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  • Nov 26, 2014
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Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 3:36am

CAN figures are not unsubstantiated


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

We've been taken to task by a reader for our piece yesterday for which we stand accused of "repeating this unsubstantiated and unproven statement that only a small number of old diesel-engined vehicles are causing a relatively high amount of the roadside pollution".

The piece was based on calculations by the organisation Clean Air Network (CAN) on the basis of the recent release by the Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong's 2010 Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

CAN drew on information from the Transport and Housing Bureau which showed that 10 per cent of Hong Kong's road transport vehicles have old diesel engines in the range of pre-Euro to Euro II.

According to the EPD's data these vehicles account for 73 per cent of total roadside respirable suspended particulates (PM10), and 34 per cent of total roadside nitrogen oxides (NOx).

This may not be rocket science but it is not wholly "unsubstantiated".

Admittedly the figures do not indicate the breakdown of engine types that contribute to emissions on any one day. But they do provide a useful indication as to where the problems lie.

Our reader's point about the dangers posed by poor exhaust systems is well taken.

And we would add the point that poorly tuned engines can emit about 20 times more in polluting emissions than the same engine when properly tuned.

Studies in the US city of Denver showed that "since 1999, one automobile in 20 emits more than the other 19 combined".

Pantyhose inquiry needed

There's been some interest in our pantyhose item in yesterday's column in which we noted that when a Virgin Atlantic A330 evacuated passengers at London's Gatwick Airport earlier this year by emergency slides, 55 people were injured and 40 women had pantyhose fused to their skin, caused by the speed of descending the escape slides.

This led us to reflect that this apparent danger doesn't seem to have deterred female cabin crew from wearing this apparel.

However, it has been pointed out to us that when the Cathay Pacific A330-300 made an emergency landing at Chek Lap Kok in April 2010 with its two malfunctioning engines some 309 passengers evacuated by emergency slides inside two minutes.

Eight people suffered cuts and bruises from using the chutes. But after the emergency was over the big talking point among the female cabin crew was that their pantyhose was undamaged by their ordeal. The disparity in the behaviour of pantyhose in these two events surely warrants an inquiry.

CLSA back on top

We see that CLSA has regained top spot in the 2012 Asiamoney Brokers Poll. Last year, to its chagrin, after being top broker for a number of years, it was pushed into second place by UBS while Citi came third.

The big surprise this year was HSBC, which came second after its fifth position in 2011.

Brokerages that don't do well in these polls tend to be rather sniffy about them, saying they don't really amount to much.

Those that do well seem happy enough and issue press releases. The results are always a combination of merit and the ability to get the vote out.

October cool

Despite the depredations of global warming, the formation of Arctic ice doubled in October, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (INSIDC) in the US.

Scientists say it is the fastest refreezing ever.

The rate of increase since the minimum this year was a near-record, resulting in an October monthly extent greater than the previous low for the month, which occurred in 2007.

However the NSIDC points out that despite the rapid growth, ice extent remains far below normal at 7.0 million square kilometres, 2.29 million square kilometres below the 1979 to 2000 average.

The fast refreeze, scientists say, is occurring because when water loses its ice cover, it allows a lot of heat to radiate out into space.

"As a result of the extra open ocean surface, we see a very fast refreeze in the Arctic," Anthony Watts wrote on his website What's Up With That.

To which one commentator observed: "A completely typical sea-ice season, of the sort happening for millions of years, given star status by satellites and a nervous world."

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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Build it, and they will come! Captam is right, we need to get rid of the private cars. There are almost no acceptable reasons why Hong Kong does nothing to reduce the amount of private cars and numerous reasons why private cars are simply a luxury. Any person with even a slight grasp on the issue in any country in the world understands, often from bitter experience, the impact that building a new road has. At the outset the new road is built to alleviate existing traffic congestion, and to make journey times shorter. At this stage the new road is relatively traffic free (see Central-Wanchai Bypass now). People see this and then go out and buy a car. In a relatively short time the new road is a congested road and traffic jams prevail because car ownership has increased. Somebody then moots the idea of building a new road to ... You get the picture.
Hong Kong has one of the most effecient and inexpensive public transport systems in the world. There simply isn't the need to build new roads to benefit car drivers. Instead of building new roads in urban areas, we should be looking to pedestrianize them. Deliveries can still be permitted at set times. In the long term if car ownership goes down then Hong Kong can also better utilize its limited land. With cars you need not only roads, but also parking spaces.
@ (diesel) vehicles account for 73 per cent of total roadside respirable suspended particulates (PM10), and 34 per cent of total roadside nitrogen oxides (NOx).
EPD data on which vehicles contribute how much roadside pollution is inaccurate because no in-depth surveys have been conducted into diesel vehicles’ operational patterns. The figures assume that vehicles are spread evenly across our roads including the worst pollution spots. This is simply not the case.
Even unscientific random observations will point to the fact that many of the older diesel trucks are engaged on mass logistics operations moving goods between the ports, the airport and other freight distribution points making use of high speed expressways, on which freely moving breezes relatively quickly dissipate the concentrations of exhaust pollutants. Furthermore the drivers of many of these vehicles rarely, if ever, venture into the busiest and most polluted down-town districts, where the quality of air is persistently at danger levels.
The SCMP’s recent photographs of almost grid-locked down-town streets indicate the truer scenario.... wall to wall lanes of private cars, vans (and taxis) in slow crawling traffic with usually a line of Euro II (or higher) franchised buses occupying the inner lanes.
Of course the dirty diesels have to go, but expect no improvement in air quality downtown until you seriously tackle traffic congestion. We need radical pedestrianization. The cars have to go!


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