Beijing announces emergency measures amid fog of pollution

See Original post on CNN

Bejing China Pic

By Paul Armstrong and Feng Ke, CNN

updated 2:39 AM EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

(CNN) — With its skies regularly shrouded by a filthy film of gray smog, bringing chaos to the transportation network and forcing millions to seek refuge behind surgical masks, Beijing has been forced to take more extreme action.

Officials in China’s capital this week announced a raft of emergency measures in a bid to tackle the problem, including mandatory factory closures and bans on cars entering the city on days when pollution levels are particularly high.

While Beijing is not alone when it comes to smoke-filled skies, this city of more than 20 million people has come to symbolize the environmental cost of China’s break-neck economic growth.

Red alert

The city’s Heavy Air Pollution Contingency Plan stipulates that when there is “serious pollution for three consecutive days,” a warning system comprising of blue, yellow, orange and red — the most serious — alerts will be activated. Kindergartens, primary and middle schools will then have to stop classes, while 80% of government-owned cars must be taken off the roads. Private cars will only be allowed to enter the city on alternate days according to ballot system of the numbers on their registration plates.

All freight vehicles and those transporting material for construction sites will be barred from the roads when the red alert is issued, while more watering carts and sprinkler trucks will take to the roads, the state-run China Dailyreported.

Factories in the city emitting pollutants will be required to cut their emissions or shut down completely when the orange warning signal is hoisted, while construction sites must halt excavation and demolition operations. Other measures include a ban on barbeques and fireworks on heavily polluted days.

Harmful to health

According to the plan, these emergency measures will come into play when the air quality index for fine particulate matter, PM2.5 — airborne particles considered most harmful to health — exceeds 300 micrograms per cubic meter for three days running. The “safe” limit is 25 micrograms, the World Health Organization says.

While the announcement has been broadly welcomed as a step in the right direction, doubt remains about its long-term effectiveness.

“The new emergency measures show the government’s determination to tackle the air pollution in Beijing, especially those regulations that limit car use and close schools and kindergartens on heavily polluted days. It shows that the authority has really paid attention to those vulnerable groups,” Huang Wei, a spokesman for Greenpeace East Asia, told CNN.

“But what is problematic is that those emergency measures are only targeted to those polluted days. It is rather a remedial measure than a preventative measure, and just to repair won’t help the issue in the long run.

“The air pollution in Beijing is mostly transmitted from other cities, and what Beijing can do is very limited. What the authority should do is to build a linkage mechanism, combining preventative measures with emergency control. For instance, factories in surrounding areas like Inner Mongolia, and Shandong Province could close their factories in advance before the potential transmission of serious pollutants. It should be collaborative work between cities, and only Beijing is not enough.”

Popular opinion

This view was backed by many ordinary Chinese on Weibo, China’s popular micro-blogging service.

“They should have some long-term thinking instead of always waiting till the crisis happens,” posted one user with the handle Shijinmilu.

Another, called Qinghualiuqingyu, asked: “How about those people who can’t afford an expensive house in the city and have to take cars to work every day?”

“Cars are not the main polluters, surrounding factories are. Sometimes the pollution level still goes up crazily even it’s around 2 or 3 a.m. The policy itself is good, but it’s more important how they implement it,” said TangyuanAllesGute.

Positive action

It is rather a remedial measure than a preventative measure, and just to repair won’t help the issue in the long run.
Huang Wei, Greenpeace

Last month, the central government in China announced plans to start listing its top ten most air-polluted citiesevery month in the hope that national humiliation will push positive environmental action.

“We must put air quality control as an ecological red line for economic management and social development,” China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gao Li said in a statement as he announced the new policy at the 18th Air Pollution Control Conference in Beijing.

Chinese officials did not say when the first list would be announced, but the northern megacities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as the surrounding provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong have signed onto an official plan to speed up air pollution control measures.

Meanwhile, life was returning to some semblance of normality in northeastern China Wednesday as days of smog-filled skiesbrought one city to a standstill.

Thick smog closed Harbin’s international airport, affecting hundreds of flights, and closed schools and businesses as visibility in some areas was reduced to less than 20 meters (65 feet). Some buildings could barely be seen from the opposite side of the street, while drivers brave enough to take to the roads were forced to flash their hazard warning lights.

The unusually severe pollution levels were blamed on the city’s coal-fired heating system, as well as farmers burning straw as temperatures in the region begin to drop.

 

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind

Ed. note: This post was originally published on energy.gov.

American Wind PowerPhoto courtesy of Nordex USA

Our countdown of the top ten things you didn’t know about wind energy:

10. Human civilizations have harnessed wind power for thousands of years. Early forms of windmills used wind to crush grain or pump water. Now, modern wind turbines use the wind to create electricity. Learn how here.

9. A wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components.

8. Wind turbines are big. A wind turbine blade can be up to 150 feet long, and a turbine tower can be over 250 feet tall, almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

7. Higher wind speeds mean more electricity, and wind turbines are getting taller to reach higher altitudes where it’s even windier. See the Energy Department’s wind resource mapsto find average wind speeds in your state or hometown.

6. Most of the components of wind turbines installed in the United States are manufactured here. Facilities for building wind turbine parts are located in over 40 states, and the U.S. wind energy industry currently employs 75,000 people.

5. The technical resource potential of the winds above U.S. coastal waters is enough to provide over 4,000 gigawatts of electricity, or approximately four times the generating capacity of the current U.S. electric power system. Although not all of these resources will be developed, this represents a major opportunity to provide power to highly-populated coastal cities. See what the Energy Department is doing to develop offshore wind in the United States.

4. The United States generates more wind energy than any other country except China, and wind accounts for 35 percent of all newly installed U.S. electricity generation capacity over the last four years.

3. The United States’ wind power capacity reached 47,000 megawatts by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power over 12 million homes annually — as many homes as in the entire state of California — and represents an 18-fold increase in capacity since 2000.

2. Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in 2011 are 50 percent lower than those signed in 2009, and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 3 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country.

1. As much as 20 percent of our nation’s electricity could come from wind energy by 2030but continued support for clean energy tax credits is critical to achieving this target. That’s why President Obama is calling for an extension on the Production Tax Credit — to support wind producers in the U.S. and continue to help drive the wind industry’s growth.

Liz Hartman is the Communications Team Lead of Wind and Water Power at the U.S. Energy Department

Two-thirds of China’s cities fail on air standards

BEIJING (AP) — Two-thirds of China’s cities currently fail to meet stricter air quality standards that the government wants to phase in over four years to combat notoriously smoggy skies, a senior Chinese environmental official said Friday.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, on Wednesday issued new limits on pollutants to go into effect nationwide by 2016. It also said major cities must launch programs this year to regularly monitor additional kinds of pollutants for the first time, including fine particles associated with health problems.

Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing said Friday that the government estimates that two-thirds of Chinese cities currently do not meet the new standards, saying efforts to improve urban air quality will be “very hard work.”

“Our task of air pollution control is huge,” Wu said.

The government revised its air quality standards in response to public pressure over pollution and the lack of thorough information about air quality in China. Demands in Beijing for greater government accountability on air quality were fueled in recent months in part by a Twitter feed set up by the U.S. Embassygiving hourly updates on air quality as measured on the facility’s roof.

Wu said the government plans to set up 1,500 new air monitoring stations around the country.

“We also want to build up public confidence in the data we provide in order to better serve the public,” Wu said.

The new Chinese standards require concentrations of fine particulate matter called PM2.5 to be kept below daily averages of 75 micrograms per cubic meter — more than twice as lenient as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of 35 micrograms.

Some Chinese cities generally have much higher amounts than that, and the U.S. Embassy monitoring showed a 24-hour average in the capital Friday of 188.5, a reading that it called “very unhealthy.”

PM2.5 — particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or about 1/30th the width of an average human hair — are believed to be a health risk because they can lodge deeply in the lungs, and have been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer.

This Column Was 100% Made in America

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

A Hyundai ad that ran during Super Bowl coverage showed workers from the company's plant in Montgomery, Ala.

By   Published: February 15, 2012

BLUE-COLLAR workers in fields like manufacturing — particularly when they make products on American soil — are again becoming a favorite subject for white-collar workers on Madison Avenue.

The trend was born of the economic worries that followed the financial crisis in 2008. Recently, it is gaining steam — appropriate, since the ads often use blasts of steam to signal something is being built — with proposals in Washington to offer incentives to encourage the location or relocation of factories in the United States.

“We continue to see very heavy emotional response to anything that would leverage against the bad economy,” said Robert Passikoff, president at Brand Keys, a brand and customer-loyalty consulting company in New York. Read more of this post

Can Manufacturing Jobs Come Back? What We Should Learn From Apple and Foxconn

business
The Huffington Post

David Paul – President, Fiscal Strategies Group  –  Posted: 02/13/2012 8:30 am

Apple aficionados suffered a blow a couple of weeks ago. All of those beautiful products, it turns out, are the product of an industrial complex that is nothing if not one step removed from slave labor.

But of course there is nothing new here. Walmart has long prospered as a company that found ways to drive down the cost of stuff that Americans want. And China has long been the place where companies to go to drive down cost.

For several decades, dating back to the post World War II years, relatively unfettered access to the American consumer has been the means for pulling Asian workers out of deep poverty. Japan emerged as an industrial colossus under the tutelage of Edward Deming. The Asian tigers came next. Vietnam and Sri Lanka have nibbled around the edges, while China embraced the export-led economic development model under Deng Xiaoping.

While Apple users have been beating their breasts over the revelations of labor conditions and suicides that sullied their glass screens, the truth is that Foxconn is just the most recent incarnation of outsourced manufacturing plants — textiles and Nike shoes come to mind — where working conditions are below American standards. Read more of this post

Dumping China for American Job Shops

More U.S. small businesses are steering their orders to American factories, such as Tennessee-based Bristol Custom Solutions, as costs go up in China.

More U.S. small businesses are steering their orders to American factories, such as Tennessee-based Bristol Custom Solutions, as costs go up in China.

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney  February 13, 2012: 11:51 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. small businesses that initially rushed to Chinese factories to get their products made are now dumping them for American manufacturers.

And the shift is gaining traction, said industry experts who match U.S. small companies with domestic firms.

Mitch Free, the founder and CEO of Atlanta-based MFG.com, said his company has seen a 15% uptick in inquiries since 2009 from U.S. firms looking for American factories to replace their Chinese suppliers.

MFG.com is one of the largest online directories used by businesses to find domestic manufacturers.

One reason behind the trend is that “Chinese manufacturing has become expensive,” Free explained.

Another is that the U.S. economy is still uncertain. Most small businesses are forced to order large quantities to justify costs when dealing with companies overseas, he said. And that’s a risky move if American consumers are not splurging yet.

Manufacturers closer to home allow small businesses to order smaller batches, which means less of their money is tied up if their inventory is unsold, he said.

Revive Made in USA? Easier said than done

WindStream Technologies opened a new manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind., last September to produce small wind turbines for home use.

WindStream Technologies opened a new manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind., last September to produce small wind turbines for home use.

WindStream Technologies knows well the value of manufacturing in the United States.

In December 2010, the startup selected a Chinese factory to make 35 prototypes of its wind turbines, because they wanted them “quickly and cheaply,” said David Dingman, Windstream’s lead mechanical engineer.

It was a disaster. “The prototypes that the Chinese manufacturer sent back to us were junk,” said Dingman. “There were parts that were put upside down. Other parts were poor quality. Some even fell off.”

WindStream decided not to have the final products made in China.

The company was able to snag U.S. manufacturers with the help of MFG.com.

And last month, it started mass producing its small wind turbines for home use at its new 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in North Vernon, Ind. The company employs 30 workers and is hoping to ramp up to 100, if it lands a deal to sell the turbines at a mass retailer, said Dingman.

WindStream now has its turbine covers made in Chicago, while some metal parts are produced in Ohio.

Some of the turbines parts are still made in China, simply because the raw materials to make them don’t exist in the United States, said Dingham. But “the Midwest proved to be terrific for us,” he said.

Indeed. WindStream produces its turbines at a 10% lower cost per unit compared to what the company would have paid in China, thanks to its American suppliers that provide competitive prices and the elimination of overseas shipping and travel costs.

Del Mar, Calif., entrepreneur and inventor Julie Zizka actually liked the way her tote bags looked after a Chinese manufacturer produced 5,000 of them for her in 2008.

But she still was not a fan of having her manufacturing done overseas. She had concerns about production delays and fretted about how the extensive amount of transportation used was hurting the environment. What’s more, she noticed that her customers were preferring products that were made in the United States.

By 2011, she was looking for a U.S. manufacturer to produce her “Tote Buddy,” a colorful tote for storing reusable plastic bags.

She came across one after searching online and seeing ads for Bristol Custom Solutions, which heavily advertises on MacRAE’s Blue Book.

MacRAE’s has seen a pickup in inquiries — just like Zizka’s — from companies wanting to replace Chinese suppliers with American ones, said Lori Meloche, MacRAE’s vice president of marketing.

The directory — first published in the United States in 1893 as a “blue-colored book” — has since evolved into a website with more than 1.2 million North American industrial manufacturers, which averages 1.5 million users monthly.

What small firms want from Obama’s manufacturing plan

Zizka connected with Bristol, a 26-year-old, Tennessee-based manufacturer, best-known for making secure locking bags used by banks and the federal government to transport cash and other valuables.

“People have been contacting us all the time lately, telling us they don’t want to produce their products in China,” said Brandon Cantrell, Bristol’s general manager.

When Zizka sent Bristol a sample of the tote, the company redesigned it and brought down some of her costs, said Cantrell.

Today, Bristol is making 1,000 new Tote Buddy bags for sale this spring. For Zizka, the unit price for one of her Tote Buddy bags made in Cantrell’s factory is still 170% higher than for one made in the Chinese factory, said Cantrell.

But that doesn’t bother Zizka.

“My customers want my bag made in the U.S.,” she said, “I’m willing to absorb that cost if I can control the quality, get them to my customers faster and help the environment as well.”

Walmart ‘Great for You’ Healthy Labels: Nutrition Experts Say ‘Devil in the Details’

 

BY BRIAN JOHNSON AND ENJOLI FRANCIS  –  WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2012

As Walmart announced plans today to label certain foods with a new green “Great for You” label, some diet and nutrition experts told ABC News they applauded the move, while others questioned whether a company that sells food could set objective standards for what is healthy.

Dr. Darwin Deen, a family doctor and nutrition educator, told ABC News that “an independent opinion of a food’s healthfulness is a good idea but as always, the devil is in the details.”

Walmart, the largest food retailer in United States, will put the new label on select products that meet defined criteria.in its Great Value and Marketside lines. Customers will begin to see the new label on products starting in the spring.

The company said the “Great for You” products meet the rigorous nutrition criteria established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Medicine.

“Moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. Read more of this post

Made in USA: 30 Day Journey

"We're willing to DIE for our country, but are we willing to BUY for it?"

"We're willing to DIE for our country, but are we willing to BUY for it?"

Josh Miller of ‘Made in USA: 30 Day Journey‘ is asking us one simple question.

“We’re willing to DIE for our country, but are we willing to BUY for it?”

Josh and his film crew will set out on a journey in which he will live off USA made products for 30 days. During his travels, he will speak and interview business-owners, homeowners, politicians, economists and American consumers to find out, among other things, what ‘Made in America’ means to them.  We will help Josh and his crew verify the made in USA claim with the help and support of Made in USA Certified.

Their goal is to raise $5,000 for the film during this campaign.  A $10 donation will get your name in the rolling credits of the film under “Minutemen”.  How cool will that be!

We believe Josh and his crew are a part of the Made In America Movement.  This film will help gain more exposure for this Movement.  This is why we are asking for your support.

Diane Sawyer & David Muir of World News with Diane Sawyer made everyone across the nation aware of this Movement last year with their ‘Made in America’ segments on ABC News, asking you all if you are “IN”.  Now we are asking you, are you in?

Let’s help Josh Miller on his journey.  Go to the link below. Donate your $10 (or more!) and let them know you are a proud supporter of the Made in America Movement.  Your support and donations really do matter!

Made in USA: 30 day Journey donation page I’M IN!

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads. (Color China Photo, via Associated Press)

By NYT   and   Published: January 25, 2012

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.” Read more of this post

Come On, China, Buy Our Stuff!

A Gap Inc. store in Shanghai, China.

A Gap Inc. store in Shanghai, China.

By NYT ADAM DAVIDSON    Published: January 25, 2012

The first time I visited China, in 2005, an American businessman living there told me that the country was so huge and was changing so fast that everything you heard about it was true, and so was the opposite. That still seems to be the case. China is the fastest-growing consumer market in the world, and American companies have made billions there. At the same time, Chinese consumers aren’t spending nearly as much as American companies had hoped. China has simultaneously become the greatest boon and the biggest disappointment.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2000, the United States forged its current economic relationship with China by permanently granting it most-favored-nation trade status and, eventually, helping the country enter the World Trade Organization. The unspoken deal, though, went something like this: China could make a lot of cheap goods, which would benefit U.S. consumers, even if it cost the country countless low-end manufacturing jobs. And rather than, say, fight for an extra bit of market share in Chicago, American multinationals could offset any losses because of competition by entering a country with more than a billion people — including the fastest-growing middle class in history — just about to buy their first refrigerators, TVs and cars. It was as if the United States added a magical 51st state, one that was bigger and grew faster than all the others. We would all be better off.

More than a decade later, many are waiting for the payoff. Certainly, lots of American companies have made money, but many actual workers have paid a real price. What went wrong? In part, American businesses assumed that a wealthier China would look like, well, America, says Paul French, a longtime Shanghai-based analyst with Access Asia-Mintel. He notes that Chinese consumers have spent far less than expected, and the money they do spend is less likely to be spent on American goods. Read more of this post

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