One year of clearing the air to greet another

By Han Xiaoping
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, December 23, 2015
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The third problem is related to agricultural areas. After harvest, farmers in China burn millions of tons of straw each year because it is the easiest way to dispose of them. And straw burning is an important cause of the smog that envelops North China in autumn and winter. To prevent the burning of straw, therefore, the State should buy the agricultural byproduct along with the grains and sell it to companies producing methane gas, which can replace coal as fuel in rural areas.

The authorities know the causes of air pollution and have taken measures to treat them. But more needs to be done. For example, as oil prices continue to fall, more Chinese people are buying cars and using more fossil fuels. In 2014 alone, more than 4.1 million SUVs were sold in China - compared with only 1.7 million in the United States - and the number is expected to cross 5 million this year.

The government has no choice but to adjust the oil price mechanism to dissuade people from buying cars that guzzle oil. Car owners may oppose such a move, but they should realize that the health of the population is more important than the comfort of a few.

That air doesn't have any boundaries and the air quality in Beijing cannot be improved in isolation should be made clear to all. For instance, despite shutting down its last coal-powered power plant in May 2013, Beijing has not seen much improvement in its air quality because the many high-polluting plants in neighboring Hebei province have been spreading toxic smoke in all directions.

Given these facts, the authorities are likely to take two new measures in 2016. First, they could strengthen coordination among Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin municipality, so that the whole of North China can fight smog together. And second, they might invest more in energy-saving technologies and new energy industries. These measures are both necessary and urgent because we cannot let the air quality worsen any further in the new year.

The author is chief information officer of, an energy information website.

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