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April 18th, 2008:

Pollution `Fight’ A Blue-Sky Joke

Updated on Apr 18, 2008 – SCMP

Since Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen took office and made fighting pollution one of his main goals, nothing of substance has been done. His Action Blue Sky campaign is a joke. What else has been done, sir?

Now a government spokesman says that some of our power plants still have not been retrofitted with the newest technology to cut emissions (“Carbon caps for power plants mean high bills”, April, 11).

Can someone tell me why that is? How many years has this technology been available? When, if ever, do our power companies plan to retrofit the plants that are not up to standard?

It is amazing that so little has been done. We have been studying the feasibility of an idling engine ban and road pricing for more than 20 years.

I see why the government still uses 1987 air pollution standards. They are behind most “world cities” by 20 years.

Terry Scott, Sha Tin

Hybrid Cars

Updated on Apr 18, 2008 – SCMP

Many people in Hong Kong do not think about the pollution they are causing when they turn on their car engines every day.

Surely drivers must realise that they have other options. Our city is serviced by various forms of public transport, such as buses, trams and the MTR.

Surely taking public transport is a better option, because it will lead to fewer cars being on our roads and reduced carbon emissions polluting the air.

If drivers have to keep using their cars, I would urge them to buy a hybrid model. These cars cause less pollution than other vehicles so motorists who drive them will be doing their bit for the environment.

Karen Hsu, The Peak

Forget The Smog, Heat’s The Worry

Marathon champ Baldini echoes Radcliffe’s concern

Peter Simpson in Beijing – SCMP – Updated on Apr 18, 2008

Fearless Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini says he’s not afraid of Beijing’s notorious smog – and defiantly ruled out wearing a mask to defend his 2004 Athens title.

As pollution choked the mainland capital and host of the 2008 Games for the fourth day in a row yesterday, the Italian gave the beleaguered Beijing Olympic organisers another welcome confidence boost.

“I don’t think that running one race in these conditions would have any effect on your health,” said the European champion.

“It’s true that we have to worry about it because the situation is serious. But I’m not worried that August will be as bad as it is now.”

He acknowledged some runners who suffer from asthma – like serial marathon champion Haile Gebrselassie – faced health risks and then bluntly said “no mask” when asked if would consider wearing one.

He then fell into stride alongside British women’s marathon world record holder and asthma sufferer Paula Radcliffe, who last week insisted she believed that heat and humidity would be more of a threat at the Olympics and that Beijing’s air quality has been exaggerated.

“The pollution could affect the results, but I believe heat and humidity will have a bigger effect,” Baldini added at the end his three-day inspection visit.

But he’s ruled out running in Sunday’s test event marathon, which ends in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, because of injuries.

The centrepiece venue threw open its doors today for its first test event, the IAAF men’s race-walking competition.

Unlike many athletes who are delaying their arrival in Beijing until the last possible moment, Baldini will arrive about 10 days ahead of the early morning race to pound the roads in training.

“The biggest problem could be 10-12 days before, in the sense that the pollution might have a bigger effect than during the race itself,” said Baldini’s coach Luciano Gigliotti.

Yet no matter how hard he tried to convince reporters that he was not troubled by the threat of smog, Baldini admitted it was having a psychological affect on his high-altitude training in the mountains of Italy and Switzerland.

“I haven’t ever run in a similar polluted situation. I really haven’t seen such a polluted sky anywhere else. Other places where the sky is blue, may be there is pollution, but you can’t see it. Here you see it, you sense it,” he said.

He dismissed claims the marathon had been diminished by the high-profile pullout of Gebrselassie, who earlier this year lashed the Games organisers over air quality.

He said the race would have to be an intelligent one from the runners’ point of view as the conditions would force them to think carefully about their tactics. “The gap between the fastest and slowest will be narrowed,” he predicted.

He tipped London Marathon winner Martin Lel of Kenya to be his closest gold medal rival but said all African runners posed a serious threat.

“I do believe I have a good chance because of my experience,” Baldini said. “I already have several medals in important championships. That experience counts a lot for this event. The Olympic marathon is a totally different marathon from other marathons.”

No matter how hard the Olympian tried to run the positive line during his press call yesterday, however, politics, like the smog, hung heavy in the air.

“There is sadness for the situation in Tibet, because I don’t like what I see. But there are many other situations around the world that are similar. These are things that are not nice to see,” he said.

He said a boycott had never crossed his mind despite being under pressure in Italy to respond to the recent Tibetan unrest.

He admitted that he held “a personal opinion” over recent non-sport events, but added: “I am someone who likes to follow what the rules are [on speaking out on political issues] during the Olympics.”

Beijing Clearing Air Ahead of Olympics

Posted on Apr. 18, 2008 – Energy Tribune – By Lee Geng

In an effort to improve Beijing’s dismal air quality before the Olympic Games, authorities are closing factories and implementing stricter sulfur standards for motor fuel.

To curb Beijing’s pollution, the closure of some factories – particularly cement, coke, and small steel producers in northern China – has been ordered. Polluting factories believed to be partially responsible for the capital’s poor air quality have already been closed in the provinces and municipalities of Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Shanxi, Tianjin, and Beijing. There are also plans to curb auto use and halt construction in Beijing before the Games begin.

As of March 1, Chinese refineries are required to produce gasoline and diesel that meet the Euro IV emission standards. The maximum sulfur content for both gasoline and diesel is capped at 50 parts per million, compared with the previous maximum for gasoline of 150 parts per million and diesel of 350 parts per million.

Sinopec’s and PetroChina’s refineries in the north have been upgraded to meet the new standard, with capacity to supply 505,000 tons per month, the bulk produced by Yanshan Petrochemical, one of Sinopec’s largest refineries. Beijing’s demand for oil products stands between 500,000 and 550,000 tons per month. The upgrades will be costly for the refiners, as the government is prohibiting them from raising prices to recover their investments.

However, that issue is taking a back seat to ongoing concerns about air pollution in Beijing. Last year, the smog there was so bad that Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee’s president, said some of the events might have to be rescheduled. And Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, who holds the world record for the marathon, has already said he won’t compete in that event because he fears Beijing’s poor air quality will damage his health.