"A series of drastic measures to cut pollution (in Beijing) ended (Sept.20), following the completion of the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September. Those measures, meant to be temporary, included...restrictions on driving that cut the number of cars on the roads by nearly half.
The government recently has encouraged an unusual amount of public debate over what price the city is willing to pay for cleaner air. It has published the results of opinion polls on automobile restrictions that show the public more or less split.
The steps could include increasing parking fees to discourage driving; charging people to drive in congested downtown areas, as London and some other cities do; and auctioning license plates to reduce the number of cars added to the roads.
Curbing auto use could hurt one of China's pillar industries, car-industry advocates warn. The Beijing Auto Industry Association instead advocates higher fuel prices -- a move also favored by some environmentalists who want a long-discussed fuel tax enacted.
Du Shaozhong, deputy head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said the government plans to retire early about 10% of the city's older, more polluting cars because they don't meet current emissions standards. The 300,000 cars produced about half of Beijing's auto emissions, he said."