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The new NASA study relied on the high-tech imaging instrument known as MODIS, contained aboard NASA's Terra satellite.  (Source: NASA)

A chart detailing the airflow over the Pacific. Note the airflow towards the polar region that crosses from Asia, near Japan and China up towards British Columbia and down the west coast of the U.S.  (Source: NASA)
Is poor air quality in America the fault of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan?

There's been much conjecture that China's vast industrialization produces heavy pollution, not only to East Asia, but to North America as well.  Air currents, which flow between Asia and North America, are thought to carry industrial pollution overseas to the U.S. and Canada.  Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also extremely industrialized and highly populated and also contribute significant airborne emissions of toxic sulfur and nitrogen compounds into the air.

Theories about pollution drift from East Asia to North America remained unexamined until now.  As part of NASA's ongoing efforts to track pollution and environment changes via satellite, NASA has launched a major initiative to track and carefully measure the flow of air pollution between East Asia and North America.  The study looks to detect and quantitatively analyze pollution from three primary sources -- forest fires, urban exhaust, and industrial pollution.

China's rapid expansion cleared vast tracks of land.  Much of this land is cleared by slash and burn methods, which release airborne pollution.  Accidental forest fires also occur frequently.  Further, China's automobile population has skyrocket.  Many of the automobiles do not have up to date exhaust controls as American automobiles do.  This leads to the release of carbon monoxide and other pollutants.  China's network of factories and coal plants pump literally tons of toxins into the atmosphere, helping to make China the world leader in greenhouse gas production

Despite China's efforts to adopt environmentally friendly technology, its reduction efforts are currently outpaced greatly by its growth.

One of the NASA researchers on the study, Hongbin Yu, an associate research scientist of the University of Maryland Baltimore County working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., grew up in China and witnessed first hand the damage done on the environment and the local population's health by the uncontrolled expansion.  Yu and his team will be working for the first time to analyze aerosol flow in the fast moving airstream that crosses the Pacific, traveling from East Asia to North America. 

Aerosols are a standard type of air pollution, consisting of a suspension of droplets.  These droplets can contain many toxic chemicals.  High aerosol exposure in industrial settings can lead to many health problems, the impact of lesser degrees of exposure has not been entirely examined.

The study's first results come courtesy of measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), an instrument on NASA's Terra satellite.  The results, which will be published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, confirm that between 2002 and 2005 East Asia exported nearly 18 teragrams of pollution into the air stream over the Pacific, with 4.5 teragrams reaching North America.  A teragram is a unit used to measure atmospheric mass of aerosol pollution.  One teragram equals 2.2 billion pounds, so the study shows that nearly 10 billion pounds of Asian aerosol pollution reached American shores in a 3 year span.

Yu puts this in perspective, stating, "We used the latest satellite capabilities to distinguish industrial pollution and smoke from dust transported to the western regions of North America from East Asia. Looking at four years of data from 2002 to 2005 we estimated the amount of pollution arriving in North America to be equivalent to about 15 percent of local emissions of the U.S. and Canada.  This is a significant percentage at a time when the U.S. is trying to decrease pollution emissions to boost overall air quality. This means that any reduction in our emissions may be offset by the pollution aerosols coming from East Asia and other regions."

According to Yu, though East Asia is not solely at fault as pollution travels with the airstream from North America to other continents as well.  He states that the study only seeks to analyze the Asian pollution input into North America's air.  He explains, "Our study focused on East Asian pollution transport, but pollution also flows from Europe, North America, the broader Asian region and elsewhere, across bodies of water and land, to neighboring areas and beyond.  So we should not simply blame East Asia for this amount of pollution flowing into North America."

Mian Chin, also a co-author of this study and an atmospheric scientist at NASA Goddard agrees with Yu's cautions and states that he believes that much of North America's pollution may come from Europe as well.  NASA may carry out additional studies to examine this possibility.

Lorraine Remer, a physical scientist and member of the MODIS science team at NASA Goddard points out that the study is a cutting edge experience that relies on the most modern sensor technology.  MODIS can distinguish between many types of atmospheric particles and can accurately track them as they rise out of the troposphere, where we live and breath, into the upper atmosphere, where they are transported overseas.  Says Remer, "Satellite instruments give us the ability to capture more accurate measurements, on a nearly daily basis across a broader geographic region and across a longer time frame so that the overall result is a better estimate than any other measurement method we’ve had in the past."

The greatest pollution influx occurred in 2003, due a set of large forest fires in East Asia and Russia.  The researchers determined that it takes approximately a week for pollutants to travel from Asia to North America.

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RE: Smog city
By Ringold on 3/21/2008 12:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
Would you have been more comfortable with any of these other alternatives?

This is the sort of stuff that gets me going. Surely you don't think any of those are what makes small business in America uncompetitive, or at least that those are things they complain about? I've spoke to many small business owners, and never had a print shop owner turn to me and say, "You know, man, if I could just hire 5 year old and make them work 15 hour shifts, I bet with their tiny hands they could clear paper jams a lot easier than I could!"

Price gouging, though, some would object to, I'll admit that much. Price gouging roils many economists; it is, in principle, not immoral, but simply manifestations in markets representing extreme demand or extreme supply issues that makes politicians feel uncomfortable when people who feel entitled to lower prices go to the polls. Shortages and inefficient allocation of limited resources (and the encouragement of black markets) is the result of 'anti-price gouging laws', but doesn't make for a good sound bite or make people feel good.

As for the rest, I'll address it further down, but also, talking with some SB owners would be beneficial, of the 1-100 employee range in particular, where the owners face, often by themselves, the full weight of federal, state and local regulation.

But we also have some of the highest profits and perks in the world, which tend to offset each other. Additionally, since business is still being conducted everywhere in America while making a decent profit, it's a complete non-starter of an issue.

Must I define opportunity cost? Obviously, business still operates here. Business still operates in Zimbabwe, despite 100,500% estimated inflation. The point is, when businesses like Dow Chemical get on CNBC and talk about all the billions they are investing in their company over the next several years with not a single dollar being spent in America (in their case, because the states they operate in refuse to allow them to tap in to natural gas reserves, so they're building new plants in Saudi Arabia), or when companies like Chrysler merge and decide to headquarters not in America but in Germany (and bringing those high paying corporate jobs with them there) because of a more favorable tax environment (14% lower tax bill I believe), how much better could it be in America with reforms? If you lower yourself to looking at dirty things like facts, we know from observing changes in Irelands tax structure, as well as examples from Eastern Europe (which has embraced Reaganomics), Hong Kong and other places that lower taxes spurs higher growth. We can similarly observe that while business still operates profitably in France, France has suffered immensely from its higher taxes and regulations in comparison to its peers.

Is it fair to exclude blacks from entering a dining establishment, or having them enter from the back door?

Unfortunately, as much as you'd like to mix the fields of political science and economics, there are good reasons why they try quite hard to remain separate areas of study. It's the job of politicians to jaw-bone and figure out what societies goals are and concepts of what is fair or not, it's the job of economics to figure out how most efficiently to achieve those goals; normative and positive issues, respectively. Positive economic theory can approach competitive trade issues without dipping in the dark pit of politics and concepts of fairness; again, Ricardo proved countries like the US with stringent policies and higher paid, higher productivity workers can trade with lax, low-paid, underproductive Mexico and both states can gain. The example I believe he used was England and Portugal, which at the time.. actually isn't much different than the current US-Mexico issue.

Ringold, every single point you made initially was wrong. Take the entire child labor issue we just covered -- you got your hackles up that I would have the temerity to raise *that* particular issue.

I absolutely did because it is not an issue small business cares about, nor has it been in our lifetimes! You're trying to bring up a red-herring. They care about slip-and-fall liability (or anything, in fact, that involves lawyers, because even if they're innocent they are saddled with huge costs), Sarbanes-Oxley, having health care dumped on their shoulders, archaic and complicated tax laws, unfair rent-seeking behavior, many have issues with IP laws -- thats just a sampling of the general thorny issues, customs and exports regulations, and every industry and sub-industry has mountains of regulations specific to it, down to the minimum size cage pigs can be placed in, the percentage of wall space that must be bare, etc. These things are not without cost.

Even CNN is aware its a problem;

It's no exagerration to say that entrepreneurs are being crushed by regulatory costs. A 2005 report by the Small Business Administration found that small firms spend $2,400 more per employee, on average, than bigger counterparts to keep up with the demands of Uncle Sam.

The two most daunting burdens, according to the study, are environmental compliance and - you guessed it - taxes. Following rules set by the EPA and other agencies costs small businesses 364 percent more per worker than it does larger enterprises. Staying out of tax court takes 67 percent more out of their pockets per employee than it does in big corporations. Although most business owners don't want to break environmental or tax regulations, even the most well-intentioned can get confused by the fine print.

Those are all the sorts of things small businesses complain about -- they do not complain about, generally, any of the issues you tried to raise. Hence, I assumed mere trolling, but perhaps it was just being misinformed.

In case you wonder why small biz is worthy of such discussion, virtually all job growth in this nation since 1980 is from small business. Large and mega-cap companies employment has been essentially flat; they provide the nation with economies of scale, but not so much jobs. Small business is footloose; many businessmen can and do pick up their firms and move abroad if it benefits them, you can see this taking place right now as hedge funds and smaller finance businesses flee England's non-dom tax hikes for Zurich, NYC and other cities (and taking their millions of income, and local spending, with them as well), so being globally competitive on all of the above is important.

I have supported above all of my original points, all but the last one in this post alone, while you have failed to produce theory or evidence to contradict any of them. As far as the 4th point, that rising anti-trade rhetoric is damaging trade relations, I reference again the week before lasts edition of The Economist, which noted trade officials from our North American and South American trade partners being nervous about it and the wide sense of utter betrayal in places like Colombia. I don't know what more you want, asides from a discussion, perhaps, of how ethical or unethical the Factory Acts of 1819 in the UK where. (Just in case you're a subscriber, or in case that article doesn't happen to be premium-only, I can't tell)

RE: Smog city
By dluther on 3/21/2008 5:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
I certainly don't see you complaining about tax breaks and regulatory relief specifically designed to help small businesses, such as startup cost deductions, section 179 deductions, and domestic production activities deductions, among others. And for that matter, I don't hear much in the way of large corporations complaining about these tax breaks either.

never had a print shop owner turn to me and say, "You know, man, if I could just hire 5 year old and make them work 15 hour shifts, I bet with their tiny hands they could clear paper jams a lot easier than I could!"

Yes, but ask that same print shop owner if he'd hire a 15-year old to work 16 hours on a Saturday for $3.00/hr, I'm sure you'd find him changing his tune faster than a reggae band at a Klan cookout.

I absolutely did because it is not an issue small business cares about, nor has it been in our lifetimes!

But it was an example of a business regulation. I'm 42, so it *was* in my lifetime.

And this is the point which I'm going to just sign off. Ringold, neither of the posts for which I responded made any differentiation about small or large business. And quite frankly, we were talking about large businesses because there aren't that many mom-and-pop operations that are farming their manufacturing or support overseas. Now that all of your initial arguments and statements have been nullified, you're resorting to micro managing the minutiae of opinion and what kinds of businesses that are being adversely affected by regulation. You don't like the analogies I bring without allowing for the fact that the biggest tools in the box are the first ones we generally see.

Your whole assertion is that business in America is being crippled because of too much taxation and regulation. My rebuttal is that taxation is necessary and regulation is critically essential.

RE: Smog city
By Ringold on 3/21/2008 7:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
My points were nullified? By what? That someone somewhere might want to higher a teenager?

We're not going to agree, but I'll just point out I'm friends with and have worked for a highly respected PhD economist from Sweden who is an avowed socialist -- and she would've made the same arguments I did, and would probably be just as annoyed with your continued adherence to the child labor red herring rather than looking at the impact of over regulation (note I never said there should be none) and higher relative tax rates and how they correlate with growth and prosperity.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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