Take our user survey and make your voice heard.



Surplus engines from Japan and climate change


Everytime you are out on the streets in many cities in Asia, you may have noticed the soot and grime on your face, your hair, on road signs and windows, and in your lungs. That soot is a public health menace, but as scientists have pointed out, also a major climate change agent. Journal papers such as those published by scientists Ramanathan and Carmichael in Nature state that black carbon is a powerful climate change agent.

To a large extent, that is caused by the fact that in many poor countries in Asia, the public transport vehicles (such as Philippine jeepneys and Thai tuktuks) are assembled together in small shops, sometimes using surplus engines. Surplus engines are used because they are cheap, and the profit margins for these public transport vehicles are extremely thin, thus ruling out the latest clean versions of diesel and gasoline engines. And a lot of these surplus engines come from Japan.

The substance many of these poorly maintained salvaged engines emit is black carbon (which we commonly call soot). It is the byproduct of inefficient combustion from poorly designed cookstoves, badly maintained engines used by public transport, dry brush clearing fires, and the like. This means it is actually easy to fix. But actually doing so is another issue, again cost being a major factor.

Last February, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an international initiative to curtail the emission of short-lived climate forcers such as black carbon (which we commonly call soot) and CFC refrigerants. By short-lived, this means that unlike greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that stay in the atmosphere for a very long time, substances like black carbon settle down to earth much more quickly. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), cutting back on short-lived climate pollutants may reduce global warming expected by 2050 by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius.

As anyone who has touched a dark-colored automobile on a hot summer day can attest, dark substances such as black carbon absorb (and do not reflect) sunlight and instead emit heat to their surroundings. In the Arctic, black carbon carried by winds lessen the reflectivity of ice and accelerate the melting, thus reducing the ability of ice sheets to reflect sunlight back to space.

Black carbon in the atmosphere is a well-known public health issue. In many countries, black carbon concentrations are high enough especially in the cities to cause significant public health issues such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. While enforcement of anti-smog laws and the availability of cleaner fuels and better engine technologies have remedied the problem to some extent in developed countries such as the U.S. and Japan, in Third World Asian countries it is another matter altogether.

Because black carbon pollution is a "tragedy of the commons" (or a common problem that affects everyone) often there has been no financial incentive to remedy the problem. Where anti-smog laws exist in developing countries, these have oftentimes been rendered inutile by poor enforcement in many cases. Thus, the status quo in many developing countries is to continue with poorly designed cookstoves, brush clearing fires, or to use cheap surplus rebuilt engines for public transport, thus contributing to the air pollution problem.

While not all surplus engines are bad – some can be put into pretty good shape with a decent car repair shop and the right replacement parts, obviously exporting used engines which should already be scrap for steel plants should be stopped. For example, engines with all the parts significantly worn down and with their crankcases broken should already be scrapped in Japan and not sent elsewhere where the temptation to reuse these is pretty strong.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Stop flogging this green crQp for gain. There is a need for used engines in the world ! Typical anti business rhetoric from a greeny, you'd like us all back on horse and carts wouldnt you !

Lets get rid of the greenies because they pollute the world with their green speil getting govts around the world to increase taxes under false pretences which is bad for the world economy. ........................

0 ( +5 / -5 )

you'd like us all back on horse and carts wouldnt you !

He'd like us back on our horses and carts, working 14 hour days just for enough food to survive while he lives in a lushly furnished ivory tower telling everybody else how they should live.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

It appears the writer does not understand the meaning of "tragedy of the commons". It does not refer to a "common problem" as the writer suggests. It refers to the depletion of a resource owned "in common", and the tragic situation where each owners utilizes the resource to the maximum extent without regard to the other owners.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

it will solve itself with cancer, global warming and depletion of fossil fuels to the point where you can go back to your cart or just walk, i hope you like that better then

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Usually the problem is curable, mainly by correct tuning of diesels. Black smoke is normal at high altitudes, but Manila is definitely sea level. Used engines are usually not too bad, but the author doesn't seem to know much about them if he thinks an engine with a broken crankcase would be exported from Japan. I blame the vehicle owners, who probably just don't care as long as they get the fares.

As for it being a problem of the commons, it's not unusual for Japan to be enveloped in Chinese-generated soot when the winds are right (wrong?)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Greenies have wonderful imaginations. In their make-believe fantasy worlds, they believe that primitive economies can emerge fully developed into 21st century economies without using any older, less efficient technologies or going through any intermediate steps that might require carbon-based forms of energy. They love "the planet" so much that they are ready to shut down any economic development that might require carbon, regardless of how many people this technology would help emerge from dire poverty. Yes, they love the planet; too bad they have no use for people.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

In the 50s, 60s and 70s engines and factories were far dirtier than they are today. Yet back then all the experts were touting global cooling and the coming ice age.

Then Al Gore turned the tables and claimed that warming was coming.

Now they just use the catch all "climate change" which basically covers every possible weather pattern.

The sky has been falling for the last 5000 years and the only constant is that those who claim it to be true are always wrong.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I guess when he says "broken crankcases," he means the engines are being shipped for parts. This can't be bad: the parts are being recycled, thus conserving resources and avoiding the costs and environmental impact of being scrapped.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Good point Jeff.

The most environmental thing you can do is to keep your old clunker running as long as possible so as to reduce demand for new vehicles which require resources to build.

Whose more friendly to the earth, the guy who's managed to keep his 1985 Chev Camero running for 30 years or the guy who's bought a new Prius "eco car" every 5 years, thus consuming 6 over a span of 30 years.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am not an anti-environmentalist, and am a proponent of sustainable living; however, there are several misconception that are held as logically true by most people, particularly by my environmentalist friends. The first and most common of these is that certain resources such as petroleum are in limited supply. I'll make a statement that most people will scoff at, but it is a fact: The supply of petroleum is infinite.

Actually, the supply of ALL commodities is infinite. Variable market pricing insures this. As demand for any commodity grows, and suppliers begin having trouble meeting it, the price will rise (and it is always the BUYER that sets the higher price by agreeing to pay it).

Price increases ALWAYS result in one, or a combination of the following: 1. Increased production, 2. Mitigated demand, 3. Introduction of competitive alternatives

When one, or any combination of these results ensues, the continuity of supply is thereby assured.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is interesting that the writer of the article insists that a developing world "problem" is rooted in a developed county. (Japan not scrapping surplus engines results in 3 world pollution).

In reality, there is no problem, only a need to blame something on a developed country. This is an insult to peoples of developing countries, who are in reality industrious and clever, and will solve their problems with their own ingenuity, community spirit, and resolve.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Another power mad greenie. Fortunately the next ice age will wipe out the green idiots too. Geology rules.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


you really should stop trotting out the 'they were all touting global cooling' line - it's patently false, and a few minutes on the internet can tell you that.

There's undoubtedly an interesting study to be made between running old clunkers versus buying a more efficient new car - but your example is skewed - it would be a better to compare someone who keeps a modern gas guzzer running for 30 years versus someone who keeps their Prius running for the same time period.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yeah I agree with ExportExpert. I think the world is fine now so... so what? If were making money then we are very happy. I am sure our children and their children will know how to clean up the mess we left them. We should really start to worry when it's too late.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites