing the European Space Agency has disclosed…
“Our calculations showed that, if Rosat had crashed to the ground just seven to 10 minutes later, it would have hit Beijing,” Heiner Klinkrad, head of the agency’s space debris team, told German magazine Der Spiegel, adding that an impact on the city “was very much within the realm of possibility.” The satellite eventually landed, as hoped, in the Indian Ocean.
Although most space debris burns up on entering the earth’s atmosphere Rosat, a defunct satellite launched 20 years ago, was made of durable material. Experts said that as much as 60 per cent of its bulk survived re-entry so if it had crashed into a highly populated like Beijing it could have caused the worst disaster in the history of space exploration.
The satellite’s remnants, travelling at speeds of 280mph, would have destroyed buildings, left craters and would have almost certainly caused casualties…
If it had crashed into Beijing it would also have landed the German government with an expensive bill. Under an international agreement the country responsible for placing the satellite in orbit is also responsible for any damage caused when it comes down.
Can you imagine the conspiracy theories that would have circled the Earth faster than any satellite?
Now, imagine the dead satellite being Russian and crashing, say, into Chicago. Phew!