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Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

Posted November 07, 2016 3:36 PM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: Air Beijing China smog

The 2012 movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax features an antagonist named Aloysius O’Hare, “the man who found a way to sell air and became a millionaire.” (The rhyming is handy for a film built around musical numbers, y’know.) The basic premise is the same as the book’s—basically a personified battle between industry and environment—but O’Hare was probably added to create some action through his fight against real live trees, whose free oxygen production would render his product useless.

Making millions off selling bottled air seems like a harebrained activity confined to an animated children’s movie or Mel Brooks flick, but it’s becoming a disturbing reality that’s gaining traction. Many bottled air companies started as tongue-in-cheek operations selling bags or bottles of air as novelty gifts. Aethaer, a British company founded in 2015, sells countryside air from west England and Wales for £80 per bail-top jar. The company took its name from the ancient Greek word aether, referring to air suitable for the gods rather than mortals. Early this year they released a YouTube video poking fun at their business of “air farming,” though it’s disturbingly difficult to figure out whether the video’s a complete joke or just a humorous look at their air bottling practices.

Other companies are much more practical. Canada’s Vitality Air sells inhaler-style oxygen and air bottles and markets their products as promoting vitality for pregnant women, late-night office workers, athletes, and the elderly. Users typically get 150 to 200 breaths out of each bottle, which retail from $20 to $32. Surprisingly, bottled air like Vitality’s has caught on with well-off individuals in developing areas struggling with air pollution. Chinese sales of bottled air, air purifiers, and medical masks skyrocketed in October as coal furnaces were fired up in anticipation of colder weather.

Hawking bottled air to combat air pollution seems like the definition of putting a Band-Aid on a bullethole. But it’s tough to engineer solutions against smog because its causes are typically multifaceted. The most logical solution is cutting down on vehicle emissions and coal burning, and while agencies in most developed countries are increasingly tough on emissions, smog havens like Los Angeles and Beijing have unique geographic features that trap pollutants.

Long-term solutions to smog reduction may be over the horizon, but small-scale solutions have been effective. In the Chinese Yunnan province city of Shangri-La, formerly Zhongdian, the Danish government is installing a district heating system to replace household coal- and wood-burning furnaces that contribute to heavy pollution in the city. The project is a joint venture between ABB Denmark and the engineering firm Cowi, and uses hydroelectric power and heat pumps to achieve 100% emissions-free heating for the city’s 50,000 residents. The heating system, which should be live sometime next year, will save surrounding forests, which were being razed to provide heating fuel. It also saves 105,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

While Beijing won’t have a centralized heating system any time soon, its residents are buying up air quality sensors in record numbers. A local startup introduced the Laser Egg, a powerful PM2.5 portable air quality monitor that’s been selling out rapidly after every product release. Beijingers have reported using the Laser Egg both indoors and out, regularly scoping out their own homes to determine where dirty air is entering.

The health effects of poor air quality are well-known, so battling smog—whether through bottled air, small engineering projects or monitoring—benefits those who must live with it.

Image credit: Kentaro IEMOTO / CC BY-SA 2.0

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#1

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 3:55 PM

Air for your tires used to be free, back when they gave you green stamps at gasoline stations for buying their gasoline. Now they charge for it.

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#2
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 5:19 PM

Still have free air here at our local gas stations.

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#5
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 6:00 PM

We've got the stuff everywhere. I have seen a number of places charging for pressurizing though.

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#3

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 5:32 PM

'...built around musical numbers...'

Which are the musical numbers? (I did follow the link, but it didn't reveal which numbers are musical).

Perhaps 12√2 ?

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 8:52 PM

Perhaps 12√2 ?

A bit irrational , 12√2, of course, is associated with the tempered scale, invented as a compromise so that music in different keys can be played on the same instrument.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_temperament

Diatonic scale:

CDEFGABC
19/85/44/33/25/315/82

I'm just guessing that is what they mean. The ratios are whole numbers which, for some reason, sound pleasantly to the ear, but musical instruments using these ratios can only play songs in one key.

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#13
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/08/2016 8:21 AM

Those might be in the book, " The Magic Numbers " .

footnote: see Solar Eagle.

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#4

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 5:38 PM

With life imitating art,... yes

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#6

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 6:05 PM

Beijing should consider building a clean air pipeline from the coast or perhaps over the mountains from Mongolia.

It would be far cheaper than an oil pipeline and no risk of environmental contamination should their be a pipeline rupture. There would be some cost to run the sizeable blowers, but it would probably be a good investment.

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#7

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 8:05 PM

Hey, that's how water started, as a joke....now it's a billion dollar industry....but I think the air filter business is a little more robust....

Creed

Silver Mountain Water, 250 mL

$515.00

http://pixgrove.blogspot.com/2013/02/fresh-air-for-sale-in-china.html

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#9

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 9:38 PM

Please dear God, someone tell me this is a belated April fools joke. Anyone?

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#10
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 10:19 PM

See a potential market, add marketing hype and dodgy science, create and develop consumer concern/panic, exploit. Nothing new here.

Canned air is just plain stupid, but the air filter and mask market is quite reasonable (as long as the products actually work). Air pollution in many Chinese cities is quite, quite dire.

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/07/2016 10:40 PM

Could probably make a fortune selling scuba tanks of air....

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/08/2016 7:04 AM

Actually, I see a medical need for small portable oxygen tanks.

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/08/2016 8:27 AM

I wonder if I could sell " canned air ", taken from the area around a cattle feed lot ?

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/08/2016 8:30 AM

It would be long and China will counterfeit the canned air....

Hey, does this canned air smell funny to you?

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/08/2016 10:08 AM
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#17

Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/09/2016 2:59 PM

Cute 'Air farming' video, just the right blend of crackerjack and crackpot that makes for fine British humor (I'm saving the second 'u' for later).

Although the simplest way to fill a mason jar with local air, and KNOW that it's local air, not the air from where you were storing the mason jar before, is to fill the mason jar with water to the brim, then in the area you want to collect the air, pour the water out. It's a simple exercise in thinking in positive and negative spaceus (See, I *DID* use that 'u' I was saving).

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/10/2016 8:47 AM

You may have inadvertently stumbled on a solution to the plastic waste problem, the air pollution problem and trade imbalance...We could ship our empty water bottles after selling the water, and then sell the air in the bottles to Beijing, who could in turn fill the bottles with smog and ship it back to us for a disposal fee....Trade imbalance, fixed....air pollution gone....plastic bottles, in use....fresh air, supplied....water sold....It's a win win for all parties involved...

Then maybe we could afford one of these cool looking things....

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#19
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/10/2016 9:20 AM

"who could in turn fill the bottles with smog and ship it back to us for a disposal fee"

First off, how do we dispose of the smog without polluting our own air?

Secondly, considering that Donald's plan for the US energy policy is to dig up and burn more coal and oil, how long will we have fresh air for ourselves, much less any to export?

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/10/2016 9:41 AM
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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/10/2016 11:22 AM

Oh, See! This 'Make America Great Again' is actually beginning to work all ready!

I thought they were completely wrong, but just look! Already American innovation and entrepreneurial spirit has been kindled anew! Soon the inferno of renewal will be Yuge! Yuge I tell you!

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Re: Could You Get Rich Selling Air?

11/10/2016 2:41 PM

Jump on the Trumptrain to prosperity....

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