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May, 2012:

Anti-Hype in Lithium-ion Batteries Foretells Doom for Electric Cars | Alternative Energy Stocks

Anti-Hype in Lithium-ion Batteries Foretells Doom for Electric Cars

John Petersen

Despite billions of dollars in private investments and public subsidies,
lithium-ion battery technology has progressed at a snails pace for years
and battery developers have recently started to emphasize the importance of
baby steps. For the first time in memory, anti-hype is becoming a dominant
theme in stories about lithium-ion batteries.

Examples from this month include:
.An interview with Wards Auto where the business manager of the DOE’s
Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center
explained that it takes about ten years to put a battery innovation into
production and all of today’s EVs are powered by technologies that were
developed at least a decade ago.
.An article from National Defense which predicts that lithium-ion battery
research will soon hit a brick wall because batteries can only be as small
and lightweight as their materials allow and immutable laws of physics and
chemistry limit the number of electrons that can be stored in a given mass
of battery material.
.An article in Nature that discussed ways nanotechnology can improve
battery performance by increasing surface area, but took pains to explain
that nano-materials must be produced in carefully controlled environments
and the high cost of manufacturing nano-materials usually outweighs the
benefits derived from using them.
.An article in Design News that focused on the harsh reality that battery
development is hard, slow work because batteries require a wide variety of
costly materials to work together as a system; there are limitless ways
that things can go wrong; and throwing loads of money at research can’t
make progress happen overnight.
.An article in Waste Management World that explains the complex technical
and economic challenges that must be overcome before lithium-ion battery
recycling can progress beyond a few pilot plants and become a
cost-effective industrial reality, as opposed to a hopium-laced talking
.An article in the MIT Technology Review that reads like a premature
obituary as it discusses the triumphs and tragedies at A123 Systems (AONE)
and their ongoing search for strategic alternatives.

My personal favorite is a strategy memo from the National Alliance for
Advanced Technology Batteries that focuses on the problems at A123 Systems
and the failures of Ener1 and International Battery. It’s classic spin
control that ultimately blames the debacle on government policy. Since the
irony is so rich, I’ll annotate the last three paragraphs by highlighting
text that I find particularly entertaining in bold type and adding some
observations [in brackets].

“If criticism intensifies, which is likely, it will be important to
communicate an important point: Government funding of new energy
technologies is meant to support those technologies, not the companies that
develop them [or the investors who bought the hype that’s part and parcel
of government support]. The failures of Ener1 and International Battery,
and the troubles of A123 Systems, are business failures, not technology
failures. Companies come and go. Corporate assets get bought, sold and
reorganized [while investors lose their shirts]. None of that should matter
to taxpayers. What should matter is whether the technologies that A123 and
Ener1 owned at the time they received their grants has been advanced and
pushed closer to commercialization [while politicians promised
cost-effective products]. Indications in both cases are that they have been
[but unsubsidized demand hasn’t materialized].

If the FOA-26 program can be criticized for anything it is that the program
focused on funding immediate deployment of advanced automotive battery
technology rather than its longer term development. Many pointed that out
at the time [and we were lambasted as neo-luddites]. The [entirely
predictable] problems at A123 Systems and the failures of Ener1 and
International Battery are powerful testimony to the fact that the market
for that technology in 2009 was critically immature [just like the
underlying technology]. A better use of the funds would clearly have been
investing them in the development of new, next-generation battery
technologies that could facilitate the development of a market for advanced
automotive batteries in the future rather than cater to one that did not
fully exist.

In fairness to the Department of Energy, the emphasis on immediate
deployment and “getting shovels in the ground” was a political directive
motivated by a critical economic crisis, not a considered policy decision.
As a consequence, DOE funding of advanced battery technology over the past
three years has not been as efficient as it might have been. But that is
not to say that it has been a failure. Steady progress on increasing energy
density, decreasing battery cost and improving battery system management
continues to be made [at a snail’s pace]. The market we hoped for in 2009
is not here yet and some of the original players in the market may not make
it to the finish. But that market is substantially closer than it was three
years ago, and by that fact the success or failure of the FOA-26 program is
more properly judged.”

The core message of this new anti-hype campaign is clear. The promised
improvements in lithium-ion battery technology have not materialized and
they’re not likely to evolve from existing technology and architecture. We
may see a doubling of energy density over the next decade, but the six- to
seven-fold gains that Energy Secretary Chu has called for are not possible
with current technology. The dream of quantum leaps in performance
accompanied by precipitous cost reductions is not in the cards, or for that
matter on the horizon. Breathless promises of cost-effective electric cars
that will clear the air and deliver us from the tyranny of oil dictators
are snake oil cures that will enrich the hucksters for a time, but end in
tar, feathers and a ride out of town on a rail.

Battery mythology developed for the sole purpose of supporting electric car
mythology. Battery developers tried mightily and failed. Now battery
developers are seeking shelter from the backlash that inevitably comes back
to haunt companies and industries that promise more than they can deliver.
The next dominoes are companies like Tesla Motors (TSLA) that can’t
possibly build cost-effective electric vehicles without better and cheaper
batteries. Tesla may survive for a time by making toys for the
ideologically committed and mathematically challenged rich, but the
congenital birth defect that’s doomed every generation of electric cars to
the scrap heap remains.

The electric car industry can’t survive without a thriving and profitable
battery industry that can make products that meet or exceed expectations.
The battery industry is on record saying they can’t meet the ambitious
goals they embraced in the recent past. Things might change in my lifetime,
but the change is not going to happen in the next decade. Meanwhile the
real auto industry is digging into its toolbox and rapidly implementing
technologies that weren’t cost-effective in another economic era but are

A new approach to evaluating Runway 3

Heathrow Runway 3 will leave UK £5 billion worse off – says new NEF report

19.4.2010 (New Economics Foundation press release)

Runway 3 will produce a negative return for society and is economically and socially
inefficient, according to a new independent evaluation.

A new and comprehensive analysis, using Social Return on Investment, published
today, Monday 19 April 2010, by independent think-tank nef (the new economics
foundation), concludes that a third runway at Heathrow would leave society worse
off by £5 billion.

report at Grounded report by NEF April 2010

Researchers at nef used the same economic modelling program as the Department
for Transport (DfT), but updated the input data on economic growth rates, exchange
rates, carbon prices, fuel prices and other variables. They also estimated the
costs of a new runway to the local community near Heathrow. This included re-visiting
the DfT’s estimates for noise disturbance and air pollution, and for the first
time, calculating the cost of additional surface congestion and community blight.

The resulting report Grounded: A new approach to evaluating Runway 3 reveals that:

– A third runway at Heathrow would leave the UK £5 billion worse off. nef’s
estimate reverses the DfT’s prediction of a £5.5 billion net benefit.

– The £5 billion cost estimate includes negative impacts on the local community
valued at £2.5 billion. The DfT’s analysis suggested an equivalent cost of only
£0.4 billion.

nef’s report describes problems around establishing the economic benefits of
a third runway. This has been recognised by business leaders, as reflected in
a letter to the Times on 4 May 2009.

In addition, the report presents the formidable environmental hurdle faced by
proponents of a third runway because of the climate change impacts of air travel.
Aviation policy clashes with objectives for sustainable development, particularly
for tackling climate change. The government’s 2050 target for maintaining aviation’s
emissions of greenhouse gases at 2005 levels, rather than demanding cuts as for
other sectors, means that all other uses of fossil fuels – for heating and road
transport for example – will have to be reduced much further. As it is the well-off
who fly, even on budget airlines, this means the burden of emissions reduction
is shifted from the rich to the poor.

&lquot;With such high social and environmental costs associated with Runway 3, the
burden of proof should lie squarely with those who are in favour of the expansion.
It’s up to them to demonstrate that Runway 3 is in the public interest. With a
rapidly diminishing timeframe in which to tackle climate change it is imperative
that we allocate our carbon budget in the most efficient and equitable way, and
to schemes that will create the most social value. This must surely be the test
for any proposed infrastructure project in the future.&rquot; said Helen Kersley, co-author
of the report.

nef recommends a new course of action for Heathrow:

– Official support for a third runway should be withdrawn. This analysis further
discredits the decision to proceed with the third runway proposal.

– A thorough examination of alternatives to aviation is required to ‘future
proof’ the UK economy. Instead of assuming an expansion of aviation is required,
we need more robust analysis of the costs and benefits of alternatives taking
into account the UK’s transport needs and priorities for sustainable development.
Alternatives such as investment in video-conferencing and improved rail networks
would also contribute to relieving the congestion at Heathrow.

– Future aviation expansion plans should be appraised in relation to the social
value they are likely to generate. This should involve meaningful engagement with
stakeholders to determine where value is being generated and more thorough research
on costs such as noise and air pollution.

In addition, the report suggests that new thinking is required on how we appraise
infrastructure projects more generally. It recommends that greater account is
taken of their impact on inequality, as the costs and benefits are often unevenly
distributed. Finally it highlights the importance of independence and transparency
in how decisions are reached. In this instance, official claims were made for
Runway 3’s impact on jobs and growth that could not be substantiated by the evidence.
It calls for greater effort in communicating complex economic findings to the

&lquot;This report is about more than the third runway, or indeed aviation. Historically
governments have often overplayed the economic arguments in favour of big infrastructure
developments such as airport and road expansion. Many countries are strewn with
‘white elephants’ – costly development schemes of highly questionable value that
began life with the force of apparently robust economic argument behind them.&rquot;
said Eilís Lawlor, co-author of the report and head of the Valuing what Matters
programme at nef.

– ENDS –

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Andy Wimbush, Communications Officer, nef (the new economics foundation)

t: 0207 820 6383 m: 0773 914 3503 e:

1. About nef

nef (the new economics foundation) is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires
and demonstrates real economic well-being. We aim to improve quality of life by
promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic,
environment and social issues. We work in partnership and put people and the planet

2. Valuing what Matters at nef

nef is redefining approaches to value and measurement so that those things that
matter most to people, communities and to achieving a sustainable planet are made
visible and measurable. Practices of measurement and valuation are still often
focused narrowly and on the short term. Sometimes things that are easy to count,
outputs, are the things that get measured and thereby valued. Instead nef believes
measures should be focused on outcomes and how lives, communities or the environment
changes as a result of policy. Our approach focuses on an evaluation of returns
on investment by their longer-term social, environmental and economic returns.
These can be used across the public, private and third sector. nef works with
a number of tools to measure and account for value.

3. Social Return on Investment (SROI)

Social Return on Investment is an innovative approach to measurement and value
that can be used across the public, private and third sectors. Developed from
cost-benefit analysis and social accounting, SROI uses economic valuation to make
visible a far greater range of social, environmental and economic costs and benefits
than conventional analyses. In so doing, it provides a fuller picture of the value
that is being created or destroyed and enables more informed decision-making about
how resources are allocated.

4. How we worked it out:

What we did Running total cost of Runway 3
STEP1 Updating the input data

Because the Department for Transport’s original analysis was done in 2008, we
updated key variables, using official sources:

  • Carbon prices (Source: Department for Energy and Climate Change 2009)
  • Oil prices (Source: Energy Information Administration 2009)
  • Economic growth rate (Sources: HM Treasury , NIESR and

Oxford Economic Forecasting)

  • Fuel efficiency gains (Source: Committee on Climate Change 2009)
  • Non CO2 impacts (Source: ABC Impacts: Aviation and the Belgian Climate Policy, 2008)
  • Exchange rates (Source: DfT methodology, using updated rates to 31st December 2009)
STEP2 Running the DfT model on the new figures

We used exactly the same computer modelling as the DfT,run by Scott-Wilson consultants.

£ -4.0 billion
STEP3 Adjusting for a concern DfT had with their original model

The DfT are now of the opinion that they double counted the carbon cost in the
original model. According to their revisions this occurs where customers pay an
additional environmental tax and carbon is priced as a separate cost. This issue
is disputed. Environmental groups argue that it relies on the environmental tax
being sufficiently high to capture the impacts of this highly polluting industry.
Nonetheless, we took account of it in the model to see what impact it had on the

£-4.0bn + £2.2bn =

£ -1.8 billion

STEP4 Adjusting the discount rate for carbon costs

Economic predictions normally discount the costs and benefits to future generations
because they are assumed to be richer than people at present. But in the case
of climate change, discounting in the same way is not appropriate as future generations
will feel the effects more than the present generation. We followed the Stern
review and HM Treasury supplementary guidelines.

£-1.8bn- £1.1bn =

£ -2.9 billion

STEP5 Revising the DfT’s estimate on community costs

The DfT estimated £-0.4bn community costs from noise and air pollution. Using
stakeholder engagement and Social Return on Investment analysis, we revised this
figure to £-2.5bn.

£-2.9bn + £0.4bn- £2.5bn = £ -5 billion

3rd Runway

Expansion of Hong Kong International Airport into a
Three-Runway System

Expansion of Hong Kong International Airport into aThree-Runway System

Download PDF : esb250[1]

China’s Largest Waste-To-Energy System Heads For Shenzhen

for comments

ensure that valid points like the following are included in their EIA that they must address

Description: Description: shenzhen

The second phase of the Bao’an Waste-to-Energy Plant, which is invested in by Shenzhen Energy and Environment Company, is expected to be the largest of its kind in China with a daily production capacity of 4,200 tons.

It is learned that Shenzhen produces 12,074 tons of waste are being yielded in Shenzhen every day. Though city has set up seven waste incineration power plants with a total capacity of 4,875 tons per day, it can still not meet the increasing demand.

At present, SEEC incinerates 2,450 tons of waste each day, which accounts for 50% of the city’s total waste incineration. In addition, the company has three projects under construction which are expected to add a daily capacity of 6,300 tons for the city.

Set up in 1997, SEEC is one of the major waste disposal companies in Shenzhen.

China’s Incinerators Loom as a Global Hazard

Description: Description: Description:

A worker shoveled trash at the Baoan incinerator in Shenzhen, which also generates power.



Published: August 11, 2009

SHENZHEN, China— In this sprawling metropolis in southeastern China stand two hulking brown buildings erected by a private company, theLonggang trash incinerators. They can be smelled a mile away and pour out so much dark smoke and hazardous chemicals that hundreds of local residents recently staged an all-day sit-in, demanding that the incinerators be cleaner and that a planned third incinerator not be built nearby.

Enlarge This Image

Timothy O’Rourke for The New York Times

A truck delivering trash to the Baoan incinerator in Shenzhen, China. The incinerator is relatively clean, but is also costly.

Enlarge This Image

Timothy O’Rourke for The New York Times

Zhong Rigang, the chief engineer at the Baoan incinerator, saw little enthusiasm among the public for recycling.

Enlarge This Image

Timothy O’Rourke for The New York Times

The Longgang incinerators in Shenzhen were the focus of a recent all-day sit-in by hundreds of local residents.

A blog about energy, the environment and the bottom line.

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After surpassing the United States as the world’s largest producer of household garbage, China has embarked on a vast program to build incinerators as landfills run out of space. But these incinerators have become a growing source of toxic emissions, from dioxin to mercury, that can damage the body’s nervous system.

And these pollutants, particularly long-lasting substances like dioxin and mercury, are dangerous not only in China, a growing body of atmospheric research based on satellite observations suggests. They float on air currents across the Pacific to American shores.

Chinese incinerators can be better. At the other end of Shenzhen from Longgang, no smoke is visible from the towering smokestack of the Baoanincinerator, built by a company owned by the municipal government. Government tests show that it emits virtually no dioxin and other pollutants.

But the Baoan incinerator cost 10 times as much as the Longgang incinerators, per ton of trash-burning capacity.

The difference between the Baoan and Longgang incinerators lies at the center of a growing controversy in China. Incinerators are being built to wildly different standards across the country and even across cities like Shenzhen. For years Chinese government regulators have discussed the need to impose tighter limits on emissions. But they have done nothing because of a bureaucratic turf war, a Chinese government official and Chinese incineration experts said.

The Chinese government is struggling to cope with the rapidly rising mountains of trash generated as the world’s most populated country has raced from poverty to rampant consumerism. Beijing officials warned in June that all of the city’s landfills would run out of space within five years.

The governments of several cities with especially affluent, well-educated citizens, including Beijing and Shanghai, are setting pollution standards as strict as Europe’s. Despite those standards, protests against planned incinerators broke out this spring in Beijing and Shanghai as well as Shenzhen.

Increasingly outspoken residents in big cities are deeply distrustful that incinerators will be built and operated to international standards. “It’s hard to say whether this standard will be reached — maybe the incinerator is designed to reach this benchmark, but how do we know it will be properly operated?” said Zhao Yong, a computer server engineer who has become a neighborhood activist in Beijing against plans for an incinerator there.

Yet far dirtier incinerators continue to be built in inland cities where residents have shown little awareness of pollution.

Studies at the University of Washington and the Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill., have estimated that a sixth of the mercury now falling on North American lakes comes from Asia, particularly China, mainly from coal-fired plants and smelters but also from incinerators. Pollution from incinerators also tends to be high in toxic metals like cadmium.

Incinerators play the most important role in emissions of dioxin. Little research has been done on dioxin crossing the Pacific. But analyses of similar chemicals have shown that they can travel very long distances.

A 2005 report from the World Bank warned that if China built incinerators rapidly and did not limit their emissions, worldwide atmospheric levels of dioxin could double. China has since slowed its construction of incinerators and limited their emissions somewhat, but the World Bank has yet to do a follow-up report.

Airborne dioxin is not the only problem from incinerators. The ash left over after combustion is laced with dioxin and other pollutants. Zhong Rigang, the chief engineer at the Baoan incinerator here, said that his operation sent its ash to a special landfill designed to cope with toxic waste. But an academic paper last year by Nie Yongfeng, a Tsinghua University professor and government adviser who sees a need for more incinerators, said that most municipal landfills for toxic waste lacked room for the ash, so the ash was dumped.

Trash incinerators have two advantages that have prompted Japan and much of Europe to embrace them: they occupy much less real estate than landfills, and the heat from burning trash can be used to generate electricity. The Baoan incinerator generates enough power to light 40,000 households.

And landfills have their own environmental hazards. Decay in landfills also releases large quantities of methane, a powerful global warming gas, said Robert McIlvaine, president of McIlvaine Company, an energy consulting firm that calculates the relative costs of addressing disparate environmental hazards. Methane from landfills is a far bigger problem in China than toxic pollutants from incinerators, particularly modern incinerators like those inBaoan, he said.

China’s national regulations still allow incinerators to emit 10 times as much dioxin as incinerators in the European Union; American standards are similar to those in Europe. Tightening of China’s national standards has been stuck for three years in a bureaucratic war between the environment ministry and the main economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, said a Beijing official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.

The agencies agree that tighter standards on dioxin emissions are needed. They disagree on whether the environment ministry should have the power to stop incinerator projects that do not meet tighter standards, the official said, adding that the planning agency wants to retain the power to decide which projects go ahead.

Yan Jianhua, the director of the solid waste treatment expert group in Zhejiang province, a center of incinerator equipment manufacturing in China, defended the industry’s record on dioxin, saying that households that burn their trash outdoors emit far more dioxin.

“Open burning is a bigger problem according to our research,” Professor Yan said, adding that what China really needs is better trash collection so that garbage can be disposed of more reliably.

Critics and admirers of incinerators alike call for more recycling and reduced use of packaging as ways to reduce the daily volume of municipal garbage. Even when not recycled, sorted trash is easier for incinerators to burn cleanly, because the temperature in the furnace can be adjusted more precisely to minimize the formation of dioxin.

Yet the Chinese public has

shown little enthusiasm for recycling. As Mr. Zhong, the engineer at the Baoan incinerator, put it, “No one really cares.”

Keppel Seghers is currently one of the leading providers for imported WTE solutions in China. Its in-house technology is supplied for the expansion of an existing WTE plant in Shenzhen, Guangdong.

Keppel Seghers’ technology will enable the facility to treat an additional 3,000 tonnes to the existing 1,200 tonnes of municipal waste per day. When completed, the WTE plant will be the largest in China with an eventual capacity to treat 4,200 tonnes of municipal waste per day.

The existing WTE plant’s key components were also provided by Keppel Seghers in 1999, when it was built. Back then, the plant was also the largest WTE plant in China.

Heated opposition feared for city’s incinerator plan

Updated: 2011-09-17 08:06

By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)

Print Mail Large Medium Small 0

SHENZHEN, Guangdong – The government of the special economic zone is having trouble finding a location for the construction of a gigantic garbage incinerator.

Lu Ruifeng, executive deputy mayor of Shenzhen, said the city plans to build the world’s largest garbage incinerator, with a designed capacity to handle more than 5,000 tons of garbage a day.

“But it is really a headache to choose the right location for the project,” Lu said.

Lu made the remarks while meeting with Chen Xiaochuan, vice-chairwoman of the Guangdong Provincial People’s Congress, who was leading a group of deputies from the province’s legislative body to inspect the city’s environmental protection work early this week.

Although Lu did not reveal what the problems were, insiders said the city government worried the project could meet opposition from people living near any chosen location.

In Guangzhou, about 100 kilometers away from Shenzhen, the city government had to postpone construction of a similar project in its Panyu district last year because of residents’ strong opposition.

After the Guangzhou government chose a site in the Panyu district to build its garbage incinerator in late 2009, the overwhelming majority of nearby residents signed a petition to oppose the project. They were worried it would pollute the environment and harm their health.

As a result, the Guangdong provincial government had to make concession and announced it would postpone construction.

The Guangzhou garbage incinerator project had also stirred controversy among environmental experts and scholars.

Zhao Zhangyuan, a retired researcher for the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said incineration will cause pollution.

“Burning garbage produces many poisonous gases, even when advanced technology and equipment are used,” said Zhao, who strongly opposed construction of the project.

Guangzhou authorities are now looking for a different site to build their garbage incinerator.

But Xu Haiyun, chief engineer with the China Urban Construction Design and Research Institute, said garbage incinerators will not pose health risks because the gases discharged would be strictly in line with the country’s standards.

“There is a garbage incinerator in downtown Bonn, Germany, and similar facilities have been constructed in Japan,” Xu said.

Lu Ruifeng promised Shenzhen’s garbage incinerator would use the world’s most advanced technologies, equipment and management system and uphold the strictest discharge standards to avoid polluting the environment.

“Shenzhen, a densely populated city that lacks land resources, will treat its waste mainly through burning in the future, in addition to burying and composting,” Lu said.

According to Lu, Shenzhen’s treatment rate of consumer waste will exceed 80 percent in 2015.

In addition, a number of garbage treatment facilities will be built or expanded in the coming years.

Yin Qingwei, a Shenzhen white-collar worker, said the city needs to build a big garbage incinerator to deal with its growing garbage problem.

“But the government should carefully consider the public opinion and seek suggestions from residents to choose the right location,” he said.

Construction should not start before the majority of residents have reached an agreement with the government, he added.

China Daily

Shenzhen plans world’s largest incinerator

Apr 6th, 2012

by Editor.

Choi Chi-yuk and Cheung Chi-fai

Sep 15, 2011

Shenzhen plans to build the “world’s largest” rubbish incinerator, capable of processing 5,000 tonnes a day, in an effort to cope with the almost five million tonnes of domestic waste produced by the city each year.

Lu Ruifeng, the city’s executive vice-mayor, told a group of Guangdong provincial People’s Congress delegates on Tuesday that because its landfills could no longer cope with the growing trash pile produced by its 13 million residents, the city was planning to build the world’s largest incinerator, the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily reported yesterday.

Lu said public consultations had been held on site selection. He admitted that where to put the incinerator was one of the most challenging problems for the project.

The Nanfang Daily said Shenzhen planned to build three waste incinerators by 2015 to burn 80 per cent of the city’s rubbish. It said two of the plants would be in Laohukeng andNanshandistrict, both in the west of the city, with the third to be built at an unspecified site in the city’s east.

A report in the Guangzhou Daily said Shenzhen had three waste incineration plants in the pipeline, capable of processing a total of 6,300 tonnes of rubbish a day.

Lu said that in order to meet environmental protection standards for the incinerator’s emissions – smell, liquid, ash residue and airborne ash particles – it would make use of mechanical grate technology to improve combustion. It would also adopt advanced management and stick to the highest global air quality standards, the Nanfang Daily reported.

It said Shenzhen was dealing with 4.8 million tonnes of trash a year.

Michelle Au Wing-tze, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong), said Shenzhen was taking a wrong path in waste management.

“Guangzhou has just started to ask people to separate and recycle waste, but Shenzhen is heading in the opposite direction,” she said.

“It is definitely not an image boost to tell others the incinerator will be the world’s largest.”

Au said that if the incinerator had any adverse environmental impacts, like dioxin pollution, it would not just hit Shenzhen and Hong Kong but could spread far beyond the region.

Last year, the daily per capita waste disposal rate in Shenzhen was 1.26kg, compared to 1.28kgin Hong Kong and 0.77kg in Guangzhou.

Hong Kong is also planning to build a large incinerator, with a capacity of 3,000 tonnes a day, on a reclaimed site at Shek Kwu Chau, south of Lantau Island. Environment officials have not ruled out the need to build an extra incinerator to cope with mounting waste.

Waste incineration projects are a sensitive issue in Guangdong, with proposals for new plants often met by fierce local demonstrations, forcing plans to be put on hold. In January, more than 1,000 residents from two districts of Guangzhou staged separate protests against incinerator projects near their neighbourhoods.

Growing environmental awareness among mainlanders as living standards have improved in recent years have fuelled more protests over environmental concerns.

Copyright (c) 2011. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved

Burmese python gobbles up island goat, no kidding

No meal is too big for a hungry python. That is what staff at the Shek Kwu Chau Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre discovered when they came upon a four- meter-long Burmese python that swallowed their resident goat.

Kenneth Foo

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No meal is too big for a hungry python. That is what staff at the Shek Kwu Chau Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre discovered when they came upon a four- meter-long Burmese python that swallowed their resident goat.

A staff member, surnamed Kwan, said the snake was seen about 7am yesterday in the middle of a grassy patch with a huge bulge in its mid-section.

It was immediately suspected of swallowing the goat kept by the center to provide a form of animal therapy for recovering male addicts.

“The snake was bloated and couldn’t move at all, so it was easy for a few of us to trap it with a dog cage,” Kwan said.

The python was made to purge itself of the dead goat, which was the size of a Golden Retriever.

Police soon arrived at the scene with a snake-catcher and together they transported the culprit to nearby Cheung Chau police station.

It is now awaiting transfer to an animal management center run by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in Sheung Shui.

A department spokeswoman said after assessing its physical condition, the reptile – Burmese pythons are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance – will be released to the countryside.

Growing up to six meters in length and 80 kilograms in weight, the python feeds mostly on birds and small mammals, but has been known to attack pets on rare occasions.

However, there is minimal public safety risk, as pythons are not known to attack humans, intrepid snake handler William Sargent said.

Public input welcome, as long as it favours Airport Authority’s plans

Public input welcome, as long as it favours Airport Authority’s plans
Howard Winn
May 29, 2012

The Airport Authority issues its project profile today for building the third runway at Chek Lap Kok and triggers the start of a statutory process that gives the public a mere 14 days to send comments to the director of the Environmental Protection Department. These comments are then supposed to be taken into account when the department prepares an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study brief that sets out what the EIA needs to consider.

This is a key stage of the process, because the judge who presided over the judicial review of the Hong Kong-Zhuhau-Macau bridge said that this was the time to object to and comment on the project, rather than after the EIA report was produced.

Fourteen days is the standard period to lodge comments, but given the size and significance of this project, a longer period would have been appropriate, assuming that is, the government is really interested in the public’s views. You get the sense that the current administration is only interested so long as the public agrees with its plans. The authority has made much of a survey it commissioned that found 73 per cent of respondents favoured building the third runway. A subsequent survey for the WWF and Greenpeace found more than 73 per cent believe it is important to consider the social and environmental costs when building the runway.

In its press statement yesterday, the authority appeared to be bending over backwards to appear accessible, transparent and so on.

“To facilitate stakeholders’ exchange of views, AAHK will set up technical briefing groups and invite environmental experts, green NGOs, industry representatives and relevant government officials … with a view to addressing the potential environmental impacts arising from HKIA’s [Hong Kong International Airport’s] expansion to a three-runway system.” There’s even going to be an electronic newsletter to keep the public informed of the EIA process and studies. This is all very encouraging, but it would take a massive change in the authority’s aloof culture for this to be a meaningful exercise.

Despite the authority’s apparent conversion to openness and transparency, the one thing it won’t be doing is conducting a social return on investment study. This is a study that examines the impact of the project on the community at large. Indeed, the Legislative Council’s environmental panel asked the airport to conduct one, together with a carbon audit and a strategic assessment.

When we asked the authority if it intended to comply, we received the lofty reply that there was no generally accepted methodology for these studies and, in any case, it wasn’t obliged by law to conduct one. That may be true, but given that the authority has pledged to make Hong Kong’s airport the greenest in the world, you’d have expected a more enlightened response.

Burning issue

South Lantau families are worried about the potential impact an incinerator to be built on Shek Kwu Chau will have on their children’s already fragile health
Charley Lanyon (
May 29, 2012

Last year, Rosa Ma and her eight-year-old daughter boarded the ferry in Mui Wo and headed into town for a ballet lesson. As soon as they disembarked at the Central ferry terminal, Ma’s daughter, Sun-yi, became uncomfortable. “She said she felt attacked by the dust on her face,” says Ma.

By the end of the lesson, Sun-yi was having trouble breathing. Racing against a full-blown asthma attack, they boarded the ferry home, where, in south Lantau’s clean air, the little girl was finally able to regain her breath.

Sun-yi, who suffers from asthma and eczema, has been diagnosed with an elevated immunoglobulin level that makes her 17 times more sensitive to the environment than other children her age. Ma monitors the air quality index every morning to ensure it’s safe for her daughter to venture outdoors.

Yumi Yeung, another Mui Wo resident, moved to the area from Aberdeen with her family seven years ago to seek relief for her youngest son, who suffered serious asthma attacks every two to three months that required being admitted to hospital. Doctors seemed powerless to help and medication offered no relief. After the move, however, the boy’s condition improved rapidly. The asthma attacks stopped and within six months he was off medication.

For families such as these, south Lantau offers more than a pretty beach: it represents a chance for normality and a childhood free of debilitating health problems. But with the government’s plan to build a mass burn incinerator just six kilometres away on Shek Kwu Chau island, parents such as Ma and Yeung feel their children’s health is under attack.

For now, the plan is on hold. Last month, the Environment Bureau was forced to abandon its HK$23 billion funding request for the incinerator, leaving the decision of whether to move ahead with construction up to the next government. But it seems inevitable it will be built because the city’s three major landfills are forecast to be exhausted by 2014, 2016 and 2018.

The effects of the new incinerator have been debated since 2008, when a shortlist of sites was announced. But such controversy is not limited to Hong Kong; incineration has been a hot topic worldwide for decades. There’s even a Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), founded in 2010 and with a membership of more than 650 grass-roots groups, NGOs, and individuals in 90 countries.

Dr Kenneth Tsang Wah-tak, a respiratory medicine specialist in Hong Kong, says incinerators pose two main dangers: dioxins and airborne particulate matter.

“Dioxins are basically fumes that, depending on wind flow, can cause worsening cases of asthma in children,” says Tsang. Dioxins are also known carcinogens. “[Although] we don’t know of a direct relationship between instances of cancer and incinerators, it would be easy to extrapolate that dioxins could expose kids to a risk of the development of cancer later on.”

According to the World Health Organisation, experiments have shown that dioxins affect a number of organs and systems. Dioxins that enter the body – typically through food – endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed and stored by fat tissue. Dioxins have a half-life of an estimated seven to 11 years.

Meanwhile, particulate matter, Tsang says, goes directly into the lungs and is associated with the deterioration of lung function.

A 2008 report, “The health effects of waste incinerators” by the British Society for Ecological Medicine, says two large cohort studies in the United States have shown that fine particulate air pollution causes increases in death from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, among others. It also says that higher levels of fine particulates have been associated with an increased prevalence of asthma.

Nitrogen dioxide, another pollutant produced by incinerators, has been shown to inflame the lining of the lungs, increase the susceptibility to lung infection, and increase the likelihood of respiratory problems. Tsang says there are many other chemicals from incinerators whose dangers we are as yet unaware of.

Elvis Au, an assistant director at the Environmental Protection Department who is spearheading the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator project, says the plant will “showcase the best technology in the world” and be “totally different” to the old incinerator that closed down 20 years ago.

This new generation of incinerator ensures a cleaner burn by burning waste in a highly turbulent environment at 850 degrees Celsius for more than two seconds. This should ensure the complete combustion of all waste and organic material, including the toxic dioxin compounds. Toxic fly ash, a by-product of this process, will be collected, mixed with cement and disposed of in landfills.

To clean the chimney emissions, the facility will also use a combination of filtering technology, including selective catalytic reduction (to remove nitrogen oxides) and activated carbon (to remove dioxins).

The incinerator will be kept up to European Union standards, the most stringent in the world. “That’s why even a distance away, say, in Cheung Chau, about 3.5 kilometres away … it is pretty safe. There is no significant impact at all,” says Au.

An EPD report in December last year notes that with the new incinerator, levels of nitrogen dioxide in Cheung Chau and south Lantau are projected to rise to 17 and 26 micrograms per cubic metre respectively. This is still below the stated government air quality objective of 80 micrograms per cubic metre – and WHO’s recommended healthy level of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

For the most part, the real impact of modern incinerators on health is still unknown. Most published epidemiological studies relate to older incineration plants. Epidemiology, by its nature, after all, involves retrospective studies.

“Proponents of new facilities tend to dismiss the older research as irrelevant,” writes Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist with the University of Ulster, in a 2009 statement to the Ringaskiddy Incinerator inquiry in Ireland. “Opponents take a contrary view, arguing, not unreasonably, that similar claims of safety were made in relation to those older facilities when they were operating.”

Howard adds: “The modern incinerators tend to be much larger than those operated historically, so that although the emissions concentrations have reduced, the total mass of pollutant emissions may even increase.”

There’s no doubt that something must be done about Hong Kong’s looming waste crisis. We produce 13,800 tonnes of waste per day – among the world’s most prolific trash producers.

But nobody wants anything potentially unpleasant in their neighbourhood and the “not in my backyard” phenomenon can stall vital public works projects indefinitely.

Yeung says something as small as recent local roadworks were enough to put her son in hospital with an asthma attack.

“I moved into a rural area to avoid the pollution of cities – where my son could have a healthier environment to grow up in,” she says. “There are so few truly ‘rural’ areas in Hong Kong; it is wrong of the government not to protect them.”

Au says the site was chosen only after a “very objective, vigorous, systematic site search process starting with 21 sites all over Hong Kong”. Shek Kwu Chau was chosen over Tuen Mun mainly in an attempt to more fairly distribute unwanted facilities across Hong Kong. Tuen Mun is already home to a landfill and a proposed sludge incinerator.

Au says he has been tirelessly meeting with community members to reassure them. Since 2008, he’s had 120 different consultation engagement activities. But his work does not seem to have had the desired effect.

Says Ma: “[Au] says we’ve been consulted, but is he listening?”


Description: A protest against the government's plan to build an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau

Description: A representative from an environmental group points out the location of the proposed incinerator on a map

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A representative from an environmental group points out the location of the proposed incinerator on a map

Supermarkets dumping 29 tonnes of food a day

Green group says four chains are tossing out items that are still edible – enough to feed 48,000 families
Lo Wei
May 28, 2012

Despite frequent reports of rising demand for handouts at food banks, Hong Kong’s four supermarket chains are throwing out 29 tonnes of edible food every day, according to a study by a local green group.

The discarded food was enough to feed 48,000 three-person families, said one food bank manager.

“These supermarket chains have the ability and the responsibility to donate and recycle food waste,” said Michelle Au Wing-tsz, the deputy environmental manager of Friends of the Earth. She said the four companies the group investigated – ParknShop, Wellcome, CR Vanguard and Jusco – held a 53 per cent share of Hong Kong’s retail sector.

Au’s team visited refuse collection points for five outlets of the four chains from March to May. Each store disposed of an average of 135kg of food a day and one-third of the waste – 45kg – had not passed its expiry dates.

Given that the chains had 650 outlets in Hong Kong, the group estimated that the total amount of food being discarded daily was about 87 tonnes, with 29 tonnes of it still edible.

Of the food that had been dumped, 47 per cent was vegetables, some still fresh and with its packaging intact, Au said. Fresh fruit was also found and loaves of bread that were still five days away from their sell-by date.

According to Celia Fung Sze-lai, the group’s environmental affairs officer, water or sometimes bleach was poured over some of the discarded packaged food to stop scavengers from taking it home. “This is wasteful and unscrupulous,” she said.

The group urged the government to bring in waste disposal fees and a landfill ban on food waste from the industrial and commercial sectors. It also urged supermarkets to donate edible items to food banks or charity groups and send anything expired or rotten to be turned into compost or animal fodder.

St James’ Settlement People’s Food Bank service manager Connie Ng Man-ying said a system was needed to link those disposing food with those collecting it. At present, the food bank mainly receives food from individual donors.

Ng said the 29 tonnes of food could readily feed over 48,000 three-person households for a day. “Though vegetables can only be kept for a few days, we believe that if they donated all 29 tonnes, we, together with some churches and other charities would be able to receive and distribute all of it,” she said.

There was growing demand for help from the food bank, Ng said, with 2,000 recipients last month – up from 1,600 the month before.

She suggested the government legislate to protect food donors from being liable to prosecution if recipients suffer health problems caused by consuming handouts.

ParknShop and Wellcome both said they offered discounts on foods nearing their expiry date and would return any expired food to suppliers to reduce waste.

Wellcome said it would consider recycling food waste if feasible. CR Vanguard also said it would consider donating food if practical, and if it could maintain the quality of the food being given away. ParknShop said it did not discard enough food for it to be worth donating or recycling.

Jusco said one of the company’s branches was already recycling unsold food products and would look at the details of its current operation before considering any expansion of the scheme.

Three die as electric taxi explodes

Concerns are raised about possible fatal design flaw in green vehicles after deadly collision in Shenzhen
Choi Chi-yuk
May 28, 2012

A fatal road accident in Shenzhen at the weekend has raised concerns about the safety of electric cars developed on the mainland amid an ongoing central government push for them to be more widely used.

At about 3am on Saturday, a speeding sports car rear-ended a BYD E6 electric taxi, causing the cab to catch fire, killing the driver and two passengers, according to The Southern Metropolis News.

Police said the driver of the sports car had been drinking. He fled the scene with three young women in the car, but turned himself in yesterday.

One witness, another taxi driver, said: “The sports car must have been driving at between 150 and 200km/h when it passed me. I was driving at more than 90km/h.” He added that he saw the BYD taxi in flames on the roadside a few minutes later.

Numerous calls to BYD for comment went unanswered yesterday.

The electric taxi and its occupants were incinerated, the report said.

A member of the rescue team said that, based on the wreckage, it was possible that an explosion occurred in the electric car.

The accident raised concerns, largely online, over the safety of electric cars, the report added.

Lo Kok-keung, an engineer with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that a fully charged lithium battery could explode in a serious crash.

“The crash could result in a short circuit, which, in turn, could make the battery hot and eventually explode within a matter of seconds,” Lo said. “This is the major hidden danger of electric cars that doesn’t exist in vehicles that consume petrol.”

With support from the central government, BYD has poured billions of yuan into developing its electric vehicles, offering tens of thousands of yuan in rebates for buyers. The Shenzhen government has also spared no effort in building new charging stations.

Shares in the Hong Kong-listed carmaker soared in 2009 upon word of the environmentally friendly push, and after the high-profile backing of US billionaire Warren Buffett. But the stock plunged last year on poor sales.

About 300 BYD E6 taxis and 200 buses, all of which run solely on electricity, are operating on the streets of Shenzhen.

Lo suggested that makers of electric cars install circuit breakers on each battery, to help avoid future explosions in accidents. “The safety of electric vehicles could certainly be raised significantly by doing so,” he said.

In a move to become China’s electric vehicle capital, Shenzhen in March set a goal to replace more than 50 per cent of the city’s internal combustion engine buses with electric or hybrid models by 2015.

Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin said during the current National People’s Congress in Beijing that within three years the city would ban all vehicles that failed to meet the country’s advanced emission standards. Xu said 3,000 electric or hybrid vehicles were put into use in Shenzhen last year, and 2,000 were planned for this year.

In Shenzhen, every electric bus put on the road has received a one million yuan (HK$1.22 million) subsidy since 2010, half from the central government and half from Shenzhen’s. Subsidies for hybrid buses were increased from 300,000 to 600,000 yuan last year.

Description: The burnt out cab was later taken away for inspection.