Pollution Solutions Succumb to Infighting

Pollution in China has reached heights forcing officials to acknowledge “ecological progress” as essential for both the nation’s well-being and their own political legitimacy. While forming policy to help clean up China’s infamously polluted environment is no easy task, the New York Times reports on how bureaucratic infighting further complicates the mission:

What the leaders neglect to say is that infighting within the government bureaucracy is one of the biggest obstacles to enacting stronger environmental policies. Even as some officials push for tighter restrictions on pollutants, state-owned enterprises — especially China’s oil and power companies — have been putting profits ahead of health in working to outflank new rules, according to government data and interviews with people involved in policy negotiations.

For instance, even though trucks and buses crisscrossing China are far worse for the environment than any other vehicles, the oil companies have delayed for years an improvement in the diesel fuel those vehicles burn. As a result, the sulfur levels of diesel in China are at least 23 times that of the United States. As for power companies, the three biggest ones in the country are all repeat violators of government restrictions on emissions from coal-burning plants; offending power plants are found across the country, from Inner Mongolia to the southwest metropolis of Chongqing.

The state-owned enterprises are given critical roles in policy-making on environmental standards. The committees that determine fuel standards, for example, are housed in the buildings of an oil company. Whether the enterprises can be forced to follow, rather than impede, environmental restrictions will be a critical test of the commitment of Mr. Li and Xi Jinping, the new party chief and president, to curbing the influence of vested interests in the economy.[...]

Also see CDT coverage of record levels of air pollution in Beijing this past winter, the 16,000+ dead pig carcasses found floating in rivers near Shanghai, or other examples of China’s environmental woes.