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05-01-2011, 22:04   #1
 
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Chinese pay toxic price for a green world

times article here

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Just outside the heavily polluted industrial city of Baotou, Inner Mongolia, surrounded by smokestacks, lies a lake with no name.

At this time of year the lake bed freezes into waves of solid mud. In summer, locals say, it oozes a viscous, red liquid. It is a “tailing lake”, where toxic rare earth elements from a mine 100 miles away are stored for further processing.

Seepage from the lake has poisoned the surrounding farmland. “The crops stopped growing after being watered in these fields,” said Wang Cun Gang, a farmer. The local council paid villagers compensation for loss of income. “They tested our water and concluded that neither people nor animals should drink it, nor is it usable for irrigation.”

This is the price Chinese peasants are paying for the low carbon future. Rare earths, a class of metallic elements that are highly reactive, are essential for the next generation of “green” technologies. The battery in a Toyota Prius car contains more than 22lb of lanthanum. Low-energy lightbulbs need terbium. The permanent magnets used in a 3 megawatt wind turbine use 2 tons of neodymium and other rare earths.

In small workshops near Baotou, workers wearing no protective clothing watch over huge vats of acid and other chemicals, steam rising from rusty pipes, as they stir and bag toxic liquids and powders, turning the rare earth elements into compounds and oxides for further processing into batteries and magnets. Wearing no masks, they breathe air heavy with fumes and dust and handle chemicals without gloves.

A thousand miles to the southeast, in Jiangxi province, the extraction process is more damaging. Green hills are studded with makeshift plants which pump acid into the earth. Last September villagers in Pitou county blocked lorries carrying chemicals and picketed the council, angry that their fields had been ruined.

“We farm rice but cannot harvest anything any more,” said a woman, who was afraid to give her name because her husband is still in prison for protesting. “Fruit trees don’t bear fruit any more. Fish die in the river. We used to wash in the river and lots of fish would come to us, but there are none left. Even the weeds died.”

Officially the polluting plants have been closed down, but villagers say they still operate at night, under armed guard, with the collusion of local Communist party leaders who help mafia bosses keep the lucrative trade going.

Yep here we have it, a darker shade of green

Those shiny turbines we are buying from the Chinese, now the largest manufacturer of them and also country which controls 95% of rare earth production.
Result in huge environmental damage, one needs to dig huge amounts of ore to extract small amounts of rare earth (hence the name rare), an energy intensive process which uses mostly dirty coal generate energy.

We are effectively exporting our pollution to China, I wonder what do the environmentalists here have to say about this darker side of "green" technologies ...


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another article here




and another from same city



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06-01-2011, 09:28   #2
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We are effectively exporting our pollution to China, I wonder what do the environmentalists here have to say about this darker side of "green" technologies ...
Would it not be more accurate to refer to the above as a darker side of technology in general? Rare earth metals are used in far more than just wind turbines. Furthermore, China’s abysmal health & safety and environmental protection record extends far beyond rare earth metal production. The production of wind turbines does not necessitate environmental catastrophe in China.
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06-01-2011, 10:48   #3
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Would it not be more accurate to refer to the above as a darker side of technology in general? Rare earth metals are used in far more than just wind turbines. Furthermore, China’s abysmal health & safety and environmental protection record extends far beyond rare earth metal production. The production of wind turbines does not necessitate environmental catastrophe in China.
actually no, i dont think so.. it is a darker side of green...

how many times have wind turbines been pushed on us as being the green option.. kinder better for the enviroment ect...
yet now u can see the devastation these units bring...
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06-01-2011, 10:51   #4
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actually no, i dont think so.. it is a darker side of green...

how many times have wind turbines been pushed on us as being the green option.. kinder better for the enviroment ect...
yet now u can see the devastation these units bring...
There is confusion over the idea that any form of power generation is 100% clean. However, taking into consideration all environmental impacts, plus the obvious drawbacks of basing the global economy on finite fossil fuels, renewable energy is still the better option.
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06-01-2011, 10:54   #5
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There is confusion over the idea that any form of power generation is 100% clean. However, taking into consideration all environmental impacts, plus the obvious drawbacks of basing the global economy on finite fossil fuels, renewable energy is still the better option.
personally i dont believe that any energy production is 100% green, as you say the production of the units(no matter what sort) and transport will have an impact on the envirment to a degree....

but this is taking things a bit far.... this really shows how much damage is done to produce one of these wind turbines...
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06-01-2011, 11:14   #6
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but this is taking things a bit far.... this really shows how much damage is done to produce one of these wind turbines...
Have you seen what an open cast coal mine looks like?

I agree that there are no perfectly green technological silver bullets to our environmental issues (even my beloved bike has a dark environmental history)
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06-01-2011, 11:48   #7
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Have you seen what an open cast coal mine looks like?
i have thank you, but the point being no one is saying coal is an enviromental way of producing energy.....
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06-01-2011, 14:01   #8
 
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Have you seen what an open cast coal mine looks like?
Rare earth mines are even bigger and more damaging, the concentration of the rare earths in ores is very small (hence the name rare) in some cases even smaller than gold in gold ore
Thats one of the reason's China has 95% or more of the worlds supplies, they are simply too dirty to operate anywhere else, there are rare ores in places like australia,us and canada but the more stringent laws means much higher cost and not being able to compete with China
Higher costs of these metals would mean even higher costs of turbines, as outlined in the article typical 3MW turbine has 2tons of the rare earths

And thats before we get to cars and their electric cells, lookup lithium mining in Andes

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Have you seen what an open cast coal mine looks like?
The Chinese are building a new coal plant every week, refining and mining for rare earths takes huge amounts of energy mostly derived from dirty coal


As I said not so Green, people on this forum seem to get carried away and talk as if Wind turbines grow from the ground and electric cars are delivered by Santa , I think its important that these issues are highlighted and brought to discussion. Theres no such thing as free lunch, in case of China its a toxic lunch.

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06-01-2011, 15:08   #9
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Rare earth mines are even bigger and more damaging, the concentration of the rare earths in ores is very small (hence the name rare) in some cases even smaller than gold in gold ore
Thats one of the reason's China has 95% or more of the worlds supplies, they are simply too dirty to operate anywhere else, there are rare ores in places like australia,us and canada but the more stringent laws means much higher cost and not being able to compete with China
Higher costs of these metals would mean even higher costs of turbines, as outlined in the article typical 3MW turbine has 2tons of the rare earths

And thats before we get to cars and their electric cells, lookup lithium mining in Andes


The Chinese are building a new coal plant every week, refining and mining for rare earths takes huge amounts of energy mostly derived from dirty coal
Again, all action should be viewed in consideration of the altneratives.

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As I said not so Green, people on this forum seem to get carried away and talk as if Wind turbines grow from the ground and electric cars are delivered by Santa , I think its important that these issues are highlighted and brought to discussion. Theres no such thing as free lunch, in case of China its a toxic lunch.
True but please keep the comments about "people on this forum" out of the discussion.
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06-01-2011, 15:23   #10
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Again, all action should be viewed in consideration of the altneratives.


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very true, so my question would be seeing the devastion these units are leaving behind, is gas not the better more greener option? even though on burning it does release some fumes into the air
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06-01-2011, 19:43   #11
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how many times have wind turbines been pushed on us as being the green option.. kinder better for the enviroment ect...
Everything has some kind of environmental impact associated with its production. I’d still be pretty confident that the environmental impact of a wind farm is low relative to alternative forms of power generation.
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yet now u can see the devastation these units bring...
It’s not wind turbines that are wreaking havoc with natural habitats in China, it’s China’s approach to, well, pretty much anything really – their environmental record is pretty abysmal.
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very true, so my question would be seeing the devastion these units are leaving behind, is gas not the better more greener option? even though on burning it does release some fumes into the air
Gas would be one of my preferred options too, but does the construction of a gas-fired power station not have a pretty significant ecological impact? For example, a gas-fired power plant contains turbines, doesn’t it?
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06-01-2011, 20:07   #12
 
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Everything has some kind of environmental impact associated with its production. I’d still be pretty confident that the environmental impact of a wind farm is low relative to alternative forms of power generation.
The important point is that there is an environmental impact, some of the people arguing for wind power make it sound as if its cleaner than Virgin Mary.
I am still not convinced nor buy all the hype surrounding wind, too much sales pitching too litle in the way of facts, studies and cost/benefit analyses.
I dont like how the country is being directed down a single path of generating majority of energy from wind and more importantly all subsidised by everyone else but the people making guaranteed profits at our expense.

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It’s not wind turbines that are wreaking havoc with natural habitats in China, it’s China’s approach to, well, pretty much anything really – their environmental record is pretty abysmal.
Then why are we and others trading with them and buying their products? I though environmentalists like to boycott things that are unethical or dirty, why nothing being done about this?


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Gas would be one of my preferred options too, but does the construction of a gas-fired power station not have a pretty significant ecological impact? For example, a gas-fired power plant contains turbines, doesn’t it?
One gas turbine can produce up to several hundred MW on demand, one wind turbine is about max 3-5MW now (when wind blows of course) hence you need loads of these in different locations to provide same energy as one gas turbine for example

and of course to connect these locations you need miles of cables and pylons, which dont grown on trees either.

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06-01-2011, 21:00   #13
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I though environmentalists like to boycott things that are unethical or dirty...
You've been asked once already to refrain from posting this kind of comment. You won't be asked a third time.
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07-01-2011, 15:26   #14
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Everything has some kind of environmental impact associated with its production. I’d still be pretty confident that the environmental impact of a wind farm is low relative to alternative forms of power generation.
yes everything has an envromental impact.. but as i have said, not everything is been pushed as been "greeen" better for the enviroment..
these wind turbines are been pushed as been harmless to the enviroment and dont pollute.... but their construction is causing devasting effects...
I dont know if a wind turbine hasa lower impact overall than other forms of energy generation...but thats not the point..... no one is selling coal or gas as being enviromentally friendly


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It’s not wind turbines that are wreaking havoc with natural habitats in China, it’s China’s approach to, well, pretty much anything really – their environmental record is pretty abysmal.
yes it is abysmal and by purchasing their products like the wind turbines we are contributing to this damage..

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Gas would be one of my preferred options too, but does the construction of a gas-fired power station not have a pretty significant ecological impact? For example, a gas-fired power plant contains turbines, doesn’t it?
iirc most gas turbine generators dont have a lot of rare earth elements, their construction is completely different than wind turbines.. iirc
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07-01-2011, 17:13   #15
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very true, so my question would be seeing the devastion these units are leaving behind, is gas not the better more greener option? even though on burning it does release some fumes into the air
No, I wouldn't consider gas greener because with wind, 90% of the cost and 99% of the environmental damage is in the turbine manufacture and installation. With gas, the environmental damage is in the extraction, plant construction and throughout the running of the plant.

When all these are taken into consideration (and not just ghg emissions at that), I would consider wind and other renewables to have a smaller environmental impact.

Having said that, I would have to look around for some studies. I saw some a while ago...could dig them out.

Edit: Also, gas and renewables work very well together so I see, in the near future anyway, gas and renewables plus some nuclear being the most likely path for Europe.
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