Panel de­bates use of frack­ing for gas in China

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By ADELINA ZHANG in New York For China Daily

To get away from its de­pen­dency on air-pol­lut­ing coal and to keep its econ­omy ex­pand­ing, China has turned to frack­ing, the blast­ing of sand, wa­ter and chem­i­cals into shale rock to ex­tract nat­u­ral gas.

Pan­elists at a June 11 sym­po­sium at New York-based Asia So­ci­ety— Frack­ing and China’s En­ergy Revo­lu­tion — dis­cussed the im­pli­ca­tions of such a move and whether it will al­le­vi­ate air pol­lu­tion in the coun­try.

Pan­elist Josh Fox, the Os­carnom­i­nated di­rec­tor of Gasland, a doc­u­men­tary that fo­cused on the en­vi­ron­men­tal fall­out from frack­ing in the US, sug­gested that China em­pha­size the use of re­new­able en­ergy sources like so­lar and wind power.

“So­lar and wind, when bun­dled to­gether, can meet all of our elec­tric­ity de­mands,” he said. “Maybe China should be keep­ing their so­lar pan­els in­stead of de­ploy­ing them to the rooftops of New York and Cal­i­for­nia.”

Fox said ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion, air pol­lu­tion and people hav­ing strange health prob­lems are some of is­sues seen over and over again in the US.

“The same process re­peats it­self over and over again, whether it is in Wy­oming, Penn­syl­va­nia, Texas or Cal­i­for­nia...When you’re drilling hun­dreds of thou­sands in a cer­tain area, the prob­a­bil­ity of [wa­ter] con­tam­i­na­tion is cer­tain,” he said.

In April, Chi­nese leg­is­la­tors amended the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion law af­ter 25 years. The amend­ments im­pose harsher pun­ish­ments for pol­luters and gave more power to the en­vi­ron­men­tal agencies.

Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on US-China Re­la­tions at the sym­po­sium, and other pan­elists said the govern­ment’s reg­u­la­tions on frack­ing have prob­lem.

“The prob­lem is that the reg­u­la­tions are at the na­tional level and the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion min­istry and con­trol is at the lo­cal level,” Schell said.

“There are no funds at the lo­cal level to im­ple­ment reg­u­la­tion. There are very few funds. At the lo­cal level, there are of­fi­cials who stand to gain at ex­ploit­ing land,’’ he said.

“There’s a dis­con­nect be­tween the rules and reg­u­la­tions at the top and the im­ple­men­ta­tions and fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives at the bot­tom, who ex­ploit property.”

Pan­elists also sug­gested that China look at the ef­fects of cli­mate change while fo­cus­ing on find­ing so­lu­tions to air pol­lu­tion.

“Air pol­lu­tion is a very top pri­or­ity be­cause it’s huge and it’s vis­i­ble. But that’s not cli­mate change be­cause CO2 (car­bon diox­ide) is not vis­i­ble, it is not im­me­di­ate,” said pan­elist Ella Chou, an en­ergy con­sul­tant in Wash­ing­ton.

“People don’t feel it ev­ery sin­gle day. We see it af­fect pol­icy as well.” Con­tact the writer at read­ers@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

ADELINA ZHANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

From left: Mod­er­a­tor James West, who is se­nior pro­ducer for the Cli­mate Desk and a con­tribut­ing pro­ducer for Mother Jones; Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on US-China Re­la­tions at the Asia So­ci­ety; Ella Chou, an en­ergy con­sul­tant based in Wash­ing­ton; Josh Fox, the Os­car-nom­i­nated di­rec­tor of Gasland; and Jaeah Lee, the in­ter­ac­tive pro­ducer at Mother Jones, dis­cuss about FrackingandChina’sEn­er­gyRevo­lu­tion at the Asia So­ci­ety in New York.

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