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UPDATED: November 11, 2013 NO. 46 NOVEMBER 14, 2013
In Search of Fresh Air
Beijing works hard to breathe new life into tackling its worsening pollution
By Zhou Xiaoyan

"Beijing will further enhance the emission standard for new cars and accelerate the retirement of vehicles. Meanwhile, vehicle structural adjustment will be rolled out for 10 major sectors, including bus, taxi, inter-provincial coach and postal car," he said.

Li said Beijing buses have always been pioneers of new emission standards and new energy vehicles. "Now, Beijing buses are developing toward being natural gas-powered and electricity-powered."

Zhong Qianghua, chief engineer of Beijing Public Transport Holdings, the city's primary public bus operator, said Beijing buses will continue to be the green forces of ground transportation.

"From now on, new energy and clean energy buses will account for over 70 percent of newly added buses. By 2017, they will account for 65 percent of the total. Within the five rings, there will be over 20 percent electrical and 50 percent LNG (liquefied natural gas) buses. Fuel emission will be reduced by at least 40 percent," said Zhong.


Despite the fact that many people pin hopes on natural gas to move away from burning coal, China is suffering from a chronic shortage of natural gas as domestic output cannot keep up with demand.

The Chinese Government said it would raise natural gas use to 230 million cubic meters by 2015, more than double the 2010 level, but disappointing domestic production growth coupled with insufficient pipeline and storage capacity has left it increasingly reliant on imports and prone to shortages.

Natural gas demand rose 13.5 percent in the first nine months of 2013, 4.3 percentage points faster than production, said the National Development and Reform Commission.

PetroChina Chairman Zhou Jiping said it would take at least four to five years to build up new natural gas supply capacity, which would still not be enough to meet demand.

As for new energy vehicles, many potential buyers worry there are not enough charging stations for electrical vehicles or natural gas fueling stations for gas-powered vehicles in Beijing, thus making those new energy vehicles quite unreliable.

"It's extremely difficult to build charging stations and fueling stations in Beijing, because the capital has very limited unused land," said Li. "Earmarking land for the construction of charging stations and fueling stations will be a tug of war involving many people."

Li said another problematic issue is the large trucks that deliver goods to Beijing from outside the city every night.

"Many of their emission certifications are fake and their emission can't meet the requirement," said Li. "The emission of one such truck is equal to that of 100 ordinary cars and every night tens of thousands come to Beijing to deliver goods."

"This is one of the major reasons for Beijing's chronic air pollution."

After the release of the 2013-17 clean air action plan, some NGOs have been critical that the plan will make little difference to Beijing's air quality, because airborne contaminants can easily float from city to city. Beijing is unfortunately surrounded by heavy-chemical industrial bases featuring iron and steel, building materials, thermal power and cement, which contribute significantly to the capital city's air pollution.

Li Wei, an official with Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, said tackling air pollution calls for concerted efforts from neighboring cities and provinces.

"A single city's efforts can't solve the problem."

Email us at: zhouxiaoyan@bjreview.com

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