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February, 2013:

Boris Johnson announces plans for Ultra Low Emission Zone

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The Billion-Dollar Bet On Jet Tech That’s Making Flying More Efficient

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The Billion-Dollar Bet On Jet Tech That’s Making Flying More Efficient

This story appears in the February 11, 2013 issue of Forbes.

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UTC Chairman Louis Chênevert (Photo by: David Yellen)

United Technologies CEO Louis Chênevert took the biggest gamble of his career on something called a geared turbofan. In a modern jet airliner there are really just two ways to increase fuel economy, the most critical selling point in an era of tiny margins and volatile costs for carriers. One way is to increase combustion temperatures so fuel is burned more efficiently. But engines are already operating at levels above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the melting point of the turbine blades that propel the plane, forcing engineers to dream up exotic cooling systems and turn to special coatings and unwieldy materials like ceramics.

The other possibility is to increase bypass, or the amount of air the fan on the front blows past the engine. The problem: Bypass fans operate most efficiently at slow speeds, while turbines like to spin fast. Reconciling the two is no easy feat.

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But engineers at Pratt & Whitney, UTC’s storied aeronautical division, had an idea. While UTC’s Connecticut archrival, General Electric, went with higher combustion temperatures, Chênevert, at Pratt at the time, backed a seemingly riskier solution of putting a gearbox on the front of the engine to slow down the turbine shaft and drive the fan. If it worked the new engines would cut fuel burn by more than 15% compared with competing turbojets and produce half the noise, allowing airlines to push more flights through urban airports. “Anything that’s going to burn 15% less fuel is like Christmas to the airlines,” says Philip Abbott, British publisher of Aircraft Engines . “Once this sort of thing catches on, especially in this business, it tends to boom.”

Skeptics questioned whether a gearbox was an unnecessary complication for a jet engine. The addition of the Fan Drive Gear System added only seven moving parts, but the 18-inch-diameter gearbox had to be engineered to withstand thousands of high-stress takeoffs and landings without maintenance. If it failed it would likely mean the end of the commercial jet business for Pratt & Whitney, which grew famous for the Wasp engines used in thousands of B-24 bombers during World War II and the ubiquitous JT8D jet that powered Boeing 727s and DC-9 jetliners but lately had been in decline.

Chênevert never worried. Recruited to the small-aircraft engine unit of Pratt & Whitney in 1993 before taking over the whole division in 1999, he spent several years overseeing the production of small jet turbines with gearboxes to drive helicopter blades and turboprop propellers. “I’d manufactured more gearboxes probably in the aviation industry than anybody else,” he says. He convinced then CEO George David to sign off on development costs of more than $100 million a year, small relative to UTC’s $4-billion-a-year R&D budget but hardly insignificant (upwards of $1 billion) over time.

Turns out he was right. And now his very big bet is paying off in a very big way. With 3,000 orders in the 24 months since the PurePower Geared Turbofan engine was unveiled, it is proving to be one of the most successful launches in the history of the aircraft business, expected to double Pratt’s jet engine revenues–about $12.2 billion in 2010–by 2020.

The sweetest moment came in January 2013 when Brazilian manufacturer Embraer announced it had selected the UTC engine for its next line of large regional jets, displacing incumbent General Electric’s. The geared turbofan has put Pratt in the enviable position of supplying the most power plants for the most popular airliners for the next couple of decades: single-aisle jets that will absorb much of the travel boom in emerging markets. By the end of this decade “we’re going to see volume at Pratt that we haven’t seen in 25 to 30 years,” says Chênevert, a 6-foot-6 Quebec native whose speech bears strong hints of his French-speaking upbringing.

It’s the tastiest win since Chênevert took over Hartford-based UTC when David retired in 2008. David was a tough act to follow: A Harvard grad and international yachtsman, David has captivated the press with his marital and maritime adventures (including an ugly divorce from a Swedish countess in 2009 and a near-death experience in the 2011 Fastnet regatta, when his 100-foot racing boat capsized).

Chênevert is not nearly as glamorous. He earned a degree in production management from the Université de Montréal and spent his early career overseeing assembly workers at a General Motors factory in Canada. The most exciting entry on his social calendar lately is the upcoming birth of his third grandchild.

But Chênevert has maintained David’s rigorous focus on high free-cash flow and conservative accounting. The company generated about $5.5 billion in cash (earnings before depreciation and taxes but after necessary capital expenditures) on sales of $55.8 billion in 2011 from operations, including Pratt aircraft engines and Hamilton Sundstrand controls, Otis elevators and Carrier heating and air-conditioning equipment.

He deftly sidestepped the financial crisis that nearly drove GE into insolvency, because UTC never built up a finance arm dependent upon commercial paper markets for funding. “Post ’08, the one thing people have learned is having access to commercial paper is critical when it’s choppy out there,” he says, in a subtle dig at GE Chief Jeffrey Immelt.

“He’s a very effective operating executive,” David says of his successor. “He knows how to get projects conceived, scheduled, funded and completed.”

He also maintained David’s practice of expensing the costs of developing new products against current earnings, instead of capitalizing them. That means shareholders have already absorbed the entire expense of developing the geared turbofan and can immediately begin enjoying the dividends.

The geared turbofan wasn’t Chênevert’s only challenge. While UTC has performed well in recent years–a better than 1,000% return under David from 1994 to 2008 and another 35% return under Chênevert–the company needed to diversify away from the volatile defense business and increase its international presence.

Chênevert took a big step toward that goal last year when he completed the $18.4 billion acquisition of Goodrich, the largest takeover in aerospace history. Chênevert initiated the talks with Goodrich’s then chairman Marshall Larsen and pushed the deal through, hungry for Goodrich’s jet-engine nacelles, landing gear and thrust reversers to complement aircraft engines. “A company like Goodrich only comes around once in a lifetime,” he says.

Now UTC gets less than a fifth of its revenue from military aviation, including Sikorsky helicopters and engines for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Half comes from a diversified collection of nonaviation businesses with heavy exposure to China and other growing emerging markets. (Otis recently moved its business development office from Connecticut to China, because elevator sales there dwarf the entire North American market.) And aviation is now skewed toward the commercial business, which is poised to double (measured in revenue passenger miles) over the next ten years as millions of emerging market consumers grow affluent enough to fly.

Chênevert’s next goal: extract more savings from UTC’s labor-intensive manufacturing operations. He’s already cut 25,000 jobs and taken $2 billion in charges. Operating margins, a key measure of efficiency, rose from 13.5% to 15.1% since he took over. Now he’s promising $400 million in similar “synergies” from the Goodrich acquisition. “There’s a lot to be gotten,” he says. “There’s another decade ahead.”

Government unveils plan for HK$1 recycling levy on glass bottles

Submitted by admin on Feb 8th 2013, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Water and juice containers will be added to the list under the government’s plans to raise millions to recycle the glass locally

People would need to pay a recycling levy on water and fruit juices sold in glass bottles, not just bottled beers and wine, under a government proposal.

Under the plan – unveiled by the Environment Bureau yesterday for a three-month public consultation – about 1,700 importers and distributors will be subject to a levy based on either the volume or number of bottles involved.

Environment officials say the initial levy could be around HK$1 per one-litre bottle. How the fee would be divided between importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers would be a matter for “market forces”.

The levy would raise tens of millions of dollars a year, which would go towards hiring a contractor to set up a glass-waste recovery network and handle collection logistics.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said he hoped the levy would help recover 70 per cent of glass waste.

Although Wong said glass bottles of sauce and food would be excluded from the proposal at this stage as they were more difficult to clean prior to recycling, he would not rule out the possibility of the fee eventually being imposed on them.

” If awareness is increased, we can consider expanding the scheme,” he said.

But the proposal has already drawn opposition from wine merchants, who favour a system that would tax consumers directly instead.

The planned levy will do little to motivate consumers to return their bottles for recycling, said Henry Ho Yiu-hong, president of the Wine Merchants Chamber of Commerce, yesterday.

“If the levy is paid at import level, it will be hidden in the retail price, and this will have no impact on the public’s environmental awareness,” he said. It was preferable for consumers to pay a fee when they bought wine.

The chamber said the retail price of bottled drinks could go up by more than the levy itself because of the administrative costs involved.

“A medium-sized bar could sell more than 10,000 bottles of beer a month, and this would mean we have to pay HK$10,000 more,” said Chin Chun-wing, vice-chairman of the Bar and Club Association.

Chin wants the government to provide businesses with incentives to separate glass waste. He said limited space and manpower were the main obstacles to them doing so.

The government proposes exempting beverage suppliers who have their own voluntary deposit and refund system or bottle recovery system. But officials have yet to set out performance criteria for the exemption.

Hong Kong generates about 55,000 tonnes of beverage glass waste – equivalent to 110 million 750ml bottles – each year. This accounts for just three per cent of the total amount of waste dumped in landfills.

Every year, only about 1,500 tonnes of this glass waste is recycled, most of which is converted into environmentally friendly bricks for the paving of roads.

Friends of the Earth said the glass-bottle levy was a watered-down version of a supposedly comprehensive scheme which included charging a fee for beverages in plastic and tin containers.


recycling levy

Glass Bottles

Environment Bureau

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 8th 2013, 4:48am):

Beijing ranks ninth among China’s top 10 polluted cities

Submitted by ernest.kao on Feb 7th 2013, 6:19pm



Ernest Kao

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday released a list of its 10 [1] most heavily polluted cities for January – with Beijing ranking ninth.

The list also includes Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Handan, Lanfang, Hengshui, Jinan, Tangshan and Zhengzhou.

Seven of the cities listed were from Hebei province – a major centre for China’s steel industry – with Xingtai listed as the most polluted.

The 10 were pulled from an analysis of 74 mainland cities using the “newest air quality, monitoring and evaluation standards,” said MEP vice-minister Wu Xiaoqing at a meeting of the National Environmental Advisory and the Ministry of Environmental Protection Science and Technology committees.

Only in Haikou, Fuzhou, Zhoushan, Xiamen, Huizhou, Zhaoqing, Shenzehn, Kunming, Lhasa and Zhuhai – was the air quality recorded better than the previous month.

The World Bank estimates [2] China is home to at least 16 of the world’s most polluted cities.

Air pollution in the capital city hit record levels last month. The average level of PM2.5 – particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter – hovered near 200 for nearly the whole month. The World Health Organisation’s recommended level is 35.

The city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said it would aim to bring the level of PM2.5 down to the WHO standards by 2030 – a feat which a former MEP official told the Southern Metropolis Daily [3] on Thursday would take a “miracle”.

Rank City Province
1 Xingtai Hebei
2 Shijiazhuang Hebei
3 Baoding Hebei
4 Handan Hebei
5 Lanfang Hebei
6 Hengshui Hebei
7 Jinan Shandong
8 Tangshan Hebei
9 Beijing Beijing
10 Zhengzhou Henan



Air pollution in China

Beijing air pollution

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 7th 2013, 9:07pm):


Pollution targets slammed as just hot air

The Public Accounts Committee has criticized government efforts in tackling air pollution and for endangering public health.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Public Accounts Committee has criticized government efforts in tackling air pollution and for endangering public health.

The committee was responding to a report from the Auditor, which said the territory had never managed to fully achieve its air quality objectives set in 1987, and that pollution is getting worse.

The committee said that although the Environmental Protection Department had set a performance target that there should not be a day on which the air pollution index exceeds 100, the department had never achieved this target since it was adopted in 2006.

“The committee is disappointed and dissatisfied about the administration’s progress in tackling air pollution over the years,” PAC chairman Abraham Shek Lai-him, of The Professionals Forum, said.

“The committee is very concerned about the adverse health effects of air pollution, and is strongly of the view that government expenditure should be better spent on preventive measures to protect public health, by improving air quality, than on medical costs arising from curing health problems associated with air pollution,” Shek said.

The committee hopes the administration will formulate new measures to reduce emissions from vehicles, marine vessels and power plants as well as those coming from the Pearl River Delta region.

“In adopting a `carrot and stick’ approach, a right balance between incentives and disincentives must be struck to ensure the effectiveness of these measures and the prudent use of public money,” Shek said.

He added that the committee expects the administration to shortly announce its time targets, with milestones, and to progressively achieve the new air quality objectives that will come into effect from next year.

The administration promised that new air quality targets will be unveiled soon.

A committee member, Kenneth Leung, said it is “unsatisfactory” for the Environmental Protection Department to have never achieved its targets.


Clear evidence obscures truth of Beijing’s pollution data

Submitted by admin on Feb 7th 2013, 12:00am



Tom Holland

Municipalities hoping to win prestigious model city status typically report a miraculous run of ‘blue sky days’ in the fourth quarter: study

With Beijing only now recovering after spending much of January blanketed under life-threatening levels of toxic smog, reports that officials may soon be graded according to their performance at improving air quality will no doubt be greeted as welcome news in the capital.

Alas, Beijingers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

At first, the notion that the performance of government officials should be assessed partly on environmental criteria sounds like an excellent idea.

Traditionally officials have been graded primarily on their success at driving local economic development. With officials typically rotated into new jobs every three or four years, that means their promotion prospects hinge on their ability to demonstrate tangible growth in their districts’ gross domestic product.

The easiest way to do that is to launch big showy projects, either to build new transport infrastructure or to construct large-scale property developments.

For the ambitious official, projects like these have dual merit. First, the construction spending adds directly to his local GDP, and the result – and hence the official’s achievement – is there for everyone to see.

Second, investing heavily in transport infrastructure and new property developments generates handsome revenues for the local government.

Imagine you seize some farmland on the outskirts of your city and build a glittering new government headquarters and business district on it, complete with an eight-lane highway and metro providing access.

In response the value of the adjacent land shoots up, allowing you to sell it at auction to fund yet more grand developments.

For unscrupulous officials, big projects also afford plenty of opportunities to collect kickbacks and dispense patronage, both enriching themselves and cementing their powerbases.

Compared with the attractions of prestige transport and property projects, investments in environmental improvement barely figure. They seldom look impressive, take too long to bear fruit, and don’t boost revenues from land sales. In short, they do little for officials’ promotion prospects.

Aware of the problem, the central authorities have previously tried to incorporate environmental standards into their assessment criteria for local officials. In 2003, Beijing decreed that to qualify for coveted “national environmental protection model city” status, a municipality had to boast at least 292 “blue sky days” a year. In 2007 this threshold was raised to 310 days.

A blue sky day, incidentally, is one when the average air pollution index, or API, doesn’t exceed 100. That contrasts with Hong Kong’s standards, which class API readings of between 50 and 100 as “high” pollution.

As the residents of Beijing can testify, however, this well-intentioned attempt to assess officials according to their environmental record hasn’t led to improvements in air quality.

The trouble is that making improvements is expensive, while API figures are easy to manipulate.

Considering it’s the local authorities themselves who submit their pollution data to the central government, the easiest way to score blue sky points is simply to understate the numbers.

There is some evidence this sort of crude falsification goes on. In one study in 2008, academics at Peking University found that official API figures for Beijing were consistently understated by 30 per cent.

There are more sophisticated ways of manipulating the data. Officials can cite monitoring stations in relatively unpolluted locations, or selectively omit readings from stations that report high pollution levels.

Whatever the preferred method, it appears clear local officials are indeed doctoring pollution figures to burnish their environmental credentials.

In a study published last month, Chen Yuyu from Peking University, Shi Guang from the Development Research Centre of the State Council and their co-authors found sharp discontinuities in the data reported by governments approaching the cut-off for model city status.

Municipalities hoping to win model city status typically report a miraculous run of blue sky days in the fourth quarter of the year, just in time to achieve the necessary 310-day threshold.

However, once model status has been awarded, and the local officials duly credited for their performance, the data tends to show pollution returning to its normal levels.

“These patterns suggest data manipulation,” conclude the study’s authors.

Clearly attempts to grade officials by their environmental performance won’t work as long as local governments themselves are responsible for collecting and reporting the data.

If Beijing really wants to combat pollution, it will have to create an independent agency with the power to monitor air quality across the country – and to publish its results.

Only then will officials deliver genuinely blue skies. [1]


Beijing air pollution

Air pollution in China

Chinese Officials

Air Pollution Index

China Politics

Blue sky days

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 7th 2013, 6:24am):


Wage increase to push Hong Kong factories out of Pearl delta

Submitted by admin on Feb 6th 2013, 12:00am

Business›China Business


Anita Lam

Minimum salary in Guangdong is expected to rise 15pc, double the province’s GDP growth

Hong Kong manufacturers operating in the Pearl River Delta may speed up relocating their factories elsewhere as the minimum wage in Guangdong is expected to nearly double the province’s gross domestic product growth this year.

Stanley Lau Chin-ho, a vice-chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, who discussed the issue with the province’s officials yesterday, said the wage increase would be higher than the nation’s average annual rise of 13 per cent.

The Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ and Exporters’ Association expects a 15 per cent gain in minimum wages.

Guangdong’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said last week that it would announce its wage increase plans after the Lunar New Year.

A number of cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Shanxi, plan to raise minimum wages by 11 to 17 per cent this year.

Shenzhen’s minimum wage is expected to rise the most in the country, averaging 20 per cent annually in the next three years. The local government has said the minimum salary must reach 2,650 yuan (HK$3,290) by 2015, up 76 per cent from last year.

Chong Shing-hum, the president of the Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ and Exporters’ Association, said the minimum wage in Guangdong would amount to 1,495 yuan this year as there were no increases last year.

“It’s getting more difficult for us to survive in the [Pearl delta]. Appreciation of the yuan and receding prices in the US and Europe have already squeezed our profit margin. A lot of my friends are seeking to relocate their businesses,” Chong said.

The expected double-digit growth in the minimum wage would come even as the provincial government cut its economic growth forecast to 8 per cent this year from 8.5 per cent earlier. The central government has stipulated that the minimum wage should increase faster than a province’s GDP growth target for the year.

Despite rising wages, manufacturers in the delta are still expected to lose up to 1 million workers following the Lunar New Year holiday, according to Guangdong’s human resources ministry. But it said that would amount to just 6.25 per cent of the province’s total workforce.


Minimum Wage

Pearl River Delta

Hong Kong factories


Source URL (retrieved on Feb 21st 2013, 2:35pm):

In air pollution fight, China may start by tackling soot

Submitted by admin on Feb 6th 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

David Fullbrook

David Fullbrook urges action on black carbon, now seen as a major cause of global warming

The scale of air pollution in China is, well, breathtaking. It is not only the intensity, but the pace and scale of deterioration in air quality over the past decade. And the problem has global implications even though the immediate challenges are coughs and worse.

For thousands laid sick by the pollution, one of the causes is black carbon, or soot. Some particles are tiny enough – qualifying as PM2.5 – to enter the lungs. When not damaging lungs, black carbon is disrupting the climate. In a study published online by the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres last month, scientists concluded that black carbon is the leading cause of climate change after carbon dioxide.

Black carbon fuels global warming in two ways. One, black carbon heats up when exposed to sunlight. Two, like most dark substances, it absorbs rather than reflects light. When black carbon falls to the ground, usually after a few days, the Earth’s surface is left darker, reducing the reflectivity of the planet. Consequently, more solar energy is converted into heat.

The effect is pronounced where black carbon rains down on snow and ice. There, like tiny hot stones, black carbon concentrates heat which melts glaciers and ice caps.

The long-term climate consequences – higher temperatures, more extreme weather, and rising sea levels – for China and the world are another reason for the central government to implement and enforce a long-term strategy for cleaning up black carbon.

It is not technically challenging. In China, researchers from Peking University have found that two-thirds of black carbon comes from coke production, brick making, diesel fuel and household coal. Poor production methods and widespread use of coal make China the world’s No 1 source of black carbon. Much is a legacy of lax policing and soft standards.

Tightening up is going to cost money and hurt profits in the short term. It could, however, be incorporated into ongoing efforts to restructure the economy, shut down obsolete factories and industries, and push viable firms to cut pollution, develop eco-products and increase profits.

There is some prospect of a comprehensive response to air pollution, which might specifically tackle black carbon. Blanket press coverage suggests public outrage has the ear of the government.

The world should take Beijing as a lesson because climate change means more than sore throats. It is disrupting the planetary cycles and rhythms. If the lesson is not heeded and the Beijing precedent holds, then households and firms face the harsh economy of a carbon-busted planet.

David Fullbrook is a sustainability economist


Air Pollution


Global Warming

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 7th 2013, 9:22pm):

The Arctic Environmental Ministers today called for “urgent action” to reduce black carbon, HFCs, and methane, along with CO2, to help save the Arctic and prevent run-away feedbacks, including the loss of summer sea ice and the release of methane and CO2 from melting permafrost.

Download PDF : PR Arctic Ministers Meeting 6Feb13 Final

Air pollution linked to low birth weight, study finds

Submitted by eldes.tran on Feb 6th 2013, 3:02pm



Agence France-Presse in Washington

For pregnant women, breathing in air pollution from vehicles, heating and coal power plants increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby, an international study said on Wednesday.

The research, the most extensive of its kind on the link between air pollution and foetal development, found that the higher the pollution, the greater the rate of children born with a low weight. It was published in the US journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Scientists analysed data from more than three million births in nine nations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Most of the data was collected from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, with some obtained earlier.

Low birth weight – below 2.5kg – is linked to serious health problems, including a higher risk of complications or death in the weeks right after birth, as well as chronic health problems later in life, said lead author Payam Dadvand of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona.

Co-lead investigator Tracey Woodruff said the pollution is ubiquitous.

“What’s significant is that these are air pollution levels to which practically everyone in the world is commonly exposed,” said Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

“These microscopic particles, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are in the air that we all breathe.”

But she noted that nations with tighter air pollution restrictions have lower levels of the pollutants.

“In the United States, we have shown over the last several decades that the benefits to health and well-being from reducing air pollution are far greater than the costs,” Woodruff added. “This is a lesson that all nations can learn from.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the US limits primary particle pollution to an average of 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air a year for particles measuring less than 2.5 microns.

The limit stands at 25 micrograms per cubic metre in the European Union, and environmental protection agencies are weighing whether to lower that level.

In Beijing, the concentration of these particles was recently measured at more than 700 micrograms per cubic metre.

Thick smog choked the Chinese capital and vast swathes of northern China last month, blamed on emissions from coal-burning power stations and exhaust fumes from vehicles on choked streets.

“From the perspective of world health, levels like this are obviously completely unsustainable,” said study co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of CREAL.

An epidemiological study of some of the children included in the data is investigating whether these pregnancy exposures can have an impact in their later years.


Air Pollution

low birth weight

Environmental Health Perspectives

Clean Air Act

Beijing air pollution

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 6th 2013, 7:30pm):