Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Visit To Shanghai

I am starting to work on a project that entails semiconductor manufacture in Wuxi China.   Wuxi is a city about 100 miles from Shanghai.   Last week I stayed four days in Shanghai and two in Wuxi.   The last time I was in Shanghai was in 2003 when I was sent there to train the folks in the Bechtel office on the concept of sustainability.  In the ten years the Chinese economy has more than doubled and China has now become a major importer of its primary energy (coal and oil) needs.

The pace of life and business in Shanghai is rapid and one can clearly see the economic development over a ten year period that is placing China on a trajectory to eclipse the economic power of the US.   Regarding sustainability there is simply no real effort to moderate the use of coal or oil.  .

What is very apparent though is that the air pollution in the form of smog has reached a critical stage.   My trip coincided with the worst smog event in years and the weather caused a smog inversion that stretched from the north to the south of the country.   The day I arrived particulate levels were 35 times healthy levels.  The air “cleared” to a point where the levels of particulates were simply 4 time the maximum level that is “healthy”. 

The Chinese will probably move on adding scrubbers to remove particulate and air emissions like sulfur from their power, steel, and cement plants after an event such as this.  But I can assure you carbon emissions in China will continue to grow and imports of oil and coal will also rise.   It is estimated that China will increase its oil usage by over 400,000 barrels a day in 2013 alone.

Interestingly Buick is a marquee brand in China and this is because the car is considered to be the “emperor’s car” as the leader of China before the revolution drove a Buick.   Many of the cars are VWs and also Japanese brands.   I did see a brand that was new to me and that is a Skoda.   Skoda is owned by VW and is a Czech based company.   I thought of Saturday Night Live and the old wild and crazy skits every time I saw a Skoda.

What was also interesting was the popularity of Starbucks.   A Venti soy latte in Shanghai costs about $6 and is about 30% more expensive that the same drink here in Marin County.   The locals lap up Starbucks drinks but no customer was older than 40 years old.  It is the drink of choice for the up and coming young executives and white collar workers.  

At the Shanghai Pudong international airport it was amazing to see the price of a Haagen Daz ice cream.  A single scoop in a cup was over $7.  Of course I did not buy this.   A 12 ounce can of Pepsi was only 55 cents at the airport and a tube of Mentos mints was 80 cents.  I satisfied my sugar craving with a Pepsi and a tube of Mentos.  

My take from my brief trip to China and watching all those barges laden with coal traveling up river past my hotel is that China is prospering.  They will import more coal and more oil, drive more cars, eat more protein, drink more Starbucks, and soon overtake the US as the leading economy in the world.  

While I was away Mr. Huffman continued to post on his Facebook page that he took to the floor of the US House to remind his opponents that because it snows does not mean there is no climate change.

Yes Mr. Huffman there is climate change and part of it is because you gave Bloom Energy $257 million of our SGIP money to fund their dirty, inefficient, polluting, and expensive Coffins that spew out 225% of the CO2 per megawatt hour compared with the PG&E grid.   Thankfully we do not have high particulate levels in our air in NorCal just carbon dioxide from those Bloom Coffins.  

The sad truth is I really do think that we have a problem with carbon emissions and related global warming. We do need to debate global warming and we do need to slow the rate of increase of carbon dioxide into the air.  Sadly it is hypocrites like Al Gore and Jared Huffman who hijack this important cause for their own aggrandizement and this makes the debate on real energy policy impossible and very partisan.   


  1. I presume when China reaches "their rightful place" on the world stage, as they see it, they will be more amenable to curbing pollution. At this point, its "catch-up" and a mattrr of pride for them to at least hold the position they held prior to the Silver Crisis thst triggered off the Opium War. At that point in history, China physically possessed almost 85% of the world's silver - the ONLY currency they woukd accept for exports of silk, spices snd Porcelain. Thr British were starving for silver, and desperate to balance thr trade imbalance - so they forced Opium as a source of revenue from China. Today we have a similar situation with gold - physical gold is concentrated in Asian hands - predominantly China and India and Pollution is seen suspiciously as an "Opium Tactic" by China to even out the Trade Deficit by the west. A stalemate for The Environment.


  3. Switzerland is melting gold bullion "leased" by Western Central Banks and changing it into forms amenable for jewellery use in Asia. This has resulted in BACKWARDATION of the Paper Gold Market.

  4. David in 1820 before the industrial revolution 80% of Global GDP was in Asia. I do not know of the role of Gold but going forward the 4 billion Asians won't need the British very much

  5. I agree with u, but "gunboat diplomacy" changed all that at the end of the 1800's and The Asian Pivot of Obama is starting to look very much like resurgence of that form of foreign policy.

  6. David We would be wise to pivot toward real health care reform.

  7. Unfortunately, Chinese Americans won't need it in Internment Camps.


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