Saturday, July 26, 2014

London is Cleaning Up It's Air

Following Zoe Williams’s article on pollution in the capital I’d like to reassure readers that the recent spate of alarmist claims are ridiculous and taken out of context (Welcome to London – the planet’s most toxic town, 8 July). Read more @ the Guardian

Emissions research “has found nitrogen dioxide concentrations on Oxford Street to be worse than they are anywhere else on Earth”, Williams says. Anyone who has visited Beijing, Mexico City or Delhi really knows what bad air pollution looks and feels like. Pollution levels in London are in fact lower than in many other world cities: average levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from monitoring sites near busy roads in Stuttgart, Paris, Munich, Rome and Milan are all higher than those recorded for London.

Some cities place their monitoring stations in vast green parks or traffic-free courtyards, hence the lower figures they report. We do the responsible thing and place our monitoring stations directly in the most polluted roads. Most experts do not rank locations, precisely because of the variability between sites, and as such it’s misleading to talk about a “worst location”.

Even though it was estimated in 2010 that there were 50,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, says Williams, “pollution still isn’t taken seriously as a health issue”. At City Hall we are the first to admit that London’s air quality is not good enough. Buses and taxis are major contributors to air pollution on busy roads, so we’ve retired 900 of the oldest buses, and are putting 1,700 ultra-low emission hybrid buses on our streets. Removing 3,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis met initial opposition but we have pushed on: from 2018 all new taxis will be capable of zero emissions.

We’ve also been busy making 400,000 homes and public buildings energy-efficient and have established a £20m fund to tackle air quality hotspots.

We’ve reduced emissions of NOx by 20% and particulates by 15% since the mayor was elected, and we have halved the number of Londoners living in areas that break EU limits for NO2. The mayor is now drawing up plans for an ultra-low emission zone from 2020, which no other city has ever proposed. This is expected to more than halve emissions of NOx and dangerous particles.

“The fact that only 2% of [children] cycle to school, compared with 50% in the Netherlands, is attributable to the fact that we don’t take road safety seriously across the country,” says Williams. City Hall has invested millions into reclaiming public space for pedestrians and cyclists. As a cyclist I’ve personally appreciated these changes, and the £1bn investment into cycling, which has seen a 55% increase since the mayor was elected. And with more measures, continuous monitoring and a pollution awareness campaign set to launch this autumn, I hope any reasonable observer would agree that London is in the vanguard of improving air quality.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Coal Shortage for the Thermal Power Plants in Andhra Pradesh

As against the requirement of at least 80,000 tonnes of coal every day, the State is able to get 55,000 tonnes as of now and officials are worried over the prospects if the supply situation worsens further. Senior officials of the A.P. Power Generation Corporation, who are working overtime to ensure supply of coal from conventional sources as well as outside, are keeping their fingers crossed over the availability of the fuel to meet the requirements.

According to officials, the 1,760 MW Dr. Narla Tatarao Thermal Power Station at Vijayawada required 30,000 tonnes of coal, 1,050 MW Rayalaseema Thermal Power Project 15,000 tonnes and the Krishnapatnam thermal power plant 20,000 tonnes on a daily basis to ensure generation at full capacity.

Alarmed over the situation, the State government has dashed of a letter to the Central government seeking allotment of 80,000 tonnes a day to meet the demand of the thermal power plants. The government, in its communication to the Union Coal Ministry, maintained that the State could generate 2,000 MW against the total installed capacity of over 3,000 MW due to shortage of coal. 

Read more @ the Hindu

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Maps of Methane Leaks in US Cities

New maps from Google reveal the locations of natural gas leaks in U.S. cities and highlight the extent of "fugitive" methane emissions associated with the nation's aging infrastructure. The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Google Street View to map leaks in the nation's natural gas system, using cars equipped with air-quality sensors that collected millions of readings across Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island. The analysis found thousands of methane leaks in highly-populated areas — particularly in Boston, where half of the pipes are more than 50 years old and leaks were detected every few blocks.

Although the leaks did not appear to pose explosion hazards, their prevalence highlights the potential for fugitive methane — a greenhouse gas with an impact 20 times that of carbon dioxide — to contribute to global warming. Read more @ Yale 360

More maps @ EDF

Congestion Pricing Could Work for Beijing (EMBARQ)

China’s capital city of Beijing is already home to 5.4 million cars, the most of any Chinese city. The country’s rising wealth means that this is a trend unlikely to stop. This rapid motorization has led to many city government “quick fixes” aimed at easing congestion problems in the short-term. In Beijing and other cities, these include creating numerous expressways, flyovers, and tunnels throughout the city. But this infrastructure that immediately “fixes” the problem never quite seems to keep up with the mounting number of vehicles on the road for long.

To provide better air quality and faster, safer mobility for its 11.5 million residents, on November 5, 2013, the Beijing launched its “Work Plan for Vehicle Emission Control 2013-2017”. This plan includes lowering car-licensing quotas from 240,000 to 150,000 cars per year, while increasing the annual quota for electric vehicles from 20,000 units in 2014 to 60,000 units by 2017, and creating the charging stations needed to support these vehicles.

Congestion pricing is one of the most contested components of the work plan, but is also one of the potentially transformational moves that will bring sustainable transport investment and equitable mobility to Beijing. The success of congestion pricing will rest on how this new charging scheme is perceived and how its revenue is reinvested in the community.

Read more @ EMBARQ