Panel debates use of fracking for gas in China

Updated: 2014-06-13 11:22

By Adelina Zhang in New York (China Daily USA)

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To get away from its dependency on air-polluting coal and to keep its economy expanding, China has turned to fracking, the blasting of sand, water and chemicals into shale rock to extract natural gas.

Panelists at a June 11 symposium at New York-based Asia Society-Fracking and China's Energy Revolution - discussed the implications of such a move and whether it will alleviate air pollution in the country.

Panelist Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland, a documentary that focused on the environmental fallout from fracking in the US, suggested that China emphasize the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

"Solar and wind, when bundled together, can meet all of our electricity demands," he said. "Maybe China should be keeping their solar panels instead of deploying them to the rooftops of New York and California."

Fox said groundwater pollution, air pollution and people having strange health problems are some of issues seen over and over again in the US.

"The same process repeats itself over and over again, whether it is in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas or California...When you're drilling hundreds of thousands in a certain area, the probability of [water] contamination is certain," he said.

In April, Chinese legislators amended the environmental protection law after 25 years. The amendments impose harsher punishments for polluters and gave more power to the environmental agencies.

Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the symposium, and other panelists said the government's regulations on fracking have problem.

"The problem is that the regulations are at the national level and the environmental protection ministry and control is at the local level," Schell said.

"There are no funds at the local level to implement regulation. There are very few funds. At the local level, there are officials who stand to gain at exploiting land," he said.

"There's a disconnect between the rules and regulations at the top and the implementations and financial incentives at the bottom, who exploit property."

Panelists also suggested that China look at the effects of climate change while focusing on finding solutions to air pollution.

"Air pollution is a very top priority because it's huge and it's visible. But that's not climate change because CO2 (carbon dioxide) is not visible, it is not immediate," said panelist Ella Chou, an energy consultant in Washington.

"People don't feel it every single day. We see it affect policy as well."

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For China Daily

 Panel debates use of fracking for gas in China

From left: Moderator James West, who is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones; Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society; Ella Chou, an energy consultant based in Washington; Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland; and Jaeah Lee, the interactive producer at Mother Jones, discuss about Fracking and China's Energy Revolution at the Asia Society in New York. Adelina Zhang / for China Daily

(China Daily USA 06/13/2014 page2)