Chinese Polluters Point to Western Demand
One price the world pays for attractive, affordable Chinese goods, from apparel to flat-panel TVs to steel beams, is more greenhouse gas spewing from Chinese factories. Last year the nation surpassed the U.S. as the world's top emitter. And with pressure mounting on Beijing to clean up its act, its leaders are starting to point right back at the West. "[Up] to 25% of China's emissions come from the products we make for the world," and consumers—not the producers—should pay for them, said Gao Li, director of China's Climate Change Dept., at a recent forum held by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Indeed, a portion of the recent emissions reductions claimed by both the U.S. and Europe came simply from moving production to China. Accounting fairly for the carbon in imported goods, says Pew Vice-President Elliot Diringer, will be a focus of the coming round of global climate talks.
Power from Potholes
Hybrid cars and trucks may one day draw electricity from the vibrations of wheels on the road. An undergraduate team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has patented a shock absorber that generates power with every bump.
Today's shocks use heavy springs to soften the impact of potholes and ruts. The GenShock replaces those springs with hydraulic oil. As the oil absorbs road shocks, pressure builds, forcing the liquid through a small turbine to create electricity.
The oil is reused, and the electricity powers air-conditioning units and the like. That cuts gas or diesel use by up to 10%, says MIT senior Zack Anderson, co-inventor of GenShock and chief operating officer of Levant Power, a startup launched to commercialize the technology.
GenShock could make hybrid cars such as the Ford (F) Fusion or the Toyota (TM) Prius even more efficient. But any new hybrid systems must go through grueling durability trials, says Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of hybrid vehicle programs. So for now, Levant will focus on heavy fleets, such as buses, trucks, and military vehicles. Because they weigh more, they can make more power from each pothole.