Thursday, July 5, 2012
A Stunning Visualization of China's Air Pollution (By Michael Zhao)
"The air in Chinese cities is getting worse, and these animations show just how severe the problem has become."
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Climate change rate could be faster than thought, study suggests
Monday, June 11, 2012
"China will build 70 new airports within the next three years, the head of the country's aviation watchdog has said, as part of ambitious expansion plans in the industry despite an economic slowdown."
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Our students will to share what we experienced and leaned from our 12-day blitz through China over Spring Break, visiting 6 cites, and 10 energy facilities, traveling by bus, train, plane, and boat.
This year they have produced a documentary-style film, which we will screen on Thursday May 24, 7:00-8:30 PM in Y2E2 Room 111, followed by a reception with some refreshments.
See attached flier!
We would love to have you join us if you are available.
If you are unable to attend, we hope to post the film (not quite done yet) where you can watch it online.
To help us estimate headcount, please indicate whether you plan to attend using this simple Doodle survey link.
Hope to see you there!
Karl E. Knapp
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
I'd like to invite you all to a lunchtime talk next Monday, May 7 about urbanization in China and the massive flow of people from the rural interior to the cities. The urban hotspots we visited in China -- Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing -- are also some of the biggest magnets in this migration. Remember our tour guide in Shenzhen talking about her own story? She packed up, moved to the city without a job, and searched for work, hoping to find employment before her savings ran out.
Journalist and author Michelle Loyalka recently published a book called "Eating Bitterness," chronicling the stories of these migrants -- the challenges they face, and the perseverance they show against the odds. (She is also a friend of Rachel Enslow, the China Energy alum who helped arrange our Goldwind visit!)
"Eating Bitterness" shines a light on a population that is often forgotten, both at home and abroad, even as migrants are powering China's rapid rise: laboring in factories to churn out goods, peddling wares and groceries to households, even constructing the very fabric of cities.
Michelle's talk is an opportunity to better understand a major driver in Chinese society today. Though economics and politics are most often featured in the news, we must also recognize that the story of China is fundamentally about human beings. Hope to see you there!
“A thorough and insightful examination of the gritty, arduous side of the Chinese economic miracle.”
“A vivid portrait of the migrant experience in the burgeoning western Chinese city of Xi'an. . . . An insightful look at the hard lives of real people caught in a cultural transition.”
“What Loyalka finds is fascinating. . . . Details . . . make the book read like an ethnography, with a lot of first-hand discovery, and give it lasting power as a historical record of the biggest, fastest urbanization
in human history.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
“China's Dream Of Electric Car Leadership Elusive”
"China's leaders are finding it's a lot tougher to create a world-beating electric car industry than they hoped. In 2009, they announced bold plans to cash in on demand for clean vehicles by making China a global power in electric car manufacturing. They pledged billions of dollars for research and called for annual sales of 500,000 cars by 2015.
Today, Beijing is scaling back its ambitions, chastened by technological hurdles and lack of buyer interest. Developers have yet to achieve breakthroughs and will be lucky to sell 2,000 cars this year, mostly taxis. The government has hedged its bets by broadening the industry's official goals to include cleaner gasoline engines."
This has occurred despite government plans calling for "paying buyers rebates of up to 60,000 yuan ($8,800) per car the following year in five cities including Shanghai."
The article also touches on issues of intellectual property and the conditions under which international vehicle manufacturers enter the Chinese marketplace. For example, the government "strained relations with the United States and other trading partners by rolling out rules limiting access to its auto market unless foreign developers shared technology to Chinese partner."
One manufacturer, Daimler, "said it formed its venture with BYD not due to official pressure but because it wanted to create a low-cost brand for China." However, "other manufacturers such as Nissan Motor Co., maker of the electric Leaf, and General Motors Co. have chosen to pay the higher taxes required to import electric and hybrid vehicles rather than disclose expensive know-how to Chinese partners that might become rivals."
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
China Transportation Briefing: How to Save China’s Capital?
"In February 2012, the number of cars in Beijing exceeded 5 million. Given the problematic levels of traffic congestion and air pollution in the Chinese capital, few people hailed the milestone as an 'achievement.'"
The article cites congestion and air pollution among the hazards of the situation, and then suggests a few potential fixes.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
"The hukou, a small red passbook, contains key information on every family, including marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, as well as the city or village to which each person belongs. What comes attached to the hukou [pronounced hoo - ko] are benefits including health care, a pension, and free education for one’s children. These benefits are only available if a Chinese citizen lives where he or she is registered. Not having a hukou for where one lives makes it more difficult to get a driver’s license, buy a house, or purchase a car."You may live and work in Beijing, but without an urban hukou, you and your children won't have access to the services and benefits provided by the municipality. According to the article, there are four ways of obtaining an urban hukou for out-of-towners:
1. Employment. For example, "6,000 hukou were given to Beijing companies last year." [The city's current population is about 19.6 million.]It's interesting to note that household registration may actually be holding back the formation of a larger middle class in China's cities, a phenomenon which normally springs from -- and contributes to -- economic growth. Experts find that it influences consumer patterns (less consumption, more savings), restricts the mobility of labor markets (somewhat worrisome, given the country's aging demographics), and often keeps families apart (parents stay in the city, while kids go back to the countryside).
2. Black Market. "Buying one on the black market can cost ￥150,000" [Over US$23,000]
3. Inheritance. "If one or both of your parents were born in Shanghai or another big city, you're in luck!"
4. Marriage. "You can get the same hukou as your spouse, but have to drop your original registration."
The issue is ripe for reform, and the State Council "announced plans to make it easier for rural migrants to obtain a city hukou" last month. However, "this doesn't mean the hukou system will be swiftly dismantled: Authorities fear that would trigger a nationwide flood of migrants into the biggest cities and raise the prospect of mass unrest. Providing social welfare benefits to new urban residents will also be costly."
Also see the piece in Caixin magazine advocating a major overhaul of household registrations (http://english.caixin.com/2012-03-08/100365919.html).
Monday, March 19, 2012
Here's the link.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Ordos: The biggest ghost town in China http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17390729
"In Inner Mongolia a new city stands largely empty. This city, Ordos, suggests that the great Chinese building boom, which did so much to fuel the country's astonishing economic growth" could be drawing to a close.Chinese developers continue to open up new tracts of land and build infrastructure -- the cranes are everywhere! -- but the question is whether anyone is moving in when these projects are completed, especially in middle-of-nowhere places like Ordos. In our visit, we definitely saw the large blocks of empty apartment buildings described in this article, even as construction continued to sprout everywhere, pushing up against the dry dusty outskirts of town. Our experience in the hotel was indicative of Ordos' mode of development: the showers didn't drain properly, flooding the bathrooms whenever they were used; students encountered seedy behavior in shady corners; and the lobby was dominated by banners welcoming a mining conference, the industry that's pumping money into this region.
Many local governments "seem to have become dependent on the proceeds of big land sales to developer" and may have an incentive to encourage still more construction, to keep the cycle going on -- and revenues rolling in -- as long as possible. "Western financial experts who fear a bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble point out that the Chinese economy is more dependent on house building than the United States economy was, before the sub-prime lending bubble burst in 2007." On the other hand, "Chinese economic commentators seem much less concerned" and are "still confident that the technocrats in Beijing...will soon be able to balance supply and demand in the housing market."
In many Chinese cities, the wealthy actually buy multiple apartments as a form of investment, since building prices keep rising. Real estate can also seem safer than stocks -- for example, a physical development may be less subject to the revelations of fraud that periodically pop up for listed companies in China (sigh). Someone from NRDC mentioned that some municipal authorities stumbled upon estimates of unoccupied luxury apartments because a certain proportion of flats would have energy bills that were always zero, month after month, demonstrating that no one lived there. (Which is a little ironic, because many ordinary people are still having difficulty affording a place in the big cities.) So whether there's a bubble or not, the housing market still has imbalances that need to be resolved.
It's just that continuing to feed the construction boom in Inner Mongolia may not be the solution. Here's another great feature in Foreign Policy magazine on the topic:
China's High-Growth Ghost Towns
Visiting the eerily vacant epicenter of unsustainable progress, far out in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
UPDATE: Al Jazeera English had a video today referencing the building boom as well.
This fun National Geographic article explains some of China’s CCS research advantages, such as large budgets and an efficient "engineering and science machine," as well as the growing competition between US and Chinese CCS methods. For example, the Huaneng gasifier (outside Shanghai) illustrates some improvements over US models by consuming less water, gasifying inputs twice, and separating out purer CO2. On the bright side, US and Chinese CCS researchers are collaborating, and hopefully there will be cross-fertilization of CCS research.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
This article notes that China currently "exports" Inner Mongolia's coal to other parts of the country for processing and use. However, the government has plans to make the region an "energy base", which would help them use the resources more efficiently and export higher-value products. The topics in this article relate to issues raised in both the Coal/Electric Power and Transportation sessions of CEE176F.
Currently, over 60% of the coal from Inner Mongolia is transported over land routes, which is difficult and costly. (In fact, the article mentions the epic September 2010 traffic jam that the Transportation group brought up, and cites these diesel-power coal trucks as a primary cause of the holdup.) Both the central government and the leaders of Inner Mongolia would love to develop processing and generation infrastructure within the region, so they could instead export higher-value products, particularly coal made from diesel. If the authors of this article are correct, we can expect to see higher-value products, and not just raw coal, coming out of Inner Mongolia in the coming years.
The Obama Administration, the EU, and Japan plan to bring a new WTO trade case against China for their export restrictions on rare earth metals. Obama is also considering another potential WTO trade case complaining against anti-dumping and countervailing duties China imposed last year on US auto exports. This was supposedly in retaliation for previous US trading curbs.
In summary, it sounds like the "coming" trade war is already in full swing.
Friday, March 16, 2012
I thought I'd post two articles I found that discuss the eco-village of Huangbaiyu, as well as the urban/rural divide in China in general. When we brainstormed some over-arching themes for the documentary on Thursday, we identified a couple that seem to resonate with these articles. One important one was "How does this technology impact Chinese citizens from various backgrounds?" Another one we brainstormed is the dichotomy of "Rhetoric versus reality."
Good luck on finals!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
A story about how a inefficienty insitituation mechanism encourages the development of renewable energy
During the NPC and CPPCC， Chinese government declare that they plans to use tiered power price to instead of the uniform rates for residential electricity users. Currently, the electricity price to consumers is far lower than the marginal cost of power generation. Many projects have been implemented for commercial and industrial consumers. However, because the consumption of residential consumers only takes a small proportion of the total electricity consumption, there is no particular policy for residential consumption management. This is the first national-wide particular management for reducing residential energy consumption.
The Department of Commerce is set to issue a verdict next week on the trade petition filed by SolarWorld. The petition calls for imposing import tariffs on Chinese solar panels because, as SolarWorld and its partners allege, Chinese officials are using subsidies and dumping to artificially lower solar panel export prices. Many solar companies, however, fear that the imposition of such a tariff would destroy profit margins and slow industry growth, among other impacts.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
My group presentation a couple of weeks ago on the topic of commercial and residential buildings showed a video about a 30-story hotel built in 15 days in Changsha, China. This article from the LA Times further explains the project. Presently in the US we cannot construct a building so quickly because risk is a major concern to us. We require many more inspections and checks along the way. Also, we do not do construction at night because that can be risky as well. In China, there are fewer regulations allowing them to complete such large projects in a fraction of the normal time. This particular building has green systems in the design, including low flush toilets, efficient lighting systems, and less concrete in construction, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions due to the cement.