Beijing Says 'Enough!': City To Scrap 180K Polluting Cars

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Beijing Smog by Flickr user michaelhenley

Beijing Smog by Flickr user michaelhenley

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Recent pollution figures in Chinese capital Beijing have made 1970s Los Angeles look like a crisp day in the Rocky Mountains.

The city, like Hong Kong last month, has finally decided to take action, and the city's acting mayor is set to scrap 180,000 old vehicles from the roads.

Additionally, reports Bloomberg, Beijing will replace 44,000 coal-burning heaters in homes to try and cut air pollutants by 2 percent this year.

Earlier this month, smog in the city was so thick it was barely possible to see the building next door, and citizens were alerted to stay indoors to avoid pollution levels so bad they were literally off the scale.

On the U.S. Embassy's particulate matter scale, which runs to 500 and on which anything over 150 is considered unhealthy, one day two weeks ago produced estimated figures in the mid-700s.

The scale registers the level of PM2.5s, particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, believed to pose the largest health risks.

Beijing's ever-increasing number of cars, coupled with the tens of thousands of coal-burning stoves and heaters used around the city (used more frequently in winter months), means pollution frequently rises to hazardous levels--into the 400s.

The World Health Organization recommends 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 levels of no higher than 25.

Despite subways, trolley buses, railways and bicycles, the city's near-20 million inhabitants rely heavily on cars to get about. There were an estimated 5 million cars on Beijing's roads in 2011, expected to grow by another million by 2016.

Many of these vehicles don't meet the same emissions standards as those in the U.S. or Europe, and the city's near-constant gridlock has a huge effect on local pollution levels.

In addition to the removal of 180,000 cars, Beijing also intends to cut coal use by 1.4 million tonnes, close as many as 450 heavily polluting plants, and reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by 8,000 tonnes.

180,000 cars might be a drop in the ocean on Beijing's roads. But when a brief walk down the street is too hazardous to contemplate, it's a problem that needs tackling by any means possible.


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Comments (14)
  1. Nothing like a blindingly obvious problem to get people to act.

  2. I'm just not sure that cutting pollutants by 2% will be all that helpful... I'd say they need to be more drastic to save the population though warmer weather will definitely help. It's very sad to see what China is doing and how they burn as much coal as all other countries combined right now...

  3. Well, China is just going through industrial revolution like England did in the 1800s...

  4. I'm very tired of this argument... It has 30+ times more people burning coal than England did then and everyone is in their pocket right now. "Developing country" my @ss..

  5. You obviously haven't been to China. You only see what China want you to see on the news coverages. There are hundreds of millions of people still live way below the poverty line...

  6. So what??? Since you're obviously the Chinese expert speaking for the 1.2 billion people, does this somehow give them the right to pollute the earth and slowly sicken all of us? When will it stop? When every Chinese peasant gets to drive a car and every party official gets two? When everyone has their personal coal burner to keep them warm? Will that magically slow down the "progress"? There's tons of misery and poverty here - no love for China, my friend.

  7. Obviously, I know more about it than you do since it sounds like you haven't even been there...

    You don't have to have any love. But the fact is they have their reasons and you have yours...

    It is their right to do their stuff and your right to whine about something you haven't gotten a clue on...

  8. A great incentive for China to re-reassess its plans to put 1 million electric vehicles on the roads.

    Not just electric cars, but a there's a huge opportunity for 2-wheel electric vehicles as well. Motor bikes use smaller battery packs that can easily be charged at home/work.

    It will take time to reduce the cesspool of volitile organic compounds & particular mater flowing into the air. Today China has trouble pinpointing polluting sources as air is so thick. Even solar can't help at this stage as cells will be quickly become covered in a layer of sludge.

  9. Well, in my opinion and experience, I think China needs to clean up its industrial energy generation first and then cars.

    The number of coal/charcoal burning devices in China is beyond belief, especially in the Winter. Too bad that China just doesn't have enough clean energy generation.

  10. Oh, but it is only developing... Give them a break. A few more of these wonderful Three Gorges Dams and everything will be back to normal.

  11. FYI, the Dam site was originally planned by US commmision and engineers as recommendation long before the Chinese had even a chance to build a dam. That was from the early 1900s. Maybe you should learn something before you speak.

    You have no idea on what the size of poplulation do to a nation...

  12. "Motor bikes use smaller battery packs that can easily be charged at home/work. "

    If you ever visit Beijing, you would know that electric bikes are fairly popular in the city.

    A city of 20 Million is NOT that easy to clean up. That is more than half the population of State of California in 1 city.

  13. "In addition to the removal of 180,000 cars"

    Well, they might remove that many cars. But they are also adding that many cars per year.

    I think "modern" cars in Beijing is the "least" of their problems. I think the charcoal and coal usage during the winter month along with "industrial" and "agriculture" usage are far dirtier than common cars.

    Cars are just used as an excuse in this case. The diesel engine in China are far dirtier than the gasoline engines they have. There are tons of diesel engine usage in the agriculture use and buses/trucks. That is why Beijing banning agriculture trucks in Beijing until the late night hours to reduce pollution and congestion.

  14. I'm sure there are many ways to reduce pollution and this may not be much but its a start. Sort of reminds me of the cash for clunkers programs I've read about here in the US. I hope they follow this up with even more well thought out ideas since the air they breathe eventually is the same air everyone else on this planet breathes. Kudos for taking the initiative.

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