Is China finally waking up to its pollution crisis?

Expect the global warming issue to blow up again as the Obama Administration gears up to issue new EPA regulations. Conservatives have argued for years now that anything the US does is moot given China’s massive pollution problem. But as Jonathan Cohen points out, China is finally starting to move on these issues, as even hard-core dictators can be affected by choking pollution:

In recent years, the Chinese have imposed fuel mileage and appliance efficiency standards, similar in many respects to those in the U.S. Just this week, officials in Beijing announced that the government would be taking another 5 million aging cars off the nation’s road. China has also set up pilot versions of tradable pollution permits—in other words, “cap-and-trade” schemes—for various industries. Officials say they hope to make these nationwide soon. And one reason the Chinese government was so eager to sign that massive new deal with Russia, allowing the import of natural gas, was because it’s desperate to find alternatives to coal. “For a long time, opponents [of new regulations] said we’ll get hoodwinked, because China won’t do anything,” says David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s just not true.”

This is a positive development, and hopefully it continues. If China gets more serious about this, then it can give political cover to those around the world trying to put a lid on carbon emissions.

Cohen points out that any new EPA regulations can put further pressure on China to act.

Expect to hear plenty of noise about this over the coming months.

Push for a carbon emissions tax

A carbon emissions tax is a huge long-shot in today’s political climate, but that’s not deterring former congressman Bob Inglis.

Debate over Keystone Pipeline

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There are all sorts of opinions on the Keystone Pipeline. Many environmentalists are very much opposed, while many people concerned with weaning ourselves off of Mid East oil are in favor of it, even with all the new oil American is producing through fracking. The Arkansas oil spill complicates the issue of course.

Here’s T. Boone Pickens discussing natural gas, oil and the pipeline.

Air-Powered Cars

Here’s a new kind of hybrid car that might just start another revolution in car design.

If you’re looking for a hybrid with superior mileage per gallon, then compressed air may be your thing. PSA Peugeot Citroen says its new C3 VTi 82 hatchback–which it unveils at a motor show next month–will go 81 miles, in optimum conditions. That’s compared to the Toyota Prius’s roughly 45 mile performance. And there’s no need for expensive, and heavy, lithium batteries. The compressed air system provides power as well as storage: as with other hybrids, it recovers energy from a gasoline engine when you brake or slow down.

From the video, you can see that the Air Hybrid system works in three modes, depending on the neighborhood. Above 43 miles per hour, it uses a conventional engine. Around town, it goes on air alone. And then there’s a combined mode when you need more power at lower speeds. An electronic management unit switches modes automatically.

The idea of powering a car using compressed air isn’t particularly new–several companies have explored the technology. But PSA Peugeot Citroen is the first major one to go big on it, developing a drive-train it hopes to use across several models, including light commercial vans. The company hasn’t released prices yet, saying only that the vehicles will be “competitive both in European and international markets,” but that is likely to be a major draw. Lithium batteries remain uncompetitively expensive.

Hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer incredible potential, and we’re seeing progress with hydrogen fuel cells as well. But with compressed air you have a novel approach that produces ZERO emissions when in that mode. That’s pretty impressive. Expect to hear much more about this, as it’s also much more practical than things like the AIRpod, which relies totally on compressed air but doesn’t have the size and range of this hybrid.

Google pushes towards zero-carbon emissions


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As a company, Google has a bunch of issues. They have absurdly terrible customer service and treat their affiliates like crap.

But they treat their employees well, and they are also one of the companies leading the charge in carbon emissions and sustainability.

As the double-decker bus turns onto Charleston Road and starts winding through Google’s Mountain View, Calif., campus, I stretch out in the business-class-size seat, admiring the smoothness of the black leather and the plush gray carpeting at my feet. A spacious table expands to hold a laptop, which can connect to the vehicle’s Wi-Fi system. This $800,000 luxury double-decker is one of 73 buses that Google owns and operates. (It leases 26 others.) Each day the fleet transports about 4,500 employees, or about a third of those working at the Googleplex, as the company’s headquarters is known.

It turns out that Google (GOOG) isn’t offering a free ride simply as an employee perk — the buses actually save the company money. Yes, there’s the added productivity of 4,500 employees working an extra couple of hours each day while riding to and from work. But Google’s bus service is about much more than that. Real estate in Mountain View is expensive. Underground parking spaces cost as much as $85,000 to construct. (Really!) If Google had to build a parking space for each of the bus riders, the price tag would run to almost $400 million. And that’s not counting the lost opportunity cost of not using that land for new office buildings.

Google has made other investments in transportation too. If, during the day, a Google-ite needs to run an errand or pick up a sick kid at school, he or she can hop into one of 52 electric and hybrid cars parked on campus. The company also encourages employees to drive electrics. It has spent an estimated $3 million to $4 million to install 395 chargers — the largest corporate electric-vehicle infrastructure in the country.

Finding creative solutions to energy issues has become a major priority for Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page in recent years.

Read the entire article. Other companies may not have the resources to do everything Google is trying, but they can set a great example when it comes to cost-effective solutions for responsible companies.

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