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Smog documentary on China’s pollution wrong to blame oil, say industry bosses

Petroleum bosses defend their record, saying documentary misleads viewers by faulting cars, not coal, for the worsening problem

Petrochemical industry insiders have disputed claims made in Under the Dome, Chai Jing’s documentary on smog in China, that lax quality standards for petroleum were a key reason for worsening air pollution.

The investigation by Chai, a former state television presenter, also claimed interference by China’s major oil companies was another factor.

Cao Xianghong, head of the China Petroleum Industrial Standardisation Committee, said on the sidelines of the the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference yesterday that the country had steadily been improving the quality of its petrol and diesel since 2000.

“It’s wrong to say China’s petroleum quality upgrading is too slow,” said Cao, who rejected the conclusion that the standards committee was dominated and heavily influenced by major oil companies, as suggested in Chai’s documentary.

A standard could only be approved if it gained support from three quarters of members from a voting group of about 50 experts, Cao said. Fifty-one per cent of the experts were from the petrochemical industry, while the remainder came from the motor industry, environmental protection department, military and other government agencies, Cao said. Cao is a former vice-president of oil giant China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation.

Meanwhile, a widely circulated online article purportedly penned by a senior engineer from the state oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation said Chai’s video had confused viewers by blaming vehicle exhausts as the main culprit for smog in northern China when in fact it was coal combustion.

The article, attributed to Wan Zhanxiang, a CNPC deputy chief engineer for natural gas quality and standards, said that national petroleum standards were set by government departments, not big oil corporations.

But Yue Xin, a researcher at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences who has also been involved in setting the petroleum standards, wrote in his blog that China’s environmental protection department had no power to veto the standards if it found them too lax.

“Staff from the petroleum industry have dominated key positions in the standards committee, such as the secretary general. And they take advantage in voting,” Yue wrote.

He criticised the monopoly of China’s major oil companies, who have refused to make public the cost of refining petroleum.

Only Beijing, Shanghai and a few cities in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces have adopted emissions standards on a par with the Euro 5b standards. Europe started implementing Euro 6 standards in September.

Additional reporting by Teddy Ng and Mimi Lau

Source URL (modified on Mar 4th 2015, 11:44am):

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