Government to limit use of cars
Government agencies have been told to stop using official vehicles one day a week based on their license plate numbers, according to a notification for an energy-saving and emission reduction program to be implemented across the country. The program, part of government efforts to protect the environment and promote sustainable development during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), was published on the central government's official website Tuesday. According to the program, the measures were specially designed for various fields, such as enterprises and schools. Some Web users applauded the government's efforts, while others questioned the feasibility of limiting the use of government vehicles. Lian Peng, a freelance writer, wrote on his Sina Weibo microblog that it was difficult to distinguish private cars from official ones, and the ban would result either in drivers using two license plates, or the government buying more vehicles. A pilot project for government agencies to use bicycles will be launched. Government workers' autos were also encouraged to be parked one day a week based on plate numbers. Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, praised the positive efforts made by the government to reduce emissions. However, such efforts would not have apparent effect, Niu told the Global Times Tuesday. Niu suggested that the root of the problem was energy supply, and the fundamental approach should be to develop technologies and adopt better equipment to improve efficiency, as well as change lifestyles and production methods. Zhu Lijia, director of the public research department of the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times such measures will not actually promote the reform of the official vehicle system, and would not impact the core of the system. Military told to cut emissions
The government's efforts to save energy and reduce harmful emissions have spread to a new front: the country's military.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) and armed police should work to build energy-efficient barracks and develop energy-saving models for logistics, consumption and training, said a nationwide emission-reduction plan. "Efforts to save resources in the military are an important part of the country's energy-saving and emission-reduction efforts," the plan said. It lays out that the PLA will scale down administrative expenses, make greater efforts to conserve fuel, procure environmentally friendly products and recycle military uniforms. PLA garrisons will coordinate their use of civilian vehicles with local governments to enhance transportation efficiency. Xinhua
Automobiles: Pollution & Energy Use
July 15, 1999
It is possible that no invention has had as profound an effect on society as the passenger automobile. It did not take long after its introduction in the early part of this century for the auto to quickly become the primary means of transportation in the United States, where there are now 752 motor vehicles for every 1,000 people (World Almanac 211). While no other country can match the excessive automobile use of the U.S, it's not for lack of trying. Even in China, where the use of bicycles by its citizens is legendary, the number of cars has been doubling every five years for the past 30 years (World Resources Institute, hereafter "WRI" 172). But reliance on cars is not without its problems&emdash;the most obvious being air pollution and energy consumption. Pollution: General
Pollution by cars causes lung cancer, respiratory problems, urban smog, and acid rain (Brown 25). By 1970, after decades without government regulation, air quality had become a serious problem. The first federal Clean Air Act was passed during the Nixon Administration to curtail the ever-increasing amount of pollution caused by automobiles and industry, and Congress passed an updated version in 1990 (WRI 182). However, the Clean Air Act didn't prohibit pollution; it simply defined an "acceptable" amount. Further, the legislation addressed only certain airborne contaminants, while ignoring others. Perhaps most significantly, although bad air was outlawed, it still exists. More than half of the people in the U.S. live in areas that failed to meet federal air quality standards at least several days a year (30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, hereafter "30 Simple Things," 11), and around 80 million Americans live in areas that continually fail to meet these standards (WRI 63). Despite the Clean Air Acts, the reality is that air pollution continues to be a major public health problem. As bad as the air is in the U.S., in other countries which have waited too long to address the pollution caused by cars, it's worse. Mexico City, São Paulo, New Delhi, and Bangkok are grappling with serious air problems. And much of that pollution is caused by private automobiles (Brown 25). Pollution: Ground-Level Ozone
One way cars create pollution is by contributing to the amount of ground-level ozone (not to be confused with the atmospheric ozone layer). In the atmosphere, the ozone layer shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation rays. But on the ground, ozone is another matter, causing hazy smog and respiratory problems. Most ozone pollution is caused by motor vehicles, which account for 72% of nitrogen oxides and 52% of reactive hydrocarbons (principal components of smog) (30 Simple Things 11). The seriousness of ground-level ozone should not be underestimated. According to the World Resources Institute: Ozone pollution has become widespread in cities in Europe, North America, and Japan as auto and industrial emissions have increased. ... Breathing ozone concentrations of 0.012 ppm&emdash;levels typical in many cities&emdash;can irritate the respiratory tract and impair lung function, causing coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain ... Evidence also suggests ozone exposure lowers the body's defenses, increasing susceptibility to respiratory infections (65). Pollution: Lead
Cars also pollute by emitting lead from leaded gasoline. Although the use of lead in gasoline is banned in the United States, leaded gasoline is common in other countries. In fact, of the countries for which data is available, 43% use nothing but leaded gasoline. Many of the rest use at least some leaded gasoline in their energy mix. This is a definite cause for concern: One of the oldest metals used by humans, lead is a cumulative neurotoxin that impairs brain development among children and has been connected to elevated blood pressure and resulting hypertension, heart attacks, and premature death in adults. Emissions from vehicles is the largest source of lead exposure in many urban areas (WRI 266-267). The effects of all this pollution on human health are unsettling. A study of U.S. cities found that mortality rates were 17-26% higher in cities with the dirtiest air compared to those with the cleanest air. Not surprisingly, the study also found correlations between bad air and lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease. The risks translate roughly to a two-year shorter life span for residents of dirty-air cities. On a global basis, estimates of mortality due to outdoor air pollution range from about 0.4-1.1% of total annual deaths (WRI 63-64). In the U.S., 30,000 people die every year from automobile emissions ("Bicycling and Our Environment" 1). [Also see our separate page on lead.] Pollution: Global Warming
Perhaps even scarier than the direct damage to our bodies from auto pollution is the fact that car emissions are contributing to an overall warming of the entire planet, which could destroy the world's food chain. Cars emit carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas. In fact, they emit a lot of it: 20 pounds per gallon of gas burned (NRDC 12, Zuckermann 29). Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased by 30% since preindustrial times, and much of that increase is directly related to the burning of fossil fuels. According to the Worldwatch Institute: "CO2 levels are now at their highest point in 160,000 years, and global temperatures at their highest since the Middle Ages" (Brown 26). The effects of this global warming are frightening: rising sea levels, dying coral reefs, spreading of infectious diseases, and extreme weather conditions, including droughts, rare forest fires, historic floods, and severe storms. Even more frightening, these events are not just predictions&emdash;they're happening right now (Brown 26). Energy Use
The amount of energy used by automobiles is staggering. Transportation of all types accounts for more than 25% of the world's commercial energy use, and motor vehicles account for nearly 80% of that (WRI 171). In numerical terms, the figures are hard to comprehend. The ...