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Proposal to turn off engines

Global Times (2013-10-25 P05)
By Chen Ximeng

A public hearing organized by the city legislature on Thursday has sparked a heated debate over whether drivers in Beijing should turn their engines off when they have to wait for more than three minutes.

Most representatives from enterprises, government departments, taxi companies, ordinary citizens and environmental experts, approved of the proposal to turn off engines, which was outlined in the draft of new air pollution regulations. However, some voiced concerns.

The regulation, to be released next year, strengthens penalties for various acts of pollution, including emissions from cars, factories or restaurants.

Li Xiaoxi, a retired teacher from the Air Force Command College, said he believed the proposal is a good idea, because many drivers do not turn off their engines when idling, and that engines pollute more in that state. However, Li said that the proposal would require penalties to be strictly enforced.

He said that government cars should be among the first to follow the policy.

In 2012, there were over 1 million government cars out of a total of 5 million vehicles in Beijing. Li said that some drivers of government cars have the bad habit of leaving their air conditioning on for several hours, even when the car is empty.

Ge Feng, project coordinator with NGO Friends of Nature, who also attended the hearing, was more concerned about the implementation.

"Many regulations are great for combating air pollution and reducing emissions, but how they can be implemented counts for more," said Ge, who said he wondered how the government would be able to measure cars idling, and said the issue needed to be carefully considered.

Some people just misunderstood the proposal, which applies more to cars parked beside the road rather than those waiting at traffic lights, Fang Li, a spokesperson for the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, told the People's Daily Online.

Studies show that restarting the car after turning off the engine for over a minute will not increase fuel consumption, which also can help cut emissions, Fang added.

Shi Lei, a Beijing government spokesperson, told the Global Times on Thursday that the results of the hearing will be publicized and reported to the city legislature for the revision of the air pollution control regulation, which is set to be released early next year.

Beijing issued the air heavy pollution emergency response plan Wednesday with four degrees of alert warnings for days with heavy air pollution, which has began the implementation phase.

Also on Wednesday, the leaders of neighboring provinces and cities gathered in Beijing to coordinate attempts to combat air pollution in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and the surrounding areas.

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