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Chevy vs. Chery FTW

Chevy vs. Chery FTW

January was the “month in which, for the first time, more automobiles were sold in China than in the United States” (Harper’s Index, April 2009 issue). China passed the U.S. to become the second-largest automobile-manufacturing nation in 2008. Chevy-Chery photo by The Pocket.

Mervin Jarman with trophy and Challenge emceesIt’s impossible really to communicate how inspiring it was to be in the august Stockholm City Hall and receive the full-on Nobel Prize treatment, but maybe this picture of Mervin Jarman, one of the Education winners for his excellent Container Project, gives you some idea. You can find a full list if the winning projects here.

World Without Oil did very well in the Challenge, bringing home a Special Mention (i.e., it was a runner-up) in the Environment category. The Environment winner is the World Weather Information Service, a global source for free, updated weather information based  in Hong Kong. A vitally necessary service indeed in a food-challenged, climate-changed world.

(Below: The Stockholm City Choir serenading the diners. We are in the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall, the same room where Nobelists meet and present their awards.)

at the Stockholm Challenge Awards Dinner 2008

I’m in Phoenix, looking for WWO-worthy headlines in the Arizona Republic, and finding them. Front page box item: “Gas prices continue to top records.” The box blurb mentions an Iraqi pipeline bombing and cutbacks by refiners as causes for the inexorable march of gas prices, but of course that’s hogwash (the pipeline will be fixed in the next day or so, and the cutback by refiners is due to shrinking gasoline demand in U.S. local markets). $4 a gallon gas in Menlo Park, CAThe article itself (top story, Business section) barely mentions the true cause: oil prices still over $105 a barrel. They spend a whole paragraph talking about the refinery cutback, terming it “troubling,” but why? Refineries cut back when local demand lessens, nothing sinister about it. World demand isn’t decreasing, not if China has anything to say about it, and as long as that’s true the fundamental price of oil will stay high.

The rest of the article is quotes from drivers, and it’s all pure WWO: “Gas prices have really impacted our budget.” “We might not be able to take a vacation this year.” “I’m taking the bus and riding my bike more.” “I used to go back to Chinle, my hometown, every two weeks – now with higher gas prices, I only go up once a month.” Is this not a game?

The oil crisis is on, and the country is in disarray. Parts of the country are unaffected, while others stagger under rationing, long queues, the collapse of public transit, and eruptions of violence at gas stations. More and more gas stations ignore government mandates, and the black market is burgeoning.

Sound like World Without Oil  to you? Me too. But it’s not fiction: it’s happening right now in China, according to this article in The Economist, November 22. Unwilling to curb demand, or even to raise prices at the pump, China is forcing itself to get more oil. Whose?

“CHINA has urged local governments to set up an early-warning system to ensure sufficient oil supplies at filling stations, which face shortages across the nation, the state-run Xinhua News Agency has reported…” So says The Australian, here. Is this not a game?

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.