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Bull in the China Shop

Regrets, we’ll have a few, writes Nicholas Cox of the china in his hands

I was last in China just before the Olympics and while pleasantly surprised by the level of Glasnost on the Tibetan issue, I was even more surprised by the high level of security on buses and coaches. I learnt that this was due to the threat of bombings by Uighur separatists from China’s western Xinjiang (Sinkiang) region, formerly the independent state in Kashgar, then the East Turkestan Republic but part of the People’s Republic of China since 1949. I mentioned this in passing during a Skype conversation to the UK and was immediately cut off by the state censor. It seems that Chinese glasnost has its limits and I’d found the limit. But predictions of a simultaneous clampdown in Xinjiang and Tibet after the Olympics proved unfounded.

So I was somewhat alarmed to read of mass unrest in Xinjiang, with 156 dead, thousands injured, 1,500 arrested, and violence spreading throughout the region. The unprecedented early departure of President Hu Jintao from the G8 meeting in Italy is an indication of the seriousness with which China regards this issue.

Why is this relevant to the UK refrigeration & air conditioning industry? One of the sparks for the violence seems to have been a mass brawl between Han Chinese and Uighur workers in a Guangdong toy factory, which left at least two Uighur dead and 118 injured.

A surprising proportion of the air conditioning units purchased in the UK now come from China, and Guangdong has the highest number of air conditioning factories in China. Furthermore, it’s not just the economy models with the obscure brand names as most of the European, American and Japanese premium brands source an increasing proportion of their products from China. If the unrest continues we may well come to regret building all those retail parks where are own factories used to be!

More Government hot air?

The UK Government has released a number of papers for turning the UK into a low carbon economy. These papers include the Low Carbon Transition Plan. This White Paper on energy and climate sets out how the Government plans to achieve emissions cuts of 34 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050.

Other white papers included:

The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy with a commitment to spend £6m building 60 demonstration low carbon homes.

The Renewable Energy Strategy to put in place mechanisms to provide financial support for renewable electricity and heat.

The Government estimates that implementation will have the effect of adding an additional 8 per cent to energy bills. However the critical test is whether these proposals are actually implemented. A key concern is the lack of a clear regulatory framework with simple rules of engagement. In practice nothing significant is going to disrupt the hvacr industry this side of a general election, but when the time comes we can expect to play our part and realistically there are only two ways that our industry can cut its carbon footprint by 80 per cent:

  1. By reducing the TEWI of our products by 80 per cent
  2. By reducing sales of our products by 80 per cent

Those who argue against option 1 are effectively endorsing option 2. So it’s not too early to start considering how this can be achieved. Change on this scale can not be achieved by incremental improvements; we are going to have to go back to the Carnot Cycle and redesign refrigeration from scratch.