The New York Times claims that China's air pollution is growing worse due to increased motorization, construction, coal burning and general economic growth. But, their article didn't report any data trends. One way to measure air pollution is to use the API = air pollution index.
Using Google, I went to the Chinese Environmental Ministry and found this daily data for Chinese major cities measuring ambient pollution. At least in Beijing this hot summer, there have been 0 API days above 150 and 150 is the threshold for "Lightly Polluted". I encourage you to look at the data for other cities.
I must admit that I have an intellectual stake in this discussion. If you remember reading my 2010 Regional Science and Urban Economics paper on China , Zheng, Liu and I present evidence based on 35 major Chinese cities that several of them (including Beijing) have passed the EKC "turning point" and that we predict that further economic growth will DECREASE their air pollution.
When the media makes a bold claim, I encourage them to present some facts or at least a webpage offering the reader the chance to look up some facts. It appears that the NY Times and the Chinese government have two different sets of facts. Who is telling the truth?
As I have discussed before, my belief is that the following chain of events will occur;
1. China will keep growing and this raises the "value of life" and the "value of not being sick"
2. Coal burning is recognized to elevate local air pollution levels such PM10
3. Elevated PM10 causes extra morbidity and mortality risk for the urban population
4. As #1 rises, the externality damage caused by #3 increases and recognizing this fact will nudge the central government to take steps to clean up the coal fired power plants.
Human capital is the wealth of nations and China can't afford to kill its golden goose with dust from coal fired power plants.
EPA reviewing air pollution rules for oil, gas
By CATHERINE TSAI (AP) – 1 day ago
DENVER — Federal air pollution standards for the oil and gas industry are sorely outdated amid ramped up drilling, leaving thousands of emissions sources "under the radar," citizens groups said Wednesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering air pollution rules for oil and gas operations as part of a settlement with WildEarth Guardians and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. The groups say existing rules aren't enough to handle increased drilling and don't account for advances in technology that could reduce emissions.
The EPA is getting the public involved in its review by holding meetings in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 2 and in Denver on Aug. 3 for government, industry and citizens to weigh in.
The EPA has agreed to finalize updates to three sets of rules under the Clean Air Act by Nov. 30, 2011.
The oil and gas industry continues to be one of the heaviest regulated industries, said Kathleen Sgamma, the Western Energy Alliance's director of government affairs. The group's members already are working with the Western Regional Air Partnership — an effort of tribal and state governments and federal agencies — in voluntarily providing detailed emissions data to state regulators.
"We want to make sure to reduce emissions from oil and gas production," she said.
Mike Eisenfeld of the San Juan Citizens Alliance said loopholes in existing rules have allowed thousands of air pollution sources to operate without permits. He said inventories are needed along with studies on public health.
Sgamma said the industry accounts for only a small percentage of emissions of specific pollutants.
Artisanal cheesemaker Deborah Rogers operates a goat dairy in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, where residents have been concerned about health effects of drilling on the Barnett Shale. She is hoping the EPA decides to ban flaring, in which excess vapors are burned off from wells. She called it an antiquated process and said technology is available today to help capture emissions.
Other environmental groups said they hope for more monitoring, studies of cumulative effects of toxins, and limiting the use of open waste pits in favor of closed-loop systems.
Sgamma said there is no one-size-fits-all solution, since conditions can vary for exploratory wells and production wells and from basin to basin.
"A lot of variables go into deciding what controls and technologies can be used," she said.
July 29, 2010, 8:27 AM
Spill Reignites California’s Anti-Drilling Fervor
ByFELICITY BARRINGER What a difference an oil spill makes. Californians, whose dislike of offshore drilling dates back to the Santa Barbara spill of 1969, had begun to see virtue in new sources of oil as gasoline prices soared in 2008, polls showed.
That year, for the first time since 2000, when the first poll of the state’s environmental attitudes was taken by the Public Policy Institute of California, a majority — albeit a bare one, 51 percent — was willing to allow more drilling off the California coast. The majority was about the same in 2009, and opposition dwindled to 43 percent.
The latest poll, however, shows the opposition snapping back after the offshore oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In the institute’s survey this month of 2,502 Californians, 59 percent opposed new offshore drilling; the proportion supporting more drilling dropped to 36 percent, down 15 percentage points.
About 11 percent of the respondents also said they considered oil drilling the top environmental problem.
Californians also maintain their historic concern about air pollution; the state is home to two of the most polluted air basins in the country, encompassing greater, with its clogged freeways, and the San Joaquin Valley, with its agricultural machinery, confined feedlots for hundreds of cattle or swine, and drought-nurtured dust.
Some 23 percent of those polled judged that air pollution was the state’s biggest environmental problem. Some 12 percent said that water supply was the biggest issue, while 6 percent singled out water pollution. The state has been in the grip of a drought the past three years, although rain was copious this year and the snowpack in the Sierra above average.
The percentage naming global warming as the top problem dropped to 4 percent; it had peaked in 2007 at 11 percent. While 54 percent said that the effects of climate change were already palpable, that was down 7 percentage points from last year.
About 19 percent of respondents said they did not believe that effects from climate change would ever be felt; among self-identified Republicans, that trend was striking. In 2007, 18 percent of Republicans felt there would be no impact; this year, the figure was 40 percent, up from 34 percent in 2009.
That figure could provide succor to those campaigning for Proposition 23, a measure on the ballot this fall that is designed to derail California’s 2006 law to combat climate change.
Still, nearly three of four state residents agreed that the state’s future economy and quality of life are threatened by climate change, a result that may give heart to those opposing the ballot measure. More than three-quarters of residents and 70 percent of those calling themselves likely voters favored controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
In California, most emissions come from the transportation sector, particularly passenger cars. But oil refineries would also face expensive choices under a carbon-controlled regimen. Two Texas oil companies have been bankrolling the effort to put the 2006 law on hold.
Level of Moscow air pollution exceeds norm tenfold, heat wave continues
The pollutant concentration in Moscow's air due to fires raging in nearby regions increased on Wednesday by 50%, exceeding tenfold the normal levels in the capital, a state environmental agency expert told RIA Novosti.
Moscow has seen record high temperatures for over a month. Ten temperature records have already been broken and each day the temperature is nearing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat wave in Russia has caused a number of fires, including peat bog fires, creating heavy smog throughout Moscow and the neighboring regions.
Doctors have warned of health dangers caused by the smog, a mixture of smoke from peat fires and gasoline fumes, and have advised the elderly and the very young to remain indoors in the worst affected areas.
Despite the fact that fires in the Moscow region have been extinguished, smoke continues to spread over Moscow.
"Southeasterly winds are dissipating the smoke that hit Moscow's atmosphere during the fires. If there are no more fires, the smoke will also gradually disappear," the ecologist said.
"The situation with the smoke will continue for another couple of days, but by the evening of Thursday or Friday the air could be cleansed with rain. A thunderstorm is expected from the west and may cleanse the air, making it easier to breathe," a deputy director from the Russian Meteorological Office said.
MOSCOW, July 28 (RIA Novosti)
EPA Agrees to Review Air Pollution Rules for 28 Industries
By GABRIEL NELSON of Greenwire
Published: July 7, 2010
In response to a challenge from environmentalists, U.S. EPA has agreed to examine its air pollution rules for 28 industry sectors within the next eight years, setting the stage for review of the emissions control technologies used by large sectors including the paper, furniture and aerospace industries.
Under the settlement, which was filed yesterday in federal district court in Oakland, Calif., EPA would face a court deadline to review about a quarter of its maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards, which set industry-by-industry limits on hazardous air pollutants. During reviews of current technology for the 28 sectors, the agency would have to decide whether to impose tougher restrictions or leave the existing emissions limits in place.
The settlement also requires the agency to perform residual risk assessments -- analyses of the public health impacts that remain once all required controls have all been put in place. While some sectors covered by the settlement are larger than others, meaning changes to those standards could have a broader impact, EPA's failure to gauge residual risk has prevented the public from knowing the extent of the risks posed by each industry, said Emma Cheuse, an attorney at Earthjustice.
"This settlement will help EPA get back on track in terms of the legal duties that Congress has enacted into law, because it is a significant list," said Cheuse, who represented the Sierra Club in the case. "Every one of these reviews is really important because we don't have the information that we need to assess the risk that remains to public health after the technology standards."
Among other sectors that would face review are aluminum production, cement manufacturing, lead smelting, pesticide manufacturing, pharmaceuticals production and shipbuilding.
The settlement lays out a timeline for each MACT standard, requiring the agency to begin issuing proposed rules by September. The sector with the longest time frame for review would be the cement industry, with a proposed cement standard due by 2017 and a final rule required by the following year.
Toxic emissions from the industry sectors have a variety of public health and environmental impacts, said Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club's air toxics task force, in a statement yesterday.
"For too many years, Americans have waited for the EPA to update and strengthen these standards. Now EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is committing to act on a long list of air toxics standards to protect people from serious health problems caused by air pollution," she said. "We applaud her decision to take action so that people exposed every day to toxic industrial pollution will finally have the chance to receive the basic health protections promised by the Clean Air Act."
The group filed its original lawsuit (pdf) early last year, claiming EPA allowed its toxics standards to lapse during the George W. Bush administration. The Clean Air Act requires the agency to review MACT standards every eight years (Greenwire, Jan. 14, 2009).
In its response to the lawsuit, EPA admitted that the agency "has not reviewed and revised, or determined that it is not necessary to revise," each of the MACT standards cited by the group.
The group's lawsuit was opposed by the American Forest & Paper Association and the Association of Battery Recyclers Inc., both of which represent industries that would be affected by the stricter MACT standards.
The forestry industry group has been a vocal critic of the agency's MACT standards and a newly proposed rule that would tighten emissions control standards for industrial boilers. Stricter rules could require the group's members to spend billions of dollars on upgrades and hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual costs, said Tim Hunt, the group's senior director for air quality programs, during an EPA hearing last month.
"We believe EPA has significant discretion in the MACT program to protect public health while avoiding the unnecessary burdens these proposed regulations could impose," Hunt said. "To be a sustainable industry supporting high paying jobs and providing sustainable products, environmental regulations need to be balanced. Otherwise, costs of this scale will force further mill closures and tens or even hundreds of thousands of additional job losses."
Dirt in air exceeds standards
The Timaru Herald
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2010
Timaru is in the midst of one of its worst winters for air pollution, and has already beaten the year of the Big Snow.
As of yesterday, the district had recorded more than 40 instances in which levels of dirty particles in the air had exceeded the National Environmental Standard level of 50mcg since monitoring began for the winter on May 1.
At the same time last year, Timaru had recorded 24 high-pollution nights, while in winter in 2006 – the year of the Big Snow, which cut power off across South Canterbury – the number of recorded instances was 36. The year with the highest number of instances was 2000 (50 days), but this was at a different monitoring station.
Environment Canterbury air quality spokesman Kim Drummond said there were broadly three factors that affected air pollution in Timaru: its topography, the weather patterns and how people heat their homes.
"The first clearly doesn't change and according to the weather people at BlueSkies the winter weather had been fairly typical so far this year in Timaru, with the number of frosty nights that often result in high-pollution nights being normal, too," he said.
"That leaves just home heating. More than 330 households have changed to cleaner heating through the Environment Canterbury's Clean Heat Project to date and others will have done so on their own initiative. This is a great start, but the pollution figures suggest that it has not yet translated into a measurable improvement."
The targets under consideration for the revised National Environmental Standard would allow just three exceedences each year by 2018.
Mr Drummond said the regional council was working with Timaru District Council on a way forward that will enable Timaru to meet these standards.
South Canterbury medical health officer Daniel Williams said times of high air pollution were associated with increased symptoms of respiratory illness, and with increased mortality.
"That means that people with asthma or other chronic chest conditions are likely to experience worse cough and shortness of breath when particulate pollution is present, and are less likely to be able to do their usual range of activities, including working and playing.
"In a town the size of Timaru with significant air quality problems, that means several people each year have their deaths hastened by poor air quality."
Mr Williams said reducing smokey fires by introducing restrictions on the use of open fires, older burners and coal burning had been shown in Christchurch, and in other parts of the world, to reduce particulate air pollution.
"Because many New Zealand homes are poorly insulated and difficult to heat, it is important restrictions on the use of fires for heating are accompanied by measures to ensure people can continue to heat their homes adequately."
They are natural air cleaners, removing an amazing amount of pollution from the air.
To help clean the air, a good choice is the blue spruce, with its tiny "leaves" (needles). (The Morton Arboretum / July 13, 2010)
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By Laurie Casey, Special to Tribune Newspapers
July 31, 2010
During the lazy, hazy days of summer, appreciate how trees clean the air. One way they do it is by scrubbing pollution from the air with their leaves.
"Think about how your clothes pick up lint, especially rough-textured clothing. That's essentially how trees pick up pollutants on their leaf surfaces," says John Dwyer, research associate at The Morton Arboretum.
Trees in the city of Chicago remove an estimated 888 tons of air pollution each year, according to the 2009 Chicago Urban Forest study. Trees are very good at capturing a type of pollution called particulate matter. This comes from car and truck emissions, power plants, road dust, and farming. It also forms in the atmosphere when other pollutants react.
The smallest particulate matter is called PM10 (smaller than 10 micrometers, which is one-seventh the width of a human hair). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PM10 infiltrates deep into the lungs, triggers asthma attacks and damages lung tissue. Chicago's trees remove about 300 tons of PM10 per year, which is equal to the annual PM10 emissions from 809,000 automobiles.
Some trees are better than others at catching PM10. "The ones that do the best job are large, healthy trees with many small, rough leaves with jagged margins," says Dwyer. "Because evergreens work for us all year, they are usually at the top of the list."
Consider planting spruce, fir, cedar, pine, buckeye, hackberry and zelkova. If you already have a large shade tree, nurture it to help it live a long life. Large, healthy trees remove up to 70 times more pollution than small ones.
The 2010 Tree Census is gathering data to determine air pollution-removal capacity and other environmental benefits of the urban forest in the seven-county Chicago metropolitan region.
This section was interesting to me because it showed the civil war we are having with air pollution. We create the pollution and we are the ones trying to get rid of it. It is a balancing act we that we are in and trying to find new ways to progress without adding more problems to the worlds climate. I also found it interesting how different topics relate to each other for example the high pollution and temperatures that can be found in Moscow at the moment.
In the conclusion of this project one of the things I learned overall is
how much meteorology affects our daily lives whether we notice it or
not. I think one of the main reasons why we don’t notice the whether as
much is because we deal with it every day of our lives and because its an
uncontrollable source of power on our earth.
By understanding the weather and that causes behind it helps us to
learn more about our earth and adapt to it if we need to. We also as
human have a great impact on the weather and I find it interesting that
we both cause problems with the climate but that we have a sense of
awareness that we also are trying to solve our own problems. The
change in weather and temperature can also amplify or absorb some of
the problems we create such as the rising in temperature and pollution.
This project has shown me that as a society we not only have to adapt to
the weather but that we also have to plan for it. In both small things
such as going to work and big things, such as saving money to help
victims of natural disasters. Whether we like it or not we all must face
the weather and atmosphere each day. Sometimes it can seem like a
burden, but in the big picture it’s the only reason why we are all here.