Pollution in Beijing after the Olympics

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I knew that Beijing has been cracking down on pollution, but I didn't know how they were going about it. It looks like authorities have banned vehicles on alternate days based on the last number of the vehicle's license plate. However, a representative of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications has said they will not extend the law after the end of the Olympic games.

I had heard about bans like this before in Mexico City. I've been told that wealthier families would often buy two cars and drive them on alternate days. As far as I have been able to find out, it looks like this idea started in 1986 with a program called Proconve in Sao Paolo. Apparently, local authorities have attributed large reductions in gaseous pollutants to the program. I'd love to know how many families have opted to buy multiple vehicles to get around restrictions like these. How much more pollution is created by this additional demand for vehicles?

Authors

Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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A. Tsai
August 15, 2008

Lucas Davis (Michigan) just published in JPE about the Mexico City program ("The effect of driving restrictions on air quality in Mexico City"). His conclusion: no evidence of improved air quality / increased total volume of vehicles.

Guest
August 15, 2008

Perhaps the issue is not just cars, but also industrial smog?

Ryan Hahn
August 15, 2008

Thanks for suggesting that article, A. Tsai. There is an ungated version of the Davis paper here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lwdavis/df.pdf. Here's the money quote: "the evidence indicates that HNC led to an increase in the total number of vehicles in circulation as well as a change in the composition of vehicles toward high-emissions vehicles." It sounds like it's probably a good thing that Beijing decided not to extend that law.

Mike
August 15, 2008

Why buy two cars when you can just buy (or rent) two sets of license plates?

Guest
August 16, 2008

Answering to Mike: not in the case of Sao Paulo, where a car can only have one license plate and that number belongs to the car forever.

Answering to the last question in Ryan's post: the result of the Sao Paulo program is: (1) Rich people manage to get passed the ban; (2) Pollution and traffic jams are reduced, but less than the 20% expected daily (given that some persons will get a second car); (3) That said, the program is still successful. As I said, pollution and traffic jams are reduced.