Beijing Hukou (or foreign passport!) required to buy Apartment in Beijing

It’s official — the hukou system is back with a vengance.

Authorities in about 10 cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou, will prohibit locally registered citizens who already own two or more homes, or those without a local residence permit, or hukou, who have owned at least one home, from buying more houses, the Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday.

Beijing issued even tougher policies Wednesday by banning home purchases for those who cannot show social security or income tax payments in the capital for five straight years.

But guess what, foreigners can buy an apartment – no wait!

So, dear Embassy of Canada in Beijing, dear Hon. Minister of Immigration, let’s get our game on!  “Immigrate to Canada!  Bring your RMB!  Work anywhere you want in China!”

Global Fuel Economy Policy Review

iCET recently published a report entitled “Global overview on fuel efficiency and motor vehicle emission standards: Policy options and perspectives for international cooperation”for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.  The report describes the fuel economy policies of 9 countries and states, and recommends that lifecycle GHG emissions be made an integral part of fuel economy standards, that methods for grid-enabled vehicles to be included in energy consumption standards be quickly developed, and that international agreement and harmonization be accomplished in order to adapt to the quickly globalizing vehicle market that includes electric vehicles.

The report can be found here:

An, Feng, Robert Earley and Lucia Green-Weiskel. 2010. Global overview on fuel efficiency and motor vehicle emission standards: Policy options and perspectives for international cooperation. United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Background Document CSD19/2011/BP3.

Jatropha-based Biodiesel – Worth Avoiding For Now

“It does grow on marginal land, but if you use marginal land you’ll get marginal yields,”

Jatropha has been hailed as some sort of wonder crop that produces bountiful oil on lands that are unusable for agriculture or living.  Yet we are hearing stories that industry needs more subsidies in order to develop these fuels in China and elsewhere.

I think that if you ask any businessperson who has actually tried to grow Jatropha trees (and I have…) – almost anywhere in the world, you will get a similar answer.  You’ll also hear stories of crop and business failure.  The reason industry needs higher subsidies to develop is because these fuels, thus far, are not economically sustainable, as noted in a recent Friends of the Earth report linked below.  International experience also suggests that they are not environmentally or socially sustainable either.

When Jatropha crops are planted, land (even 荒地 – marginal land) has to be cleared of vegetation (meaning high GHG emissions).  If the plants are grown, they need fertilizer, possibly irrigation and other maintenance which requires GHG emissions, and then when the crops or businesses fail (and so far, this is a strong trend for Jatropha), those trees will decompose — meaning another high GHG emission.  Blind, poorly planned forest-based biodiesel projects will result in large GHG emissions which should not be supported.  There are even unconfirmed stories that the definition of “marginal land” in China are not well defined, and not well monitored either, meaning that what is actually productive land may be under use as land for biofuel production, thus violating the “three nots” of biofuel production in China: “Does not compete with people for food; Does not compete with agriculture for land; Does not damage the environment”.

While in the future, forest-based biodiesel may well be an excellent alternative source of transport energy,  this technology cannot be blindly supported at this time.  China needs to develop biodiesel project planning and approval processes; develop sustainability standards and laws.  Furthermore, subsidies should be tied directly to a reviewed Environmental Impact Assessment report, and plan for industry to meet strict sustainability standards – for example, RSB standards – as well as a plan for maintaining economic profitability.

Only when industry and government understand the heavy impact that these developments can have on the local and global environment should we support them to have increased subsidies for biodiesel.

Layperson’s explanation on importance of corn

Today’s Globe & Mail ran an article on the importance of corn in the global food system.  This is of great interest for me because the price of corn plays a heavy role in the debate on biofuels as it is currently defined, both in China and around the world.

As it is now, nearly all bioethanol is produced by taking starch out of corn, converting it to sugar and feeding it to yeast to convert into ethanol.  The non-starch part of corn, rich in protein, is sold to animal farmers as high quality feed.  The problem is that with policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard in the U.S., an increasing proportion of demand for corn is being taken up by fuel ethanol — from the article:

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that corn supplies are at their tightest level in 15 years. The agency also upped its estimate for how much corn will be used to make ethanol by 8 per cent, putting the figure at a record 4.95 billion bushels. That is nearly 40 per cent of the entire U.S. corn crop.

I don’t know if this analysis takes into account the feed that is generated from the leftover products of ethanol production — it definitely should.

In the meantime, prices are at record highs.

…analysts say corn is on track to break its all-time high of $7.65 a bushel some time this week. And few observers doubt it will stop there….It is a strong possibility that we will continue to hear and read about continued record food prices until 2011 harvest time…and corn could jump close to $10 a bushel if there are any weather problems this year.

While these price increases might not be the sole fault of biofuels, it is clear that for price reasons alone, ethanol must move beyond corn.  Technologies such as cellulosic ethanol must be developed even faster than they are today in order to make use of farm waste to make ethanol, rather than food.  In this way, if prices of farm waste increase due to ethanol demand, only drivers are financially penalized — not the entire global society which is now penalized through both higher fuel prices and higher food prices.

Very Familiar Chinese Car Brand Logos

My colleague recently pointed out some creative Chinese car brands to me on a Chinese website.  Since the site is in Chinese, I’ll describe some of the similarities here:

So here, we can see a comparison between the Bentley logo, and the Riich (A vehicle by Chery) logo.  Can you tell which one is the Bentley?

This one looks slightly more different.  Acura, on the bottom, compared to Rely (Really?!) – wait, another car from Chery….

And Finally:

The well known Karry Brand — Delete “Ford”, insert “Karry”  — gosh, that typeface isn’t copyrighted, is it?  Can you guess who the parent company of Karry is?