The Wall Street Journal's Jeremy Page adds another important angle to the story -- that [the smoke may help to trigger an exodus of wealthier Chinese out of the country altogether.] Page profiles a couple of these potential émigrés and trots out a compelling statistic -- a 1,000 percent rise in the last four years in the number of Chinese applications for special U.S. visas accorded to investors putting $1 million into an American company. There is a complex bundle of reasons why some newly rich pull up stakes from emerging economies and head to more established ones, including education and less corruption. One does not often hear pollution cited as one of the rationales. Now it is.
To plug this brain drain, China will shift fuels for electricity production from coal and nuclear to natural gas. The pollution problem is pushing out talent. Captive labor is unable to force much change. The most geographically mobile can.
The above is a good example of the importance of international talent migration. It can have major implications for a small coal town in West Virginia that sees no immigration. Teasing out the emerging economic geography of shale gas just got a lot harder.