Search

 

Cablegate: Government Report Sparks Controversy Over Use of Liquified

VZCZCXRO7879
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0648/01 3290551
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250551Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1124
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0361
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0900
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0292
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0293
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0302
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0359
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0266
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC 0040
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC 0020
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC 0202
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0341
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0337

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GUANGZHOU 000648

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EB/ESC, OES/ENV, INR/EAP
STATE PASS EPA
BEIJING FOR FCS, ESTH AND DOE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG SENV PGOV ELTN CH
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT REPORT SPARKS CONTROVERSY OVER USE OF LIQUIFIED
PETROLEUM GAS (LPG) IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT SECTOR

GUANGZHOU 00000648 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: If disagreement among government
entities regarding high-profile policy initiatives is rare in China,
rarer still is it for these disputes to play out in the press. But
this is exactly what occurred last month when the Guangzhou
Municipal People's Congress (GZPC) released to the media a report
questioning the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the public
transportation sector, a direct challenge to the Guangzhou
Transportation Commission's 2003 LPG Advancement Plan. The report
triggered a public discussion on the merits of LPG vs. diesel use in
city buses and taxis, forcing relevant government agencies to take a
position on the issue. Although the Chief of the Transportation
Commission challenged the report's findings, subsequent remarks in
which he called for improved maintenance of public buses and pledges
to explore other clean fuel options indicate the government's
position may have been influenced by the public debate triggered by
the report. End Summary and Comment.

----------------------------- ----------------------------
REPORT GENERATES CONTROVERSY, FINDINGS PUBLICLY CHALLENGED
----------------------------- ----------------------------

2. (SBU) As a result of incomplete combustion and leakage from
modified engines, the hydrocarbon emissions from LPG vehicles that
make up the bulk of Guangzhou's bus fleet are 127 times greater than
those of diesel buses, according to a report drafted by five GZPC
delegates. (Note: Hydrocarbons are linked to ozone pollution and
are considered to be highly dangerous pollutants. Some, including
benzene, are also carcinogenic. End Note.) The report notes that
more than 85% of the 8,000+ buses in Guangzhou run on LPG, most
using diesel engines modified for LPG use. Release of the report
generated immediate controversy, especially because it directly
challenged the municipal Transportation Commission's 2003 initiative
to promote LPG as a clean energy option for public transportation.


3. (SBU) The Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) --
which initially opposed LPG use because of concerns over nitrous
oxide emissions -- publicly challenged the scientific validity of
the delegates' report by pointing out that the test only involved
two buses. A few days later the EPB announced the results of its
own test of 171 LPG buses, claiming that 99.4% comply with emissions
standards. However, a local news report quoted a source alleging
that the EPB instructed bus companies to select their best buses for
purposes of the test.

4. (SBU) The Transportation Commission also disputed the results of
the delegates' report. Xian Weixiong, Chief of the Transportation
Commission, stated at a press conference that daily tests of LPG bus
emissions confirm that these buses "generally comply" with existing
standards. In response to these public statements, People's
Congress delegates sharpened their criticism of the Transportation
Commission, arguing that the entity had no legal authority to
interfere in decisions over fuel use. The Deputy Director of the
People's Congress, Zhou Qingqiang, stated at a press conference that
the Transportation Commission should limit itself to studying fuel
options, enhancing safety measures for the public transport sector,
and monitoring emissions.

----------------------------------- -----------------------
LPG: CLEANER FUEL SOURCE FOR TAXIS, LESS EFFICIENT IN BUSES
----------------------------------- -----------------------

5. (SBU) In general, LPG is a much cleaner fuel source than diesel,
according to an environmental scientist at Sun Yat Sen University
(SYSU). To be precise, he pointed to scientific evidence that if
properly combusted, the burning of LPG emits significantly lower
quantities of particulate matter and carcinogenic hydrocarbons such
as benzene as compared to diesel. The scientist also said that a
study he conducted along with researchers from the University of
California-Irvine demonstrated that concentrations of particulate
matter have been reduced in Guangzhou since LPG was introduced into
the public transport sector in 2003. Although LPG use generates
higher concentrations of propane, propylene, and butane, the SYSU
scientist argues that these gases are not as harmful as particulate

GUANGZHOU 00000648 002.2 OF 003


matter, since the latter is capable of penetrating respiratory
tracts and reaching the lungs.

6. (SBU) Why would municipal delegates attack LPG if it is cleaner
than diesel? The answer, as explained to us by one of the delegates
who worked on the report, is that LPG is not necessarily a cleaner
or more efficient fuel source for large vehicles like public buses.
The logic behind this claim is that LPG is unable to fully combust
in large tanks, resulting in the leakage of gas vapors. The SYSU
scientist said studies indicated that LPG-powered buses in Guangzhou
had a leakage rate of 30%, which not only results in wasted energy
but also generates emissions of unknown quantities of gaseous
particles that could have negative health effects. Furthermore,
given that Guangzhou is one of the few cities in the world that uses
LPG to fuel buses, the GZPC delegate says it is nearly impossible to
find suppliers of engines designed exclusively for LPG use.
Although bus companies were given RMB 20,000 (about US$ 2,900) per
bus under the 2003 LPG subsidy plan to modify diesel engines to burn
LPG, the delegate and scientist we spoke to both believe that many
bus companies pocketed part of the money and only carried out
partial modifications.

7. (SBU) Even among those engines that have been fully modified for
LPG use, few have been equipped with LPG-specific emissions
catalysts, which need to be replaced every three months. The
combination of these factors --incomplete combustion of LPG in large
tanks, the partial but not full modification of engines for LPG use,
and the lack of LPG-specific catalysts -- could potentially
translate into higher emissions of harmful pollutants from
LPG-powered buses, according to the delegate and the scientist.
While LPG may be a cleaner fuel source for smaller vehicles like
taxis, the SYSU scientist contends that diesel may actually be the
superior choice for large vehicles.

8. (SBU) The GZPC delegate also claimed that -- in addition to
environmental concerns -- the switch to LPG had raised costs for bus
companies. He said many bus companies had gone into debt since the
switch because inefficient combustion had increased fuel costs
overall.

---------------------------------- ----------------------
MAINTENANCE, TRAFFIC FLOW DIRECTLY AFFECT EMISSION LEVELS
---------------------------------- ----------------------

9. (SBU) Analyzing the report's conclusions from a different
perspective, the SYSU scientist argues that the most effective way
to bring down vehicle emissions levels, regardless of fuel source,
is to ensure that buses and taxis are properly maintained. The
problem is that most taxi and bus drivers try to control costs by
avoiding regular maintenance on their vehicles, he said. In
addition to poor maintenance, the scientist pointed to the frequency
of traffic jams as a factor contributing to high emissions levels in
Guangzhou. Start-and-stop traffic aggravates gas leakage in LPG-run
buses and long periods of idling generate higher particulate
emissions from diesel-run buses.

---------------------------------- -----------------
REPORT "PIONEERS" NEW MECHANISM AT PEOPLE'S CONGRESS
---------------------------------- -----------------

10. (SBU) The five delegates who worked on the controversial report
chose the topic themselves, according the co-drafter we spoke to.
He pointed out that the Guangzhou Municipal People's Congress was
the first municipal congress in China to permit delegates to explore
and report on issues that directly concern them or the neighborhoods
they represent. The report on LPG emissions represents a "pioneer
effort" under this new mechanism and the delegate expressed
satisfaction that it had generated public debate that he believed
had influenced the government's position.

11. (SBU) Comment: Public statements made by the Chief of the
Transportation Commission appear to confirm the delegate's
assessment that the report achieved its objective of influencing the
government. When asked at a press conference whether LPG should

GUANGZHOU 00000648 003.2 OF 003


continue to be the primary fuel source given evidence that
inadequately maintained LPG buses generate emissions of harmful
pollutants, Transportation Commission Chief Xian Weixiong not only
acknowledged that poor maintenance of LPG buses was a serious
problem that needed to be addressed but also pledged to explore
alternative clean fuel options. End Comment.

GOLDBECK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

IPPPR: The Independent Panel Calls For Urgent Reform Of Pandemic Prevention And Response Systems

Expert independent panel calls for urgent reform of pandemic prevention and response systems The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is today calling on the global community to end the COVID-19 pandemic and adopt a series of bold and ... More>>

NGO Coalition On Human Rights: Call For A Stop To Police Brutality In Fiji

A viral video has circulated online showing two police officers utilising disproportionate and excessive force in detaining the suspect, an individual half their size. In the video it shows the man’s head being pressed down on the ground, his arms being ... More>>

UN: India’s New COVID-19 Wave Is Spreading Like ‘Wildfire’, Warns UN Children’s Fund

7 May 2021 A new wave of COVID-19 infections is spreading like “wildfire” across India, leaving many youngsters destitute, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF said on Friday. In the last 24 hours, India registered 3,915 coronavirus deaths and 414,188 ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UN: Economic Recovery Under Threat Amid Surging COVID Cases And Lagging Vaccination In Poorer Countries

New York, 11 May — While the global growth outlook has improved, led by robust rebound in China and the United States, surging COVID-19 infections and inadequate vaccination progress in many countries threaten a broad-based recovery of the world ... More>>

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>