As we near the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, more and more attention will be focused on China's poor air quality with photos of athletes sporting air masks to combat the acrid air. We remember the incident with US triathlete Matt Reed's asthma attack during trials last year.
Despite a brief relief from overcast smog laden skies this week (thunderstorms forced air currents to clear portions of the Beijing skyline), the industrial tinged smog is returning in force just in time for Friday's opening ceremonies.
Already, the Chinese government has banned over 45% of all cars from the road, and stopped production in 200 smog belching factories.
As we begin to see nightly photos out of Beijing showing athletes adorned with smog masks, the national and international conversation on air quality and the energy crisis will reach a critical mass.
We predict that the 2008 Olympics - and the spotlight it shines on the forces impacting air quality, particularly on petro-powered cars and smoke belching coal-fired powerplants - will long be remembered as one of the seminal events of the end of the first decade of the new millennium in which the world finally began stridently to wean itself of petroleum as a primary energy source. This will be driven by the following forces currently creating what former Intel chairman Andy Grove calls a "Strategic Inflection Point"...
- The availablity of cheaper, safer, lighter and more reliable lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries mass produced from Chinese factories and exported (at the China price) all over the planet.
- The electrification of the automobile led by cars like the 2010 Chevy Volt, the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid and potential tax credits of up to $2500 for retrofits of existing vehicles to run on electricity (at ~2 cents per mile)
- The continued competition for remaining petroleum reserves by industrialized nations along with the rabid consumption of the Chinese and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Indian populaces.