China news


Biodiesel is the common name for a variety of ester-based oxygenated fuels made from vegetable oils or animal fats.  Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil and demonstrated his engine at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris using peanut oil as fuel. One of the first wide uses of biodiesel (transesterified vegetable oil) was powering heavy vehicles in South Africa before World War II. biodiesel can be used in a typical diesel generator without any need for modification, and can be blended with petroleum diesel fuel, the most common of which is a mix of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel known as “B20”.  Pure biodiesel is also known as “B100”.

The primary benefits of using biodiesel include:

  •  Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic.
  •  Biodiesel produces approximately 80% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than standard diesel fuel and almost 100% less sulphur dioxide.
  •  Biodiesel is safer to store and transport as its flash point is about 125°C compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which has a flash point of 55°C.
  •  Biodiesel is more lubricating than diesel fuel, increasing the life cycle of the engine or generator, while fuel consumption and power output are relatively unaffected.
  •  Biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as soybeans, canola, cotton seed and mustard seed.
  •  Biodiesel can be stored anywhere that petroleum diesel fuel is stored without modifications.
  •  Reduced fuel costs. Biodiesel is cheaper to produce than petroleum diesel.  If biodiesel is produced locally, transport costs are also reduced or eliminated.
  •  Biodiesel is a renewable resource.
  •  Production levels and rates can be established to meet demand.
  •  Energy security as fuel can be supplied locally.
  •  Horrible exhaust fumes replaced with the pleasant smell of popcorn.

The primary disadvantages of using biodiesel include:

  •  Limited availability. Biodiesel not readily available in most places. Local production of biodiesel could alleviate this concern, and petroleum diesel could serve as a backup.
  •  Nitrous oxide emissions are increased by up to 15% over petroleum diesel fuel, which can contribute to smog production. Retarding the injection timing can reduce these emissions.
  •  Cold weather gelling. As with petroleum diesel fuel, biodiesel can gel in cold weather. There are simple preventative measures that can be taken to lower the risk of cold weather gelling.
  •  For older vehicles or generators, can require upgrading the fuel lines, as biodiesel can eat through certain kinds of rubber.

Before using biodiesel the following minor adjustments should be made to the diesel engine or generator:
1. Retard the injection timing by 2-3 degrees to overcome the effect of biodiesel’s higher cetane level. This will also causes the fuel to burn cooler, thus reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
2. Biodiesel is a good solvent and is likely to free up a lot of dirt and residue that might be left in the tank and the fuel system after using petroleum diesel. Be sure to start off with a new fuel filter and perform regular checks of the fuel filters when first switching to biodiesel.
3. Replace any natural rubber parts in the fuel system with Viton or other suitable non-rubber material.

Some further considerations for biodiesel usage include:

  •  Biodiesel is a solvent. Painted surfaces must be wiped immediately when using biodiesel. If left on a painted surface long enough, biodiesel can dissolve certain types of paints.
  •  Rags which have been soaked in biodiesel or biodiesel blends should be stored in a safety can to avoid spontaneous combustion.
  •  Biodiesel should be used within one year to ensure that the quality of the fuel is maintained.

The governments of most countries are actively promoting the use of biodiesel.  The US and Europe have over 2 decades of experience with millions of miles logged using biodiesel. The Chinese government has banned the use of grain for ethanol production to ensure that it will be available for food use, and therefore have very ambitious plans for biodiesel.  Current plans are to increase biodiesel output to 200,000 tons by 2010 and 2 million tons by 2020. The government plans to cultivate 13 million hectares of high-grade bio-energy forest by 2020, which will yield 6 million tons of biodiesel.  That would be enough to fuel an 11 million kilowatt power plant.  According to a forestation plan compiled by the SFA, raising biofuel forests in mountain areas will save farmland, make full use of the uninhabited mountains, and increase local people’s family income if they are employed to take care of the trees.

A final note - if you are planning on producing your own biodiesel, most countries will require you to pay tax!  Although you dramatically cut your fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emmissions, if you are powering your vehicle with biodiesel you are required to pay the same road and fuel taxes that are applied to gasoline or petroleum diesel, although some of these costs may offset by tax credits designed to encourage the use of alternate fuels. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

 Blysse and Ellie play in front of the smog covered Bird's Nest
Blysse and Ellie play in front of the smog shrouded Bird’s Nest

Things are finally back to “normal” in the Chinese capital, including the return of some things that are not particularly welcomed.  Here are the top 10 signs that the Olympics and Paralympics are truly over:

1. Security checks have stopped.  I was very pleasantly surprised when I went into Terminal 3 the other day and did not have to submit to a security check simply to enter the terminal.  Likewise, security check points throughout the city have been abandoned, and the black-clad Olympic SWAT force has vanished.  Yeah!

2. Road closures have re-opened.  Many sections of the city which were cordoned off have now re-opened, making it much easier to get around in some cases.

3. Restaurants and clubs are back open. Nearly all of the venues that were closed before the Olympics are open again, except those unfortunate enough not to have survived the forced closure.

4. Al Fresco dining on streets has resumed.   I didn’t really understand why they had to suspend outdoor dining on the streets throughout the games, but they did.  Well, now you can enjoy again, except that the weather has just taken a turn and you will likely be enjoying your latte in the cold rain.

5. Street vendors are back! Just in time for sweet hot yams and tasty lamb skewers!  Yummm.

6. The traffic ban has been lifted.  The streets are back to their pre-Olympic congestion levels after the even/odd liscense plate ban has been lifted.  A lot of people are unhappy about this, and apparently the government is looking at re-instating a similar rule, though not likely as strict.

7. Smog is back with a vengeance!  As a result of the the lift in all of the pollution cutting measures leading up to the Olympics, we are all reminded of just how noxious the air in Beijing really is.

8. DVDs are on sale again! DVD stores are all gradually opening, though their inventory of illegal DVDs certainly leaves a lot to be desired.  No doubt the selection will improve in short order.

9.  Lady Bars are back!  Just when I thought I would never have to be annoyed by another Lady Bar purveyor, they are back in force, and if you are a single man walking anywhere near Sanlitun after 5pm you are likely to accosted every ten steps by someone hoping you are stupid or naive enough to fall into their trap, willfully oblivious to the fact that if you just gave a disgusted look at the last invitation, they are likely to receive a similar reaction.

10. Pushers are back! Perhaps most telling of a relaxation in the city are the purveyors of all things  illicit that roam the streets from Gongti to Sanlitun, nearly as numerous as the Lady Bar pushers, though somehow less annoying as they feel the need to be at least somewhat discreet. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

Paralympic athlete Claudia Biene, Blysse and Ellie
German Paralympic athlete Claudia Biene, Ellie, and Blysse

At 60,000,000 souls, China’s “disabled” population surpasses that of many great nations.  Until recently, despite the installation of wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, and other infrastructure upgrades mandated as part of the package to allow Beijing to host the Olympic games, along with the accompanying Paralympic games, actual sightings of differently-abled people has been rare indeed.  As with all things China, however, the 2008 Paralympic games have witnessed the greatest support and attendance of any such events in history.  Athletes from around the world have been astounded to behold venues packed with spectators, hooting, hollering, and cheering the efforts of all athletes, regardless of nationality, in what may well be one of the best displays of spectator sportsmanship in history.

This is indeed a startling development.  Deng Xiaoping, one of China’s greatest leaders, who almost single-handedly ushered in a new age in China’s development that led to greater international cooperation and the unique state-controlled market economy that is growing like gangbusters, did what he could to foster sympathy and understanding for those whose unique physical attributes don’t quite fit into the norm.  During the cultural revolution, his eldest son, Deng Fupang fell from a high building and, having been branded as a counterrevolutionary did not receive medical attention and was basically left to rot, along with the other counterrevolutionaries, ultimately leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.  When his father secured his place as China’s next great leader, he appointed Deng Fupang as the head of the new China Disabled Persons’ Federation in 1983.  Even such support from the highest echelons of political power in China did little to further the path to acceptance of those with differing abilities among the general population. Indeed,echoes of  残废 (can fei) or “useless cripple” likely still reverberate in the ears of those who are skeptical of the sudden acceptance with which they are greeted.  Still, such acceptance was no easy accomplishment in any other country, and better late than never.

So, whatever the premise, the fact that millions who have been marginalized are now seeing new-found opportunities is cause for celebration indeed!  I was privileged to attend a party thrown by my friend Joerg who is hosting the parents of  a Paralympic athlete throughout the duration of the games, and had a chance to talk with Claudia Biene, a bronze medalist in the Athens games.  Claudia is fortunate enough to be equipped with one of the most advance prosthetic legs in the world. I mentioned to her that I recalled hearing that a man with two prosthetic legs was able to outrun the fastest “able-bodied” man, to which she replied, “That may be true, but I can assure you that prosthetics are never comfortable.”  After our conversation I recalled one of my favorite childhood programs, The Six Million Dollar Man, where an astronaut was equipped with “bionic” limbs after suffering an accident, and I had to wonder… at what point are the “typically-abled” (yes, I have coined a new phrase, and I freely offer it to the world) going to voluntarily elect to amputate their limbs and replace them with artificial technology that they perceive as “better, faster… stronger”?

My sister Alysoun works at Wright State University, a humble Ohio academy that none-the-less was the first in the world to enable a paralyzed person to walk through the use of technology.  Her daughter, my niece Heidi, is an incredibly bright and beautiful girl, blossoming into a woman.  Alysoun understandably has mixed feelings about China, because she knows full well that if Heidi had been conceived in China, they would have almost certainly have forced her abortion, as Heidi was born with spina bifida and has been wheelchair-bound since early childhood. Alysoun acknowledges that few countries can offer the kind of attention to Heidi that has enabled her to lead the quality of life she has in the US - her helper dog, Madrid, alone cost as much as a car. Few who have ever met Heidi would question her abilities, nor the brightness of her future.  Still, Alysoun can’t help but be moved but what has occurred as a result of these Paralympic games. Heidi told me herself a few weeks ago that she longs to visit China.  The fact that the country is fast on its way to becoming one of the most accessible in the world, along with the new found respect for the abilities of those who have previously been considered cursed, are sure to make that visit one of the most memorable of her life. Reddit Slashdot Digg Facebook Technorati Google StumbleUpon Furl Yahoo Ask Mister Wong China Newsvine Simpy Spurl Wink Rawsugar Squidoo Fark

Next Page »