Tuesday, March 31, 2009

comparing international standards

One of the most important first steps in an air pollution control strategy is to set air quality goals. Here, I will explore from a standards perspective how China's air quality targets match up to the rest of the world's. I'll be looking at three sets of standards - China's, the United States', and the World Health Organization's.

Let's start with sources:

China air quality standards: The target for ambient air in urban areas in China is the National Grade II Standard, which is specified by National Standard GB 3095-1996, first issued in 1996 and then updated in 2000 (surprisingly, the update actually created less stringent air quality targets for certain pollutants).

United States air quality standards: The US EPA specifies air quality targets in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

WHO air quality standards: International WHO air quality guidelines were issued in 2005, replacing the European-focused standards published in 2000. The 2005 WHO guidelines include both ideal targets as well as interim targets for developing countries. For comparison, I have included here both the final targets and the Interim Targets 1.

Pulling numbers from each of the above sources, I created the following table:


1) China lacks an 8-hour standard for Ozone as well as any standards for PM2.5, though monitoring and reporting of these is supposedly going to begin this year.

2) Although the US EPA's PM10 standards do not appear very stringent, this is because the US EPA has prioritized limiting PM2.5 concentrations (which cause greater health impact) instead.

3) China's air quality standards are not as stringent even as the WHO's suggested Interim Targets 1.
These targets are proposed [by the WHO] as incremental steps in a progressive reduction of air pollution and are intended for use in areas where pollution is high. These targets aim to promote a shift from high air pollutant concentrations, which have acute and serious health consequences, to lower air pollutant concentrations. If these targets were to be achieved, one could expect significant reductions in risks for acute and chronic health effects from air pollution. Progress towards the guideline values should, however, be the ultimate objective of air quality management and health risk reduction in all areas.
I have heard a rumor that China will revise its air quality standards this year; if and when they do, I am curious to know how aggressive the new targets will be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

3-21-09 api missing

I'm not sure why, but Saturday's API was never reported.

In 2008, there were two days for which the API was not reported. There were no missing days in either 2007 or 2006.

Update 3/31/09: The API for 3/21 has been added to the database.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

subsidies for energy-saving and new energy vehicles

Earlier this year, China announced new subsidies for energy-saving and new energy vehicles, including hybrids, EVs, and fuel cell vehicles. The announcement was covered widely in the media / blogosphere, for example Xinhua, Reuters, and China Car Times. I didn't get a chance to post about this last month; although I'm late now, I still think it's worth providing some commentary and more information.

First of all, since I like to reference original sources whenever possible, I was able to find relevant info posted both on the MOF website as well as MOST's. The MOF notice is only a brief summary, but the MOST page seems to be the complete announcement.

The lead of the Reuters story is an accurate and concise summary of the program:
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's central government will subsidize purchases of clean-energy vehicles for public fleets in 13 cities to help the automobile industry develop green technology, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The trial scheme will promote the use of electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles by public transport operators, taxi firms and postal and sanitary services in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai...
A key point here is that the subsidies are for public fleets only. As far as I can tell, Chinese consumers are not eligible to receive these subsidies, although both the Xinhua and China Car Times stories describe them as such. Unless I am misreading the MOST announcement or there is another subsidy program that I am not aware of?

In any case, some technical details of the program are as follows:

- For small passenger cars (乘用车) and light-duty commercial vehicles (轻型商务车), the subsidies start for new energy vehicles which have at least a 5% fuel economy improvement as compared with traditional vehicles.
- For buses (客车), the subsides start at 10% improvement.
- The actual amounts of the subsidies (per vehicle) are given in Appendix Tables 1 and 2, which I have translated here:

One huge question I still don't know the answer to: how much is the total program worth? (No total is given in the MOST document.) The Xinhua story includes this paragraph:
China is keen to encourage the use and manufacture of new energy vehicles as its fast growing vehicle population is putting high pressure on environment protection and energy-saving targets. The central government pledged to provide 10 billion yuan (1.46 billion U.S. dollars) in the next three years to auto makers to help upgrade their technology and develop alternative energy vehicles.
But this is confusing - is this 10 billion RMB for this program? Or another program (I'm thinking the 863 program)? More details as I learn them.

greenpeace china beijing api widget

Greenpeace China has generated a cool new Beijing API website widget that supposedly updates automatically every day:

Looks good!

For a general introduction of API, see this post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

dust storm blowing into beijing?

Stay inside today; Beijing's API currently stands at 268 (PM10 concentration 397 ug/m^3). This is considered Very Unhealthy. (More info here.)

I thought this was a dust storm blowing into Beijing, but now I can't find any media references to one outside of this article from Sunday. (FYI, Sunday's API peaked at 119).

This is the second day this year with an API above 200. The first was the day of the Mandarin Oriental fire.

Update 3/19/09: Check out this terrific NASA image from Sunday:

Again, this was Sunday, whose API was 119. Still no word on the cause of yesterday's 268.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

looking for data biasing in 2008 blue sky data

Last year, a report by consultant Steven Q. Andrews highlighted apparent data biasing in Beijing's API data, particularly in the years 2006-2007. My take on his report (from last October) is here.

One of Mr. Andrews' core findings is that there were statistical anomalies in the frequency of Beijing's reported pollutant concentrations around the "Blue Sky Day" cut-off point. Specifically, there were too many reported values just below the cut-off, and too few just above, suggesting data manipulation to meet targets for number of Blue Sky Days. For reference, here is the excellent Figure 2 from Mr. Andrews' report:

Mr. Andrews' graph shows frequency of reported values vs. PM10 concentration, for which the Blue Sky Day cut-off value is 150 ug/m3.

With 2008 behind us, I decided to take a look back to see if a similar phenomenon existed last year. After querying Beijing's API data from MEP's datacenter, I parsed the data for each year into frequency by units of 5. In other words, I counted the number of days with API from 0 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 15, etc., all the way to 500. Rather than use PM10 concentration, I looked directly at API, for which the Blue Sky Day cut-off is 100. The results for 2006, 2007, and 2008 are graphed here:

Notes and Conclusions:

1) As expected, the 2006-2007 data biasing identified by Mr. Andrews is clearly visible here. In 2006, there were 50 days with API from 96-100, but only 2 days with API from 101-105. In 2007, there were 56 days with API from 96-100, and only 5 days with API from 101-105.

2) As for 2008, to be honest, I'm not sure how to interpret the data. Although there is clearly no dramatic spike in frequency of reported API values just below 100 (a good sign), there are only 3 days with API from 101-105. I do not know enough about statistics to know whether or not this is significant. (For reference, there were 16 days in the range 96-100, 9 days in the range 106-110, and 12 days 111-115). Anyone have any insights?

Related posts:
summary of beijing's 2008 air quality
beijing meets 2008 blue sky day target
problems with the "blue sky day" metric

grass mud horse in new york times

Screen capture this morning - Grass Mud Horse story is just below the lead photo

Wow. The grass mud horse made the front page of the New York Times. Although off-topic for this blog, I mention it here because a) it's hilarious, and b) the Times' story talks about the grass mud horse in the context of censorship, which I have written about occasionally. According to the Times, the recent explosion of the grass mud horse phenomenon has, "raised real questions about China’s ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet."

More info:
Global Voices - More on Grass Mud Horse

Find harmony by owning your own grass-mud horse
Hoax dictionary entries about legendary obscene beasts

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MEP org chart

The English-language org chart on MEP's website is outdated, so I made a new one:

Update: pdf version now hosted by CELB. (Thanks, Charlie!)

Sources: http://www.mep.gov.cn/dept/jgzn/gszn/;
MEP Organizational Rules, translated by CELB / Squire, Sanders & Dempskey L.L.P.

Note: I translated a few items differently from the CELB/SSD document. Notably:

政策法规司, CELB/SSB translated as "Legislation Department," but I used "Department of Policies, Laws, and Regulations";
科技标准司, CELB/SSB translated as "Scientific and Technological Standard Department," but I used "Department of Science, Technology, and Standards."
环境监察局, CELB/SSB translated as "Environmental Monitoring Bureau," but I used "Bureau of Environmental Supervision / Monitoring."

Comments on this?

For reference, the old, outdated org chart is here.