I’m just back from my second amazing trip to China. Last year, storms had just come through Beijing and Chengdu, so pollution was only apparent on my last day.
This year, the smog was palpable-the smell and texture of campfire upon landing.
My husband is a science nerd like me and has a dream to help the people of these cities breathe easier and see bluer skies someday.
It’s a gorgeous country and the people are so kind, it breaks my heart that they must endure this:
Beijing at 3 pm in January 2014. It was similar this summer.
What is this? It’s particulate matter (think soot) at 10 microns (that your nose could filter out) and 2.5 microns and below (that gets into the lungs no matter the mask).
I used to think this was only coming from coal-fired plants (without scrubbers) to create electricity, but we had a look at measured particulate matter (2.5 microns) during the day in the China air quality app. Peak particulate occurs when the trucks are coming into the city in the early morning. The particulate is from low-grade, less refined diesel fuel used in industrial trucks and ships. You can also see this off the coast of Spain on the Mediterranean.
It’s not coming from cars (gasoline) or buses (natural gas) because the particulates wane during the day but the Carbon monoxide increases from cars by the late afternoon.
You wouldn’t see the CO2 but it might affect breathing. A solution for this on cars is catalytic converters.
The solution for the particulate matter could be natural gas and refining the diesel.
Why doesn’t the government do something about it?
They must think the cost of not refining the diesel or putting coal scrubbers on outweighs the cost of loss of tourism and business.
The estimated cost to upgrade the refineries in 2013 is about $9Billion.
The problem is cash flow for the refining companies. It causes a negative value for stockholders in these companies even if the price of fuel is increased.
The government mandated to these companies in 2013, but one wonders about a country that has a booming Capitalist-like economy. Growth was extremely apparent in each city we saw-huge cranes everywhere building housing like a scene out of the film “Inception”. If I were A financial “whale” like Buffet, Winfrey or Gates, wouldn’t I just love to secretly pay for the refining technology and give the companies and the government the ‘face’ of fixing this $9Billion problem? Could US companies do this as a tax-credit trade given that we are so in debt to China?
I’m just beginning to learn about this problem and possible solutions that I don’t even know I don’t know yet.
The Chinese call America “beautiful country” or “mai gua”.
I certainly knew that was true as we landed in San Francisco, saw the blue sky and took a gorgeous deep breath.
I dream if this for our Chinese neighbors too.