By on November 28, 2009

There’s room for more. Somewhere. Picture courtesy

Before this year ends, Beijing will have 4 million cars on the roads. Not to worry, says a city official, there is room for more.

Beijing’s car population reached 3.96 million last week, writes the state news agency Xinhua. The city adds 2100 new cars per day. At that rate, the 4m mark will be reached in 19 days.

The Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau said at a press conference yesterday that the city already has removed more than half of its 200,000 high-polluting vehicles from streets this year.

“This contributes to a reduction of 25 percent of the total car emissions in Beijing,” Li Kunsheng, director of the vehicle emission management division of the bureau said. What’s more, “this leaves more room for Beijing’s roaring car population.”

Some Beijingers beg to differ. After a long streak of clean air days, Beijing’s sky is covered by a layer of haze. The smell of coal fires and burned plastic is in the air. Twenty-five out of 28 of the city’s air pollution monitoring stations reported the air as “unhealthy,” Air quality statistics from the US Embassy in Beijing, using a stricter air pollution index method, gave a “very unhealthy” warning.

From my admittedly unscientific perspective, the rotten air has more to do with the winter heating season and the very cold weather which causes mostly coal fired power plants to run on full blast. A few weeks ago, Beijing had celebrated  the best air quality in 11 years.

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17 Comments on “Beijing Drowns In Cars...”

  • avatar

    East, Welcome to the West.  I’m sure the waterways will soon resemble the Great Lakes from the 60’s and 70’s, if they don’t already.  Let’s export our EPA to China and see if their growth continues.  And while we’re at it, let’s send our environmental lawyers with them (and maybe Ralph Nader).

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, lets go back to the days of burning rivers, smog so thick you could cut it with a knife, and cars without seat belts.  Sure, protecting the environment has costs, but it doesn’t have to kill your economy…unless you throw your  market wide open to those who pollute indiscriminately and pay slave wages.

  • avatar

    As the Chinese keep building more cars, you can see the price of gasoline go up each week. Won’t take long to get to  $4+/gal at their current production rate. And they have the money to pay for all that gas.

  • avatar

    What China needs is MORE CITIES.

    Beijing, Shanghai, Hang Zhou, Su Zhou,   and a few others are the most populous areas but in between those cities are like 19th century deserts with nothing there besides poor people. Those poor people move to the cities looking for job opportunities and it causes the overpopulation of the economic zones in the cities.

    When I went driving between ShangHai and other provinces, I’d never seen more “nothing”.

    • 0 avatar

      You must live on the East Coast.  I live in Riverside, CA.  Starting about 15 miles to the east of me, there is 300 miles of nothing until you reach Phoenix, AZ-and that’s on the Interstate.  Go five miles north or south of I-10 and you can really see what nothing looks like.  Every state east of the Mississippi has plenty of nothing in it.

  • avatar

    The waterways in China make the Great Lakes of the 1960’s look like mountain springs they are that bad. I do a lot of business in China and the environment is beyond disastrous. Many wealthy Chinese relocate here in Vancouver for this reason. They know they environment is so bad it will kill them. There is already a cancer in the major cities.
    On a recent visit on my clients was just tickled pink of her new BMW. Really proud of it, so much so it was festooned with Hello Kitty accessories. She lives 6 km from her office. She is on a main subway line but she still drives. It takes her an average of 90 to drive that 6km. The status of owning a BMW is so important to her she wouldn’t think of taking public transit. Oh, and Chinese won’t walk across the street. They’s rather take a taxi.

  • avatar

    Great. Was in Jing 2 years ago and traffic was thick. Can’t imagine how bad it must be now.

    May be geeting daily dose via expat assignment soon enough.

  • avatar
    mad scientist

    What China needs is MORE CITIES.
    Wrong again.  What China (and the world need) is willingness to accept limits on population if everyone is to have a “Western” lifestyle and keep  it sustainable.  The planet can only handle a finite number of people living gluttonously like  Americans; damn those Chinese – they want to be like us!

  • avatar

    I am very much in agreement with mad scientist about population. We are damn lucky China had that one child policy or there would be another 300 million chinese (equivalent to the US popualtion) on top of the 1.5 billion alive today.
    But really dense cities would be advantageous. The average Manhattanite consumes only about 30% as much energy as the average American.
    As the major industrialized nation with the highest per capita consumption, the US needs more than other countries to stabilize or even reduce the population. But according to the Pew Research Center, we’re on our way to 438 million in 2050, up from the current 307 million. 82% will be due to mass immigration.

  • avatar

    I lived in Shanghai in 1999. The air was filthy then and I don’t expect that it’s much better now. Maybe the cars are cleaner, but there’s 10x more of them; add in the widespread use of coal for home heating (yeah, it gets cold in Shanghai) and electricity generation and it’s probably even more gray, sooty, black-boogery now.

  • avatar
    Madeleines Petite French Cakes

    Now that I work in a capacity that gets me acquainted with L.A.’s environmental regulation, Beijing/China has a loooong way to go.  L.A. county has 12 million cars travel in/out of it daily out of a total of just 10 million residents.  I’d imagine if they adopted California’s anti-pollution laws, they would double the number of laws they have on the books in the entire country.  L.A.’s laws are only good enough so in some years it’s not no. 1 when it comes to air pollution.  Some of the stuff to mitigate air impact are simply not available in China or will be available soon due to their cost.   Local laws here can not be used against mobile sources btw, i.e., cars.  Those buggers are regulated by the Feds.

  • avatar

    What is the avg life of a traffic cop there….50?

  • avatar

    Talk of China always seems to bring out a misanthropic streak in some folks. Get rid of humans, and the place would be fine! Well, whatever one thinks of population control, China will soon be experiencing the consequences of the one-child policy and sex-selective abortion. For one thing, it will be importing prostitutes from all over.
    OK, back to topic. B&B, how many people do you know who don’t own a car only because the traffic is awful?

  • avatar

    50merc: it’s not misanthropy. it’s the numbers. Can you imagine what it woudl be like in the US if the population were five times what it is? That’s the density of China (the areas of both countries (excluding Alaska) are comparable). I certainly would not want to live in that country (China, or the US with 5x the population).
    The sex selection in china (and India, which has no one child policy) is certainly disastrous, although, hopefully it will help both countries begin to value women. It will help with the population problem, but in a way that will boost the misery index unacceptably imo.

  • avatar

    It’s a pity it’s not a more well known documentary, but I recommend “The Cars That Ate China”.

  • avatar

    I live in Shanghai…

    Spot-on with the water.  Closest place to Shanghai to go swimming in a lake without fear of a Total Recall-esque growth in Qiandao Hu, about a 5-hr ride.  A lot of Chinese people are embarassed/pissed about how bad it is.  To call Suzhou Creek disgusting would be a compliment, and it’s better than it has been.

    I don’t think the air is that bad.  It ain’t no mountaintop in Colorado, but I don’t find myself choking.

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