China shuts down for Olympics

Communist countries cannot afford green industry, so they tend to be among the worst polluted if they are industrialized at all. However, if their rulers so desire, they can put the entire country behind a single national effort, such as Sputnik or temporarily clearing the smog from Beijing. So, China is shutting down industry, transportation, and construction throughout the Beijing area:

Beijing’s Olympic shutdown begins Sunday, a drastic plan to lift the Chinese capital’s gray shroud of pollution just three weeks ahead of the games.

Half of Beijing’s 3.3 million vehicles will be pulled off the roads and many polluting factories will be shuttered. Chemical plants, power stations and foundries left open have to cut emissions by 30 percent — and dust-spewing construction in the capital will be halted. . .

Striking venues and $40 billion spent to improve infrastructure cannot mask Beijing’s dirty air. A World Bank study found China is home to 16 of the 20 worst cities for air quality. Three-quarters of the water flowing through urban areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has repeatedly warned that outdoor endurance events lasting more than an hour will be postponed if the air quality is poor.

Under the two-month plan, vehicles will be allowed on the roads every other day depending on even-odd registration numbers. In addition, 300,000 heavy polluting vehicles — aging industrial trucks, many of which operate only at night — were banned beginning July 1. . .

The gigantic experiment to curb pollution could still go wrong. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said unpredictable winds could blow pollution into Beijing despite factory shutdowns in the city and five surrounding provinces.

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