Chip Jacobs

Musings, opinions and linkage from author Chip Jacobs. Visit chipjacobs.com to learn more (dare ya)

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Overdue Spring Cleaning

April 17th, 2015 · No Comments

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THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHEMICALS 

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be speaking this July in Beijing at the first-ever China US Clean Air Symposium  Al Gore will be the keynote speaker, and there are other remarkable talents and experts lined up behind him. Excited beyond belief to share our message in the country that will go a long ways to determining the fate of the global environment and 21st Century power structure.

WHAT SOME OF THE REVIEWERS ARE SAYING … 

FOREWORD REVIEWS (5 hearts): The rapid industrialization of the world’s most populous nation has far-reaching effects for the world’s environment and economy, and in The People’s Republic of Chemicals, journalists William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs detail how extreme China’s pollution problem has become … 

BOOKLIST (starred review) : The Smogtown (2008) authors return with a look at China’s air pollution problem, and it is a doozy … The prose is sharp, vivid, and direct, leading readers through hard-hitting chapters about the Beijing Olympics, America’s Walmart, made-in-China addiction, and the casual way in which eco-statistics are manipulated … While the tone can sometimes seem a bit glib, its bracing nature will likely be a tonic to those seeking a straightforward take on this urgent subject while also making for a surprisingly enjoyable read.”

KIRKUS A scathing denunciation of how America outsourced its industrial capacity to China, a package that included catastrophic pollution. Investigative journalists Kelly and Jacobs again team up in a hard-hitting follow-up to their 2008 environmental page-turner Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. As “self-deputized gumshoes” covering the environmental beat, the authors felt they could not ignore the ugly reality in China. As the air in LA improved, in China, a “nauseating, gray-brown cloud from an oversaturated sky” was darkening the landscape …”

LIT/RANT” … (A) well-sourced jeremiad about the state of China’s environmental problems. “The number of Chinese succumbing annually to preventalbe smog deaths effectively matched the number of people killed in the U.S. on 9/11 every day of the year,” write William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs.

* CHINADIALOGUE.NET “… Authors William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs joined forces once before … to write their climate classic, Smogtown: the Lung Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, a remarkable 2008 exposé and memoir about air quality, politics and health in Southern California’s smog belt. This time, the duo … (goes) farther afield to investigate air pollution that threatens to put a chokehold on the Pacific Rim … The writers do know their stuff. Kelly and Jacobs delve behind the headlines and grim statistics of coal emissions and cancer village mortality to focus on the latest struggles to prevent thousands of needless deaths per day from China’s poisoned environment

AWARDS & SELECT COVERAGE

People’s Republic of Chemicals named IndieFab Book of the Year Award Finalist 

- The People’s Republic takes silver at the Pacific Rim Book Festival & medals at the Los Angeles Book Festival 

Booklist names People’s Republic one of top 10 best books on sustainability

- Writing the People’s Republic – Q&A in Wall Street Journal’s ChinaRealTime

- Chip’s Q&A comparing Los Angeles and Beijing in the New York Times

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Foreword Reviews: Book is “Outstanding,” Garners 5 Heart Critique

November 21st, 2014 · No Comments

UnknownThe rapid industrialization of the world’s most populous nation has far-reaching effects for the world’s environment and economy, and in The People’s Republic of Chemicals, journalists William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs detail how extreme China’s pollution problem has become. The authors do a nice job of mixing firsthand journalism with history and using a reporting style that thoroughly explains an important but potentially wonkish in a way that should make it accessible and interesting to a large audience.

Kelly and Jacobs trace China’s current situation back centuries, from the East–West connections formed during Marco Polo’s journeys there, through the growth of China’s coal industry, up through the export-driven economy that has grown in recent decades—and the constant increase in new factories to feed that demand. While industrialization has exploded, it has also created a series of crises in public health, with millions of Chinese adults dying prematurely due to air pollutants. The pollution has obvious implications for climate change worldwide and for health in other nations in the region, and how China deals with the problem will clearly impact the future of international trade and energy policy.

[Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: Bill Clinton · California · Chip Jacobs · climate chaos · Dirty environmental deals · environmental catastrophe · environmental policy · EPA · global warming · globalization · greenhouse gases · groundwater pollution · Historical serendipity meets calamity · People's Republic of Chemicals · Politics · Pollution exporting · Smoggy China · Smogtown book · Societal Disenchantment · Soil contamination · The People's Republic of Chemicals · Toxic riots · Transpacific Drift

Booklist awards “The People’s Republic of Chemicals” a starred review. Breathe it in while you can.

November 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Riots cops with shields at Qidong protest agailnst industrial waste pipeline

BOOKLIST magazine awards our sequel to Smogtown, The People’s Republic of Chemicals, a starred review!: The Smogtown (2008) authors return with a look at China’s air pollution problem, and it is a doozy. Combining a crash-course history lesson that includes everyone from Confucius to Chairman Mao with a withering rant about the country’s nonexistent environmental policies, Kelly and Jacobs give readers everything they need to know about why China is ground zero for the planet’s future, including its coal bases serving as “global warming daggers.” There is a lot to take in here, and the narrative’s power is as much due to its style as substance. The prose is sharp, vivid, and direct, leading readers through hard-hitting chapters about the Beijing Olympics, America’s Walmart, made-in-China addiction, and the casual way in which ecostatistics are manipulated. Kelly and Jacobs pillory the actions of as many American politicians as Chinese, noting policy missteps and political weakness with a take-no-prisoners attitude that readers will find refreshingly candid. While the tone can sometimes seem a bit glib, its bracing nature will likely be a tonic to those seeking a straightforward take on this urgent subject while also making for a surprisingly enjoyable read. — Colleen Mondor

* Back from the Big Apple book tour, Part I. Here are the links where I talk Frankenstein of emissions on The StreetAOL-Huff Post Live & Brainstormin’

→ No CommentsTags: Clean Air Act · climate chaos · Dirty environmental deals · environment · environmental catastrophe · environmental policy · EPA · Free trade implications · globalization · greenhouse gases · groundwater pollution · Pacific Ocean · People's Republic of Chemicals · Pollution exporting · Smoggy China · Smogtown book

Los Angeles – Beijing – People Get Ready!

November 1st, 2014 · No Comments

Your truly

Your truly

* More terrific, early reviews for The People’s Republic of Chemicals, which goes on general sale in two weeks.

- Booklist magazine awards our sequel to Smogtownstarred review in a humdinger of a critique that we have to embargo for now. Check back soon to read what they say, because it’s incisive.

- Kirkus praises book for its potent narrative and historical sass – A scathing denunciation of how America outsourced its industrial capacity to China … in a hard-hitting follow-up to their 2008 environmental page-turner Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. As “self-deputized gumshoes” covering the environmental beat, the authors felt they could not ignore the ugly reality in China. As the air in LA improved, in China, a “nauseating, gray-brown cloud from an oversaturated sky” was darkening the landscape. China’s reliance on coal to fuel its industrial machine depends on coal imports from the U.S., creating a new market for the American mining industry … The authors have harsh words for the “Clinton-Gore pairing,” which allowed American industry to get out from under environmental regulation and benefit from cheap Chinese labor. Despite Gore’s prescient warnings, they write, they “failed to construct any backstop of ‘ecological accountability,’ especially in the world’s fastest-growing economy.” …  A powerful warning that “a growing cloud of toxins aloft [are] swirling in the winds around the world” and recirculating the pollution we hoped to shed.

* Me in the Los Angeles Times’ series on China’s Airpocalypse here and here.

* Official book launch with signing in Pasadena at the always-fabulous Vroman’s bookstore on Wednesday, November 19. Digital versions already available here: Amazon & Barnes & Noble 

* Classic (or asthmatic) photographs from the Los Angeles Times about a California smog siege, circa 1950. Don’t blame me if your fingers start looking for a gas mask. Obviously, the Southland’s experience wrestling the beast is being dissected across the Pacific. The Mandarin version of  Smogtown – known there as The Los Angeles Haze Revelation — continues to do well in China, and I’m delighted to announce that sometime in 2015,  a Mandarin version of The People’s Republic of Chemicals will be available as well.

* A little about freeways, where the turmoil is endless and the car culture rarely buckles.

- “They Moved Mountains (And People) to Build Freeways”Gizmodo. Teaser: In the Santa Monica Mountains—a low but rugged range that divides the San Fernando Valley from the rest of Los Angeles—highway engineers essentially tore Sepulveda Canyon apart and then rebuilt it to allow the San Diego Freeway (I-405, or “the 405″ to Angelenos) to pass through. Beginning in August 1960, earthmovers carved a gorge 1,800 feet wide and 260 feet deep through the mountains, accomplishing in two years what might take natural erosional forces two million. The bulldozers’ total haul: 13 million cubic yards of slate, shale, and dirt. Workers then built massive retaining walls to keep the unnaturally steep slopes from slipping and reconfigured the area’s natural drainage through a series of culverts. By 1962, an eight-lane concrete freeway with a maximum grade of 5½% sliced through the mountains.

- The concrete monsters that never left the drawing board – from the L.A. Times. When suburbs began spreading out across Southern California after World War II, officials envisioned a sprawling freeway system to get people around. But big chunks of that system were never built, and that’s one cause for the clogged commutes many face.  Unbuilt freeways were planned in what are today some of L.A.’s most congested areas. The Beverly Hills Freeway was supposed to connect the 101 and 405 freeways along Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Another freeway was supposed to run alongside La Cienega Boulevard, La Brea and Highland avenues, connecting Los Angeles International Airport to the Hollywood Bowl. Routes were also planned following Pacific Coast Highway and train tracks that would have connected Manhattan Beach to the 405. Map: L.A.s forgotten freeways

* Potentially world changing. Mrs. Robinson: your husband recommended plastics to a starry-eyed college graduate in the the late-1960s, and who knew they might help cool a scorching planet. CBS This Morning: “The plastics industry creates 1.8 trillion pounds of carbon emissions every year, but now one company has figured out a way to take the pollution and turn it into plastic you can hold in your hand. Located in Costa Mesa, California, Newlight Technologies is forming plastic out of thin air. Literally. ”We would be breathing this right now,” said Mark Herrema, Newlight’s CEO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: Al Gore · atmospheric karma · Cancer · Chip Jacobs · Chip news · Clean Air Act · climate chaos · Dirty environmental deals · environmental catastrophe · environmental policy · EPA · global warming · globalization · greenhouse gases · People's Republic of Chemicals · Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers · smog gumshoes · Smoggy China · Smogtown book

End of Summer Summation … The People’s Republic of Chemicals Will Roll This Fall

August 29th, 2014 · No Comments

PRC Prelim Cover

* With less than three months to go until the launch of The People’s Republic of Chemicals,” here’s some leg-teasing, early reviews. Many ones pending.

- Five star from Clare O’Beara: the book “should make you think more about where your electronic and other goods come from, and I hope you will feel moved to contact companies through their social media sites, or by writing, and ask them about their policy on pollution.”

- Five star from Pam Thomas: “An exceptional book and a brilliant read. I learnt so much about air pollution and the collateral damage …”

- Goodreads recommendation love: Introducing China and Third World Medicine

Meantime, around the warming planet, here are a few of the stories we think are worthy:

* People’s misconceptions about water usage. From the Los Angeles Times:

- Americans use twice the amount of water they think they do, and appear to be particularly oblivious about how much H2O they flush down the toilet on a daily basis, according to new research. In a paper published online Monday in the journal PNAS, a researcher concluded that Americans underestimated their water use by a factor of 2, and were only slightly aware of how much water goes into growing the food they eat. ”In general, people tend to underestimate water by a very large magnitude,” said study author Shahzeen Attari, an assistant professor in the Department of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. The study’s conclusions were based on an Internet survey of 1,020 people, and comes amid a national drought that extends from the Pacific Coast to portions of the Mississippi Valley, with the most severe conditions in California. ”Most Americans assume that water supply is both reliable and plentiful,” Attari wrote. “However, research has shown that with climate change water supply will become more variable due to salinization of ground water and increased variability in precipitation.” …

* Just in case you figured you’d be ducking the effects of global warming in your lifetime, better start buying shorts and taking boating lessons, among other steps. From the “Native Intelligence” writers at the  LA Observed blog:

-  Sea level rise from global warming is likely to lead to unprecedented coastal, bay, and inland tidal flooding in California within the next several decades. And never before seen floods are likely to begin occurring annually within the lifetimes of Californians now under 40 years old, according to new research from Climate Central, an independent nonprofit organization of journalists and scientists based at Princeton University. This is no longer an abstract, distant threat or a scene from a Hollywood movie. Real people alive today will experience these floods in California. A new interactive map developed in a collaboration among Climate CentralStamen Design, and New America Media–in which I participated–shows the who, what, where, when, and why of these “surging seas.” …

* Speaking of climate change, the West is going to be thirsty, dry and hot for the foreseeable future, and that’s no green-mongering exaggeration. From the Washington Post:

- When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season. When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail. Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable …

- If the drought could take disturbing selfless, here’s what it’d show (courtesy of Vox.com) 

* The forgotten trash that well doom us all. From Medium.com 

… Plastic doesn’t readily biodegrade, of course. That is one of its great anti-microbial virtues, as well as its curse. It can persist for centuries in landfills, and longer in the sea, scientists believe. Plastic does photodegrade, however. Exposed to sunlight, it loses its useful qualities, its plasticity—becomes stiff and brittle and breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. Meanwhile, as a typical 2-liter soda bottle made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) circles the drain, eventually breaking up into bits, it acts as a molecular sponge for whatever poisons it encounters, absorbing “persistent organic pollutants” like PCBs—which are known to cause cancer in lab animals and are probable human carcinogens linked to increased incidence of melanomas, liver cancer, and gall bladder and brain cancer. Many POPs are “lipophilic,” that is, attracted to fatty tissues, but also oily substances such as petroleum-based plastics. Hideshige Takada, a Japanese scientist studying plastic particles from the Western Pacific Garbage Patch, found them to be one million times more toxic than the ambient seawater in which they floated …  A Greenpeace study estimated that it would take 68 ships trawling 24 hours a day an entire year to cover 1 percent of the Pacific. They would burn up a tremendous amount of fuel and do more harm than good …

* So far, the damage mankind has inflicted on Mother Earth is far outpacing man’s effort to reverse it. And the clock is ticking on our emissions-reduction sweepstakes. Only everything is swinging on it. From The New York Times:

- Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report. Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control. The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities …

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Smogtown Goes to China, arguably civilization’s most polluted nation ever, and Opens Some Bloodshot Eyes.

June 6th, 2014 · No Comments

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Our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (The Overlook Press/Penguin Group U.S.A.) was released in November 2008, just as the U.S. economy began to crater towards the Great Recession or worse. Despite that horrific timing, the book garnered critical success, but still came up a wee bit short of our expectations. The monstrous air pollution, toxic waterways and blighted soil of China 2.0 that sprung up there after its admission to the World Trade Organization has done more than capture the green-world’s horror. It’s given our book about one of the modern world’s first environmental catastrophes a second life. Smogtown is now available in China, both in its original English form and, excitedly, also in Mandarin, replete with newly designed cover and title through the Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers: Los Angeles Haze Revelation. So far, the later is doing very well if the grapevine and Amazon rankings mean anything. We say, thank you, China, and thank you to our foreign publisher. With The People’s Republic of Chemicals - our sequel about China’s eco-morass and Western blood  on its hands  – poised on the launching pad — we couldn’t be more humbled.

For kicks, we thought we’d use Google Translate to see what Chinese experts and book-readers are saying about the book so far as a lodestar to start reversing Asia’s ecological blitzing, a good slab of it from producing Western manufactured goods. Excuse the choppy language in their comments. Not easy switching tongues, though we’ve tried to clean up the comments for obvious grammar issues

From academician Zhisheng: This is a vivid representation of the Los Angeles air-pollution control process; popular science; it has science, but it’s not daunting; it is literary, well-founded; concise language, the story exciting.

Academician Zhou Weijian: Free breathing air is not a dream; the key is how to do it.

Reader Susan:  … the Los Angeles Haze Apocalypse (or Revelation as it’s also called)  is worth reading. It took four nights, as well as time to (read it going to) work (on) the subway; it’s emotional reading. History always repeats stages. Many of the plots in the book are taking place  on our side. Facing the haze, many Los Angeles/California officials vowed that within five years that they’d strive to solve the problem. Was it possible? Los Angeles suffered the first serious haze in 1943. After sixty years of treatment, the air quality in Los Angeles has undergone a drastic improvement, though in comparison Los Angeles smog still ranks first among major U.S. cities. Controlling visible pollution is an enormous task. I recommended Chinese officials take time  to read this book. In fact, as a matter of controlling China’s smog, everyone should. Blind pursuit of so-called “high quality of life” — luxury cars, mansions — continue to make “contributions” to the problem. So in order to have the blue sky,we need to  drive less and a promote a low-carbon life.

Reader Vividts: I do not know where to begin. Even with an essential, home air purifier, buying 3M masks and paying attention to the daily PM2.5 index, friends and colleagues will not stop lamenting that this happening (read predicament) cannot be saved. At the ideological level, we’ve never seriously thought about where haze(smog in all its  malicious varieties) comes from? Why frequent days of fog and haze? What do we have to exchange to get back the blue sky? We lack the ideological inspiration. Is controlling smog really is the government’s task? After reading this book, I do not think so. From the government down to every citizen, we should unite to think about this question. The environment cannot be cured by power of the government/Establishment on its own. In order to promote change that produces ideologically effective action, this book is worth reading! Star recommendation.

Reader Lianggh17: Smog has hit us. You can’t avoid it. The issue is how to solve this vexing problem. Anyone can enjoy their own things from the book.

 

 

 

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So Many People, So Much Murk & Karma – the People’s Republic of Chemcials

March 31st, 2014 · No Comments

PRC Prelim Cover

* Chip discusses his forthcoming book, The People’s Republic of Chemicals, and global smog on National Public Radio affiliate KCRW. Madeleine Brand, who hosts the “Press Play” show, had some terrific questions.

* Speaking of The People’s Republic of Chemicals, here’s the working dust-jacket description. It and our author bios will be updated soon.

Maverick environmental writers William J. Kelly and Chip Jacobs follow up their acclaimed Smogtown with a provocative examination of China’s ecological calamity already imperling a warming planet. Toxic smog most people figured was obsolete needlessly kills as many there as the 9/11 attacks every day, while sometimes Grand Canyon-sized drifts of industrial particles aloft on the winds rain down ozone and waterway-poisoning mercury in America. In vivid, gonzo prose blending first-person reportage with exhaustive research and a sense of karma, Kelly and Jacobs describe China’s ancient love affair with coal, Bill Clinton’s blunders cutting free-trade deals enabling the U.S. to “export” manufacturing emissions to Asia in a shift that pilloried the West’s middle class, Communist Party manipulation of eco-statistics, the horror of “Cancer Villages,” the deception of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and spellbinding “peasant revolts” against cancer-spreading plants involving thousands in mostly censored melees. Ending with China’s monumental coal-bases decried by climatologists as a global warming dagger, The People’s Republic of Chemicals names names and stresses humans over bloodless numbers in a classic sure to ruffle feathers as an indictment of money as the real green that not even Al Gore can deny.

* As we announced earlier, Smogtown will be published in Mandarin and available in Mainland China soon through Shanghai Scientific & Technical Publishers. One version of it at least is already available here at Amazon.com - China.

* While five-and-a-half-years behind 0ur book launch (but who’s counting?), the Glendale Public Library was gracious enough to give Smogtown a wonderful review.

Smogtown isn’t a new book, but the conflicts covered in its last chapters are still breaking news. The LA Times’ Trash talk and the real dirt on a toxic tour of Los Angeles, just featured one of Smogtown‘s history makers, Communities for a Better Environment … The earlier history in this book is entertaining and enlightening. In contrast with dry accounts of the decades-long struggle the auto industry waged to avoid emission limits, this book covers selected battles by focusing on personalities like Haagen-Smit and vendettas like the war waged on Detroit by Supervisor Kenneth Hahn for better pollution controls on cars. Its chapters make for great drama instead of dry documentary. Scientists, politicians, lobbyists and determined bureaucrats on both sides fight it out, while residents used to burning their trash and driving their cars suffer through smog alerts but are difficult to motivate … Smogtown is great reading because much of the history it covers is still unfolding today: The BNSF Southern California International Gateway project, an inter-modal facility four miles from the port, is being actively opposed by the City of Long Beach, Communities for a Better Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other groups. Long Beach is suing Los Angeles over approval of the SCIG EIR. The I-710 expansion EIR, in the works for years, is being held up and is actively opposed by a large coalition proposing its own Community Alternative 7.  For more background on Southern California’s goods movement infrastructure, environmental justice movement, research on fine particulate pollution, and personalities still making news today, Smogtown is a great resource.

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The People’s Republic of Chemicals … the antecedents

March 13th, 2014 · No Comments

PRC Prelim Cover

* From Bill’s second of three articles in advance of the book for Inside Climate News.

China’s plans to build remote industrial coal complexes to power its economy are putting the country on a   trajectory to wipe out global gains in tackling climate change, scientists fear. But other nations share responsibility for China’s fossil fuel binge and the toxic air people breathe as a result—especially the United States. China’s pollution scourge has its roots in trade agreements set in motion by President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s that allowed U.S. companies to take advantage of cheap labor and lax environmental standards in the world’s most populous nation—where coal energy reigns supreme. Many times the United States helped China finance dirty sources of energy. As much as one-third of China’s carbon load on the atmosphere can be traced to exports of cheap clothes, electronics, machinery and other goods consumed by Americans and Europeans, experts say. And while free trade to the West has made China’s economy boom, Chinese people have paid dearly due to the resulting smog from factories and coal-fired power plants. “We made a big mistake” by not including environmental safeguards in trade policies with China, said Mickey Kantor, Clinton’s chief trade negotiator and later Secretary of Commerce. Now a practicing attorney in Los Angeles with expertise in international relations, Kantor has been shuttling back and forth between the United States and China in one capacity or another for 20 years. He calls China’s air “a disaster” and says that each time he visits “it’s worse.” …

* Bill’s first piece for ICC about China’s greenhouse-gas-busting plans to erect otherworldly-sized coal bases in the hinterlands was a blockbuster that we greatly expand on in The People’s Republic of Chemicals. Here’s a snippet.

The biggest coal base is Shenhua’s Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base in Ningxia, about 700 miles west of Beijing. Conceived in 2003, Shenhua said it broke ground in 2008 on the 386-square-mile coal base. That’s an area about three-quarters the size of Los Angeles that’s being covered bit by bit over a period of some 17 years with coal mines, power plants, power lines, pipelines, roads, rail tracks and all manner of chemical processing plants with their towers, smokestacks and tanks.

* Other environmental headlines worth noting.

-  ”Air Pollution May Double Risk of Autism, USC Study Concludes,” KPCC

… Researchers reviewed the records of more than 500 children — about half of whom were considered to be normally developing and half of whom were diagnosed with autism, a complex set of brain disorders characterized by problems with social interactions and communications. “In particular for traffic pollution we found children exposed to [the] highest amount of pollution relative to the lowest were at a two-to-threefold increased risk for autism,” says Heather Volk, a researcher for the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who led the study …

 -  ”Algae Converted to Crude Oil in Less Than An Hour, Energy Department Says,” NBC News

The day when planes, trucks and cars are commonly revved up on pond scum may be on the near horizon thanks to a technological advance that continuously turns a stream of concentrated algae into bio-crude oil. From green goo to crude takes less than an hour. The goo contains about 10 percent to 20 percent algae by weight. The rest is water. This mixture is piped into a high-tech pressure cooker where temperatures hover around 660 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of 3,000 pounds per square inch in order to keep the mixture in a liquid phase. Inside the cooker are “some technology tricks that other people don’t have” that help separate the plant oils and other minerals such as phosphorous from the water, Douglas Elliott, a fellow at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., explained to NBC News. An hour after being poured into the cooker, gravity separates the crude oil from the water as it flows out the other end. “We can clean up that bio-crude and make it into liquid hydrocarbons that could well serve to displace the gas, diesel, and jet (fuel) that we make from petroleum now,” he added …

[Read more →]

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In Advance of Our New Book, We Gotta Give the Credit to the Prophetic (Gary – that’s you!)

March 3rd, 2014 · No Comments

AsiatoAmericasMigMap

 

The People’s Republic of Chemicals, our sequel to the critically acclaimed Smogtown, will be out this fall through Rare Bird Books. It’s a different type of Chinese environmental book, one that weaves in history, foreign occupations, “Cancer Villages,” bitter truths about Clinton-Gore globalization, toxic riots, stomach-churning health statistics and a whole lot of climate chaos, especially from breakneck coal-burning. Another element we’re stoked about including involves so-called Trans-Pacific Drift of Asian-borne dust and pollution that floats across the ocean to swamp the West Coast, with increasing frequency. One of the first publications to write about it was Science Daily in 1998. But among the maiden mainstream newspaper folk, you can’t beat former Los Angeles Times environmental reporter Gary Polakovic, a man whose chops treading where few others had need little embellishment. Check out what Gary wrote in 2002, years and years before scientists had their knickers in a bunch over what their test data is revealing. Link.

Wind-borne pollution from China and neighboring countries is spreading to California and other parts of the nation and Canada as a result of surging economic activity and destructive farming practices half a world away, according to new scientific studies. The research shows that a mix of pollutants, from dust to ozone to toxic chemicals, travels farther than once realized. Federal air quality officials fear that the foreign-born pollution will complicate efforts to cut smog and haze, and make it more difficult to meet federal air quality standards in California and other parts of the West. Although most of the pollutants are similar to ones already found in North America, they do add to health concerns by slightly increasing year-round concentrations of gases and tiny particles in the air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During peak winds, however, dust and smoke levels can approach or exceed health-based standards. Federal scientists, too, are beginning to probe the dust for bacteria and viruses that may be attached. The made-in-China label on haze over North America is partly due to increased productivity of consumer goods ranging from patio furniture to CDs to toys. But it also is a result of deforestation, over-grazing and intensive cultivation of fragile soils. Researchers at universities on both sides of the Pacific have been tracking the haze for a number of years along its 6,000-mile journey, using satellites and aircraft, land-based sensors and computer models. In one severe dust storm in spring 1998, particle pollution levels in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia soared. In Seattle, air quality officials could not identify a local source of the pollution, but measurements showed that 75% of it came from China, researchers at the University of Washington found. ”A larger fraction of the haze we see is Asian, far more than we ever dreamed,” said Tom Cahill, professor of atmospheric science and physics at UC Davis. “We’re a small world. We’re all breathing each other’s effluent.” … 

All we can to Gary is 1) you don’t how right you were, and; 2) thanks.

→ No CommentsTags: AQMD · environment · environmental policy · EPA · globalization · Pacific Ocean · People's Republic of Chemicals · Smoggy China · Smogtown book · Societal Disenchantment · Transpacific Drift

People’s Republic of Chemicals – Preparing for liftoff

February 18th, 2014 · No Comments

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- Bill Kelly and I are pleased to announce that the sequel to Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, (Penguin Group USA/The Overlook Press – 2008) will be out this fall by Rare Bird Books. The title is set. It’s The People’s Republic of Chemicals. We’re beyond excited. Also this year, Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, one of the largest outfits of its kind, will be printing an edition of Smogtown in Mandarin. Here, again, is us talking about Asia’s deplorable air quality and its connections to L.A. on CCTV America, China’s state-owned equivalent of CNN International.

- As part of our pre-launch, Bill is writing a series of China-related articles for Inside Climate News, the environmental New Media site that won the Pulitzer. His first installment, which covered China’s blueprint to erect massive coal plants that could throw climate change over the edge, was popular to put it mildly. Here’s a little leg:

China is erecting huge industrial complexes in remote areas to convert coal to synthetic fuel that could make the air in its megacities cleaner. But the complexes use so much energy that the carbon footprint of the fuel is almost double that of conventional coal and oil, spelling disaster for earth’s climate, a growing chorus of scientists is warning. Efforts by China to develop so-called “coal bases” in its far-flung regions have received scant attention beyond the trade press, but scientists watching the effort say it could cause climate damage that eclipses worldwide climate protection efforts. The facilities, which resemble oil refineries, use coal to make liquid fuels, chemicals, power and “syngas,” which is like natural gas but extracted from coal. The fuels and electricity are then transported to China’s big cities to be burned in power plants, factories and cars. Currently 16 coal base sites are being built and many are operational. One being constructed in Inner Mongolia will eventually occupy nearly 400 square miles—almost the size of the sprawling city of Los Angeles …

- Don’t blame the aliens for this one – a radiation leak in New Mexico. From the L.A. Times:

The Energy Department suspended normal operations for a fourth day at its New Mexico burial site for defense nuclear waste after a radiation leak inside salt tunnels where the material is buried. Officials at the site, known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, activated air filters as a precaution and barred personnel from entering the 2,150-foot-deep repository as they investigate what caused the leak. Radiation sensors sounded alarms at 11:30 p.m. Friday, when no workers were in the underground portions of the plant. Officials at the site discounted any effect on human health, saying no radiation escaped to the surface. But they said little about the extent of the problem or how it could be cleaned up.”Officials at WIPP continue to monitor the situation,” spokeswoman Deb Gill said. “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment. How long the repository would be closed and the effects on the defense nuclear cleanup program were unclear …

- Drought solution or bank buster, desalinization is not some ivory tower concoction. It may be how we survive climate change. From NBC News

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state. Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people. Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water. The process, however, is energy intensive and thus expensive, making it practical only in places where energy is cheap, such as the oil-rich Middle East. But recent technological advances in membrane materials and energy recovery systems have about halved the energy requirements for desalination, giving the once cost-prohibitive technology a fresh appeal in a state gripped with fear that it may be in the early stages of a decades-long mega-drought. ”I think it will turn out that it is very affordable compared to not having the water here in Southern California, particularly with the drought that we are facing and the fact that the governor has just cut off the flow of water from north to south in the aqueduct, the State Water Project,” Randy Truby, the comptroller for the International Desalination Association, an industry advocate, told NBC News. The multibillion dollar State Water Project is a complex conveyance system that brings water from the wetter northern part of the state to farms, industry, and people in the thirsty south. In times of drought, such as now, banking on that water is a risky bet …

 

 

 

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: AQMD · Clean Air Act · Dirty environmental deals · EPA · global warming · groundwater pollution · Overlook Press · ozone · People's Republic of Chemicals · Shanghai Scientific and Technological Publishing House · Smoggy China · Smogtown · Societal Disenchantment