Friday, February 01, 2008

Snow Cripples China?

In all of the breathless reporting on snowstorms affecting the transportation and infrastructure of China, one salient fact is not exactly mentioned.

How much snow actually fell on those areas most affected?

We hear that hundreds of thousands were stranded in railroad stations and that power plants are struggling with diminished reserves because trains are incapable of reaching them with new supplies. More than 60 have died in the storms so far.

But how much snow actually fell?

Shanghai's suburbs received up to a foot of snow, which is the most received in 20 years.
Shanghai, China's biggest city, saw its biggest snowfall in nearly 20 years earlier in the week, with up to a foot of snow accumulating in the suburbs.

Mayor Han Zheng on Thursday urged the city's 20 million residents to try to conserve energy.
Even on these reports, they're not telling you exactly how much snow fell or how widespread the snow was.

Some are blaming the snow on the La Nina. And quite a few of those killed in the storms were as a result of an overloaded bus crashing.

It would appear that all the problems with the transportation system aren't due to the weather. You can throw China's communist price control system into the mix. It's distorted the marketplace for energy in the Communist paradise:
Coal prices have been largely deregulated in recent years. Power prices remain controlled. As coal prices have soared in recent months and weeks, mines have held back supplies to try to cash in, while the generators have reduced their power output rather than pay up.
So, far from a creaky infrastructure completely overwhelmed by the weather, it appears that the Communists have made a bad situation worse with their price controls on coal. Nice.

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