China caught red handed making thousands of tonnes of banned ozone depleting chemicals

Discussion in 'Political Discourse' started by master.on, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. master.on

    master.on Member

    The Ozone layer was set to fully recover in 50 years, provided everyone followed the CFC ban
    China didn't. But mainstream media doesn't want you to know about it, since they are busy portraying china as a "victim".

    Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators
    On-the-ground investigation finds use of banned CFC-11 is rife in China’s plastic foam industry

    A mysterious surge in emissions of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical has been tracked down to plastic foam manufacturers in China, according to an on-the-ground investigation published on Monday.

    The chemical, trichlorofluoromethane or CFC-11, has been banned around the world since 2010 and is a potent destroyer of ozone, which protects life on Earth from UV radiation, and strong greenhouse gas. A shock rise in the gas in recent years was revealed by atmospheric scientists in May, but they could only narrow the source to somewhere in East Asia.

    The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-governmental organisation, has now identified widespread use of CFC-11 factories in China that make insulating foams. The EIA’s investigators identified factories that sold the chemicals needed for foam-making, then contacted and visited them.

    “We were dumbfounded when out of 21 companies, 18 of them across China confirmed use of CFC-11, while acknowledging the illegality and being very blase about its use,” said Avipsa Mahapatra at the EIA. Furthermore, the companies said the use of CFC-11 was rife in the sector. “It was very clear. These companies, again and again, told us everybody else does this,” she said.

    China is a major producer of the rigid polyurethane foams involved and the EIA calculates that if the illegal use of CFC-11 is pervasive in the 3,500 small- and medium-sized companies that make up the sector, then this would explain the surge. Without action, the CFC-11 emissions would delay the recovery of the planet’s ozone hole by a decade, scientists estimate.

    “We didn’t know what on Earth someone would be using CFC-11 for – well, here’s one answer and that’s a surprise,” said Steve Montzka at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado, whose team revealed the surge. “Despite efforts to get rid of this activity, it continues.”

    He praised the EIA work, but cautioned that CFC-11 might be also produced by other activities and that this should not be ruled out: “If this one issue is targeted within China, we want to be sure that will take care of the problem.” New atmospheric measurements in east Asia should narrow down the total amount of CFC-11 being leaked and any hotspot locations in the next nine months, he said.

    The EIA’s evidence has been passed to the Chinese government, which has already inspected and taken samples from some sites, and to officials at the Montreal Protocol (MP), the treaty that phased out ozone-killing chemicals. An MP working group is meeting in Vienna on 11 July and will consider the next steps.

    “This week will be a critical moment for dialogue, resolve and action to ensure any illegal activities are fully investigated and urgently halted,” said Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, which hosts the MP. He said the EIA evidence was part of a wider body of scientific investigation taking place.

    PU foams are used mainly as insulation in buildings, either sprayed into cavities or applied as solid panels, and are in high demand due to China’s construction boom. CFC-11 is easy to produce and $150 (£113) a tonne cheaper than the ozone-friendly alternative, according to the companies to which the EIA investigators spoke. The penalty in China for its use is a fine.

    “The profit margins were very high, the demand was high and the risks were very low,” said Mahapatra. “That enabled these companies to use it so blatantly and is why we think this is so pervasive.”

    A representative of one company, Aoyang Chemical Co, in Dacheng, Hebei province, told the EIA that 99% of its foams used CFC-11, bought from “shady and hidden” factories in Inner Mongolia. Another, from the nearby Wan Fu Chemical Co, said it was easy to avoid inspections: “When the municipal environmental bureau runs a check, our local officers would call me and tell me to shut down my factory. Our workers just gather and hide together.”

    The EIA’s findings are supported by official Chinese government documents, with a 2016 report from environmental officials in Shandong province, a key region for foam production, stating: “There is still a large volume of illegally produced CFC-11 being used in the foam industry” and that its production is “highly concealed”. Other documents from Shandong showed one factory alone to have been producing 1,100 tonnes of CFC-11 in a year.

    The EIA report acknowledges significant uncertainties in its calculation but believes it has been conservative in estimating 10,000-12,000 tonnes a year of CFC-11 leaking into the atmosphere from foam-making in China from 2012-17. The scientific study that revealed the surge estimated emissions between 8,000 and 18,000 tonnes over the same period.

    Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators
  2. master.on

    master.on Member

    Let's see if dems/libs/europeans agree to tax the hell out of chinese products

    Investigators say China is behind illegal CFC emissions
    Refrigerator factories are using the banned chemical because it's cheaper.

    A global environmental "whodunit" emerged last month, when researchers revealed that someone, somewhere, was pumping tonnes of banned chemical CFC-11 into the atmosphere. Now, investigators think they've found the culprits. According to The New York Times, the ozone-damaging gas is likely being emitted by illegal refrigerator factories in China, which claim no-one told them the chemical was prohibited by the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

    Factory owners also told investigators that they've been buying CFC-11 because it's cheaper than the main legal alternative, which is in short supply in China. Zhang Wenbo, who owns a factory in Xingfu, told The New York Times, "You had a choice: Choose the cheaper foam agent that's not so good for the environment, or the expensive one that's better for the environment. Of course, we chose the cheaper foam agent. That's how we survived." He added that until last year, no-one had told them the chemical damaged the environment, and that nobody checked what the factory was using.

    Existing reports have already pointed to China's continued CFC-11 use despite the ban -- one of which described a "quite vigorous illegal production" of the chemical, "bringing risks to the market and environment." Head of the United Nations Environment Program Erik Solheim said that the findings were "nothing short of an environmental crime which demands decisive action." However, he added that further investigation was needed, as there's good reason to believe the problem extends beyond these cases alone.

    Investigators say China is behind illegal CFC emissions
  3. master.on

    master.on Member

    In a High-Stakes Environmental Whodunit, Many Clues Point to China

    By Chris Buckley and Henry Fountain
    June 24, 2018

    XINGFU, China — Last month, scientists disclosed a global pollution mystery: a surprise rise in emissions of an outlawed industrial gas that destroys the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer.

    The unexpected spike is undermining what has been hailed as the most successful international environmental agreement ever enacted: the Montreal Protocol, which includes a ban on chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, and which was expected to bring a full recovery of the ozone layer by midcentury. But the source of the pollution has remained unknown.

    Now, a trail of clues leads to this scrappy industrial boomtown in rural China.

    Interviews, documents and advertisements collected by The New York Times and independent investigators indicate that a major source — possibly the overwhelming one — is factories in China that have ignored a global ban and kept making or using the chemical, CFC-11, mostly to produce foam insulation for refrigerators and buildings.

    “You had a choice: Choose the cheaper foam agent that’s not so good for the environment, or the expensive one that’s better for the environment,” said Zhang Wenbo, owner of a refrigerator factory here in Xingfu, in Shandong Province, where he and many other small-scale manufacturers said that until recently, they had used CFC-11 widely to make foam insulation.

    “Of course, we chose the cheaper foam agent,” Mr. Zhang said during an interview in his office. “That’s how we survived.”

    As it happens, a crackdown was underway in the town and moments later, four officials entered Mr. Zhang’s factory, handed him a leaflet warning against a range of environmental violations, including using CFC-11, and ordered his factory closed.

    “They never told us until last year that it was damaging the atmosphere,” Mr. Zhang said. “Nobody came to check what we were using, so we thought it was O.K.”

    A refrigerator plant in Xingfu. Many factories in the city are small, with only a handful of workers.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times
    China has the world’s largest polyurethane foam market, making up about 40 percent of global consumption. And China accounted for nearly all East Asian production of CFC-11 and similar chemicals before they were banned.

    China’s struggle to eradicate CFC-11 embodies the hurdles it faces in cleaning up after decades of frenetic industrial expansion, when officials often treated pollution as a necessary price of prosperity. But it also has consequences far beyond the nation’s borders.

    Researchers said in a study published last month that a rise in emissions of CFC-11 was jeopardizing the effort to repair the ozone layer, which protects people and crops from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.

    That effort began in the 1980s with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, which ultimately outlawed CFC-11 and similar chemicals that destroy the ozone layer (and, because they are greenhouse gases, contribute to global warming). Scientists predicted that, as the chemicals produced before the ban came into force degraded and disappeared, the layer would be fully restored by the middle of this century. But the recent study said the new emissions could delay that recovery by a decade.

    Some experts were skeptical that foam production in China could be the culprit.

    “It is a very large amount to appear so suddenly,” David Sherry, a British expert on ozone chemicals who has worked in China, said by email.

    But the study’s authors said that such a large tide of emissions — on the order of 13,000 metric tons a year — could be explained only by new, illegal production, and said the source was probably in East Asia. Evidence suggests that an important focus may be small foam makers and their chemical suppliers in China, where regulators have long had a tough time bringing polluters to heel.

    Chinese traders and experts candidly described how small, primitive chemical plants have kept making CFC-11 in spite of the ban, and their accounts are backed by government documents.

    “Currently there is still a large volume of illegally produced CFC-11 being used in the foam industry,” Shao Changying, an environment official in Shandong, wrote in a report published last year. Another Shandong environment office report in 2016 described a “quite vigorous illegal production of outmoded CFC-11,” which it said was “bringing risks to the market and environment.”

    Stephen O. Andersen, a former official with the United States Environmental Protection Agency who served on one of the Montreal Protocol’s advisory committees, said cheaper legal alternatives to CFC-11 were available. In interviews, though, small Chinese manufacturers seemed unaware of them or unwilling to pay the costs of converting their equipment to use them.

    And Liu Le, a refrigeration expert in Shandong, said there were still companies ready to provide the CFC-11.

    “When nobody is watching, they can make some, or when they get an order — an underground order — they can also produce it,” Mr. Liu said. “They produce for a while until they’re discovered, and then move on.”

    An independent group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said it had identified eight factories in four Chinese provinces where the chemical was being used in the foam-making process. The organization, based in Washington, said that and other evidence — including conversations with confirmed sellers of CFC-11 — pointed to the Chinese foam industry as the primary source of the new emissions.

    “The scale of this environmental crime is devastating, with massive potential impact on the climate and the ozone layer,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the group. He said the agency had given initial findings to the Chinese government and the secretariat of the Montreal Protocol, and would publish a full report next month. “We’re hoping for a strong response from a strong environmental agreement,” Mr. von Bismarck said.

    Made aware of both The Times’s and the Environmental Investigation Agency’s findings, Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, which oversees the protocol, called illegal production of CFC-11 “nothing short of an environment crime which demands decisive action.”

    “At the same time, we have to dig deeper,” Mr. Solheim said in a statement. “Based on the scale of detected emissions there is good reason to believe the problem extends beyond these uncovered cases.”

    Wang Xuechuan has worked in the appliance industry for 14 years. He said profit margins were tight because of increasing labor costs.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times
    The Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment did not respond to questions about regulation of ozone-damaging chemicals and illegal output, and said it was preparing a response. Hu Jianxin, a professor at Peking University who studies such chemicals and advises policymakers, said he and other experts needed time to check the findings and track down possible sources in China and elsewhere.

    “Illegal production and use of CFCs can of course contribute to the atmospheric concentrations,” Professor Hu said. But, he added, the jump in emissions indicated by the latest study also meant there may be new sources that had not been considered before.

    Over the past decade, Chinese Communist Party leaders have come to see smog, tainted water and other pollution as serious threats to trust in the government. The government has made strides in curbing smog and slowing the growth of emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases. Likewise, since announcing the ban on CFC-11, China has demanded that companies switch to less harmful chemicals.

    But officials and traders said it was a seesaw battle. Many polluters are small factories that slip through the net of inspections or treat fines and shutdowns as just the price of business.

    “On the one hand, 11 is cheaper, and on the other, its foaming effect is better,” said Ge Changqing, a manager for a legitimate chemical company, referring to CFC-11. “The demand is there downstream and local governments turn a blind eye. There’s money to be made.”

    The illicit producers often set up in isolated sites, sometimes protected by local cadres unaware of, or indifferent to, the risks.

    “These businesses are often out of the way, don’t have commercial registration, and don’t even have a name for their factories,” Mr. Liu, the expert on refrigeration chemicals, said in a presentation to officials last year. “Some of them regularly move, making it very difficult for the acting agencies to exercise oversight.”

    There have been successes. In 2015, officials said that Shandong had shut 15 illegal makers of CFC-11 and a similar banned chemical since 2013, and that two people in the trade had been convicted.

    The padlocked gate of Zhang Wenbo’s factory in Xingfu. He acknowledged using a banned chemical to cut costs. “That’s how we survived,” Mr. Zhang said.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times
    Sometimes the closed plants have been sizable. Over just four months, one of those shut in 2015 made over 300 tons of an illegal ozone-destroying chemical often used as a coolant. Another, shut in 2012, made 1,100 tons of CFC-11 in 11 months and dumped toxic waste, causing a die-off at nearby fish farms, according to a court verdict.

    But the number of Chinese factories that use polyurethane foam here is daunting — Xingfu alone has around 1,700 businesses involved in making cooking and refrigeration equipment, according to the local government — and officials have said that tracking and punishing illegal chemical production is difficult.

    “Illegal production and use is highly concealed, evidence is hard to obtain, and it’s quite difficult to crack cases,” Ms. Shao, the Shandong official, said in her report. “Among the cases of lawbreaking in recent years, only a small number of the suspects have received the punishment they deserve.”

    When contacted, some online chemical traders denied selling the gas despite offering it in ads; some said their sales pages were out of date. But others said that they still sold the gas.

    “Using CFC-11 doesn’t necessarily mean violating the law,” said Wu Shaoji, a chemical salesman based in Shanghai. “The government doesn’t check.”

    There are hints that Chinese officials were taking action even before the scientists’ warning. In January, the government announced tighter controls on carbon tetrachloride, a chemical that can be used to make CFC-11, and ordered unlicensed companies not to sell it off as a byproduct from making other chemicals.

    But paradoxically, underground demand for CFC-11 may have been partly spurred by China’s increasingly strict environmental standards. The government has demanded better insulation of buildings so they waste less energy, and that means more foam.

    At the same time, the government has tightened supplies of the main legal foam-making agent used in China, HCFC-141b, which is less harmful to the ozone layer. That chemical is scheduled to be phased out in China’s polyurethane foam sector by the end of 2025, to be replaced by even safer alternatives.

    But Ms. Shao, the environment official, said that the surging price of HCFC-141b had encouraged some foam makers to fall back on black-market CFC-11 instead of embracing unfamiliar, next-generation alternatives.

    Factory owners in Shandong agreed.

    “They’ve reduced the amount of 141b every year so we just can’t afford it,” said Fan Jingang, a chemical factory owner who said he did not use illegal chemicals and had pulled out of making foam. “Energy conservation is a national policy, but if you can’t make a legal foam agent affordable, then you can’t achieve that goal.”

    In a High-Stakes Environmental Whodunit, Many Clues Point to China
  4. NorthMich

    NorthMich Member Supporter

    Was interested until you ignorantly used the term Dems/ libs / Europeans
  5. NorthMich

    NorthMich Member Supporter

    “Ignorant” is a very poor choice of words on my part. My apologies, as I can’t edit.

    I was more referring to the politics being unnecessarily drawn in.
    flenser likes this.
  6. master.on

    master.on Member

    The chinese won't fix that or jail/hang/shot the violators without political pressure.
    So unavoidably politics come to play.
  7. flenser

    flenser Member Supporter

    I could never decide if the ozone depletion theory was exaggerated as it became extremely political just about the time the R12 patent was expiring, and the current (patented) replacement was far less efficient. Doesn't make it false necessarily, but the history of similar "science based" bans of useful chemicals makes me suspicious.
  8. NorthMich

    NorthMich Member Supporter

    I dunno. When the whole works agrees to a ban, seems less like a profit motivated conspiracy theory.
  9. flenser

    flenser Member Supporter

    I wouldn't call it a conspiracy. DuPont stood to lose a significant share of the Freon market, in particular from foreign manufacturers. Environmentalists were already pushing for a ban as well, despite less than convincing science and data. Freon is heavier than air after all. I read quite a bit about it several years ago, but was never able to separate the politics from the science.

    DuPont was essentially the only holdout, but changed its position just before the patent expired and was granted a monopoly as the patent holder of the only approved replacement. It then became a strong proponent of the ban. It was just good business; how things are done in the mercantile corporatocracies of the western world.

    Here's a pretty good article on the economic effects of the ban..
    The Ozone Scare: A Retrospective
    master.on and NorthMich like this.
  10. NorthMich

    NorthMich Member Supporter

    That article smacks of lack of objectivity. To me. The entire premise of doubt surrounds a heavier than air material rising into the stratosphere. It simply dumps the initial logic at our doorstep and moves on. Then the whole thing seems more mysterious

    Well, it can and does migrate to the stratosphere regardless of molecular weight - being a gas

    Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1998 - FAQ (1)

    And the fact that a company rode the wave of change and came out on top certainly doesn’t mean data was falsified globally
  11. flenser

    flenser Member Supporter

    I don't disagree (though p/p0 is around 0.2 for Freon and air making gravity a significant component of how they mix). I posted the article for the economic effects, which are pretty solid.

    As far as the science and data showing the impact being claimed at the time, I'm of the opinion the politics overshadowed the science and made a confusing mess of the whole thing. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn predictions were based on one or more faulty assumptions or poorly measured data.
    master.on likes this.
  12. boost creep

    boost creep Member

    I still have a 30lb cylinder of r12, the shit is worth a fortune now. lol.