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Clean up in aisle China

Arrests for environmental crimes, increasing natural gas use and food safety focus among steps taken

July 15, 2014
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A popular science-fiction tale portrays the United States following an overwhelming influx of Chinese immigrants that arrives on its shores following a series of Asian environmental disasters.

In fact, due to behaviors caused by the blind obedience inculcated by the communist system, frantic scramble for profit in the new capitalist era and simply having so many people, China faces precipitous environmental challenges.

Some evidence exists that China’s leaders are at least aware of the problem. In 2013, authorities in China arrested 186 people on environmental pollution grounds, the country's environment minister Zhou Shengxian recently revealed. In addition, the company is looking to increase natural gas use as a means of moving away from dependence on coal.

In addition, the country has been plagued to an extraordinary degree with related food safety problems. Recently, U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart pledged to spend more than $48 million on food safety in China, a threefold increase, following a scandal in which fox meat was sold as donkey meat.

The company said it would allocate $48.2 million to food safety projects in China between 2013 and 2015, compared to $16 million it had previously provisioned for the period. As part of its efforts to ensure better protection for consumers, Wal-Mart will step up checks on suppliers and will double the number of DNA tests it carries out on meat products, the Washington Post reported.

According to Wal-Mart's China chief compliance officer Paul Gallemore, the extra budget will be used to ensure the chain's expansion in China will proceed as planned. Wal-Mart aims to turn the huge Chinese market into its “future home market,” Gallemore said. There are currently about 400 Wal-Mart stores operating across the country, and more than 100 more are predicted to open by 2016.

According to the Washington Post, in 2013, 900 people were arrested for selling fox, rat and mink that was labeled as mutton. And more than half of all food processing and packaging facilities in the country failed safety inspections in 2011, statistics from food quality control firm Asia Inspection showed.

More arrests made

Authorities in China arrested 186 people on environmental pollution grounds last year, the country's environment minister Zhou Shengxian has revealed. The culprits were detained in a total of 109 cases, Shengxian said, without specifying how many of those arrested were found guilty of violating environmental regulations.

As part of a nationwide campaign carried out in 2013 by local environmental authorities, over 3,500 businesses and workshops were closed after some 6,500 instances of environmental problems were detected. As many as 706 of the cases were referred to the police, which was higher than the number of all environmental rule violations transferred in the previous decade, the minister said.

Environmental authorities will conduct a similar campaign in 2014, with inspections aimed at tackling air pollution and tightening control over water pollution treatment practices in heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and other industries known to have a large ecological footprint.

Last year the environment ministry suspended approvals of environmental impact assessments for construction projects in Jixi, Lianyungang, Yueyang, Yulin and Shantou City following their failure to meet targets to cut pollutant emissions. The country's top state-owned oil firms, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), were also affected, failing to obtain environmental approvals for new refining projects due to their high pollution emissions. The ministry fined another 19 firms for poor desulfurization processes.

Gas demand to almost double

Demand for natural gas in China will grow to 315 billion cubic meters by 2019, according to the 2014 Medium-Term Gas Market Report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). This estimate represents a surge of 90 percent compared to current levels.

The increase will be driven by the country's power, industrial and transport sectors, as well as by the government growing concerns over air quality. Chinese authorities view gas as part of the solution to reducing pollution, the report says.

To meet the rising demand for natural gas, China will continue to import substantial amounts. Still, forecasts say half the country's gas demand will be met by domestic resources as China's gas production is expected to increase from 117 billion cubic meters in 2013 to 193 billion cubic meters in 2019. This growth of 65 percent will be delivered mostly through unconventional resources.

On a global level, the report's analysis and five-year outlook of natural gas demand, supply and trade developments suggest that global demand will rise by 2.2 percent in annual terms through 2019. The prediction represents a slight decrease from the IEA's projection made last year, when the growth rate was pegged at 2.4 percent. The demand will be met by new pipelines transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), with private-sector operators from the United States, Canada and Australia taking the lead in the anticipated 40 percent expansion of the LNG market by 2019.

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