TIFFS: Judge denies suit to keep Fresno’s Fulton Mall closed to vehicle traffic

Number 12 in the Transport in a Fine Fix Series.

Motor vehicles traveling north and south on Fulton Street through the historic Fresno Fulton Mall are to return. A Fresno judge blocked a local advocacy group’s attempt to keep cars and trucks and what-not from transiting through on the portion of the pedestrian promenade that presently traverses the mall. (See story and details here). It makes no sense that allowed on and through the iconic (symbolic) mall that Fulton is, would be motorized traffic, which the venue is currently cut off from.

I first brought the information to bear here in Sept. 2013 in: “Fulton Mall to get polluting cars; what is Fresno, fed thinking?!

Highlights:

  • On Friday, Sept. 6th, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pays Fresno and the Mall a visit, presenting the city a federal check for almost $16 million.
  • Money will be put toward $20 million Fulton Street do-over on the Mall’s six blocks between Inyo and Tuolumne streets.

A vision of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is to open the mall to traffic; part of the plan to revitalize Fulton Mall and downtown.

Fulton Mall, when finished in 1964, ushered in the era of American outdoor pedestrian malls.

In that Sept. 6, 2013 post, meanwhile, I offered: “In its current form, the six-block-long mall is a pedestrian-and-bicycle-only venue and first opened in the mid-1960s. However, subsequent to the mall’s completion, area developers turned their attention northward and with that a mall left bereft of sufficient patronage, resulting in the venue falling on economic hard times and it has been that way since.”

But, I also argued: “When it comes to transportation in Fresno, the car is king, obviously. So, quite honestly, it comes as no surprise really that in an attempt to cure the Fulton Mall of its modern-day affliction, adding the motor vehicle element as catalyst to try to boost mall business and patronage and in the process alter its pedestrian-and-bicycle-only orientation, is what is presently being pursued and hence the federal cash contribution.”

As it relates and as long as the automobile continues to be promoted at the expense of more environmentally sensible means of mobility and travel, especially in an area with some of the country’s worst air pollution, how is the community and region ever going to comply with San Joaquin Valley, California and federal ozone and fine particulate matter standards mandates? My thought: It won’t.

So, what would prove to be a more environmentally sound resolution?

Right off the bat I can think of several.

Adding a substantial downtown residential component will enable a sizable amount of area sidewalk foot traffic, though, please note, this type of inner-city development has been very slow-going.

Next, with presumably hordes of pedestrians pounding downtown pavements, new entertainment, office, professional and retail venues to name a few, most likely would follow.

Finally, updated, accessible, affordable, safe, efficient, frequent, high-quality if not high-capacity public transit having an extensive reach will not just go far to provide downtown residents with a viable means with which to frequent venues beyond the downtown periphery, but such as well would do much to give area suburbanites more flexibility when it comes to moving about the entire city, and that includes the central business district, thus allowing for a greater coalescing of two parts of the community that, right now, seem as disparate as disparate can be.

In rounding out the discussion I’ll repeat what I earlier wrote in “Fulton Mall to get polluting cars; what is Fresno, fed thinking?!” because I believe it is still fitting: “Cars on the Mall: Is there something I’m missing here?”

Several interests requesting EPA enact rules to target methane

Carbon dioxide (CO2) isn’t the only greenhouse gas (GHG). Yet, of all GHG emissions, CO2 has gotten and continues to garner the lion’s share of attention. Of all greenhouse gases, CO2 is the leading GHG contributing to climate change in the industrial age, apparently – in California weighing in at 86.5 percent. While CO2 in the atmosphere is the longest-lasting of the GHGs, a more potent one, according to Sean Cockerham of McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington, D.C. Bureau, is methane (CH4) – in fact, more potent by an order of 25 times. Moreover, and according to Cockerham in “California looks to curb methane emissions” also, Earth’s warming is accelerating because of it.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau correspondent pointed out as well that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the United States, 25 percent of methane emissions come from oil- and gas-producing activity and the federal regulatory agency is contemplating whether or not to establish new rules that would target CH4 emissions from those sources. This is as I understand it.

In the Cockerham article, it was further expressed that there are various interests asking for EPA oversight in this matter.

According to Cockerham, methane is a primary constituent of natural gas; so, during the oil-drilling process, when leaks do develop, methane can get into the air that way as can also happen in delivery of natural gas via pipeline. Then there are those cases too when oil companies exhaust waste methane into the air while there are instances also where these emissions are ignited, as is common in North Dakota’s Bakken fields.

Meanwhile, there is more information available on the EPA’s Web site regarding methane here.

Cow female black white1 Several interests requesting EPA enact rules to target methaneOn the Web site in question, it is stated: “Methane is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities such as leakage from natural gas systems and the raising of livestock. … Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide (CO2), but CH4 is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”

Anthropogenic activities are responsible for contributing more than 60 percent of methane emissions world-wide.

‘Fuel’ing America’s transportation future: And the winner is …

Diesel smoke1 238x300 ‘Fuel’ing America’s transportation future: And the winner is …The fuel that’s going to drive America’s transportation future: What will it be?

One authority, Diesel Technology Forum Executive Director Allen Schaeffer, in the “Bright Future For Diesel In The Natural Gas Revolution” press release, shed some light.

“While the nation’s truckers will ultimately be the ones to answer that question, according to international and U.S. energy and transportation experts, the future of America’s heavy-duty trucking industry is very clear – diesel is going to remain the overwhelmingly dominant growth fuel in transportation for several decades to come.”

Schaeffer, moreover, also in the release declared: “Truckers always want lower fuel costs, but are smart enough to know the lowest cost isn’t always the best choice. Diversification of fuels and technologies is in our future, and we need to approach it based on more transparent facts. But one thing is clear. Virtually every U.S. and international energy and transportation agency has said that diesel will remain the overwhelming transportation energy source beyond 2050.”

Though probably true, this has not prevented a cohort of U.S. and Canadian railroad companies from considering as an alternative Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

So, why the renewed, yes, renewed interest in LNG among North American railroad concerns as a potential locomotive fuel? In a word: cost. More specifically, compared to diesel, LNG costs significantly less.

Train 300x207 ‘Fuel’ing America’s transportation future: And the winner is …That’s but part of the story. Add to that the derived-liquefied-natural-gas benefits of better fuel economies/reduced operating costs, plus lower emissions levels compared to that which is derived via standard diesel fuels.

Looking at the locomotive emissions side of the equation, consider the following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Locomotives – – Exhaust Emission Standards” data. The emissions of hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO) are considered. Quantified units for all exhaust emissions are expressed in grams per brakehorsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr), with the exception of hydrocarbons whose units are expressed in grams per horsepower-hour (g/hp-hr).

Line-haul locomotive data:

  • Tier 0 (1973-1992) – HC (1.00), NOx (9.5), PM (0.22), CO (5.0)
  • Tier 1 (1993-2004) – HC (0.55), NOx (7.44), PM (0.22), CO (2.2)
  • Tier 2 (2005-2011) – HC (0.30), NOx (5.5), PM (0.10), CO (1.5)
  • Tier 3 (2012-2014) – HC (0.30), NOx (5.5), PM (0.10), CO (1.5)
  • Tier 4 (2015 +) – HC (0.14), NOx (1.3), PM (0.03), CO (1.5)

Switch locomotive data:

  • Tier 0 (1973-2001) – HC (2.10), NOx (11.8), PM (0.26), CO (8.0)
  • Tier 1 (2002-2004) – HC (1.20), NOx (11.0), PM (0.26), CO (2.5)
  • Tier 2 (2005-2010) – HC (0.60), NOx (8.1), PM (0.13), CO (2.4)
  • Tier 3 (2011-2014) – HC (0.60), NOx (5.0), PM (0.10), CO (2.4)
  • Tier 4 (2015 +) – HC (0.14), NOx (1.3), PM (0.03), CO (2.4)

As the above data show for both line-haul and switch locomotives the higher the Tier rating, generally speaking, the cleaner the specified exhaust emissions.

All well and good but there is the matter of working through the particulars of using LNG in railway applications; more specifically, the logistics regarding transport of the fuel itself. Ditto for roadway applications.

To liquefy natural gas requires cooling or more accurately refrigeration which means with a cold enough temperature to turn the fuel from a gaseous to a liquid state.

On the railroad, that means the creation of a special container – a holding tank of some sort – to both store and deliver the fuel from container(s)-to-locomotive(s) in order to enable its use. Then there is the matter of the re-fueling infrastructure, all of which will surely mean added upfront costs.

So, for railway locomotives, what will it be: diesel or LNG?

Soybeanbus1 300x193 ‘Fuel’ing America’s transportation future: And the winner is …What about cars and buses? There has been so much discussion in this area I don’t know if there is any real consensus.

Remember, we are talking about the future, so it is difficult to say.

That said, consider the options: biofuel (from waste vegetable oil or otherwise), diesel, dimethyl ether or DME, ethanol (blended formulations or solutions, such as E85), gasoline, hydrogen (as in hydrogen fuel cells), propane; did I miss anything? It seems the sky’s the limit.

And, speaking of skies and bodies of water, too, there is aviation and watercraft. Will blends be the order of the day?

Making engines cleaner-burning and more fuel-efficient, well, that’s a given.

As for the fuel of choice on the other hand, where America’s transportation future is concerned, this is by no means decided.

Your thoughts?

Hydrogen vehicle1 ‘Fuel’ing America’s transportation future: And the winner is …

Battery-energy storage does not exist by wind-farm application alone

Yesterday (Oct. 22, 2014) I posted: “CATS: Tehachapi-area project for storing energy North America’s largest.” I presented information on the testing of a battery-storage provision at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Tehachapi, California Monolith substation.

Do I believe this is a good use of resources and a good idea? I do.

I’ll get to telling you why. But, first a quick review.

Lithium-ion batteries are being utilized for 32 megawatt-hours (MWh) worth of battery storage. The project is for demonstration purposes, according to SCE in its Sept. 24, 2014 news release “SCE Unveils Largest Battery Energy Storage Project in North America.”

256px Dry cell PSF1 207x300 Battery energy storage does not exist by wind farm application alone
Battery – Dry Cell

Added to this I wrote: “Upon completion of the trial, if successful, demonstrated, obviously, will be the efficacy of the bank of lithium-ion batteries for its ability to store energy.”

In citing SCE I wrote also: “The company moreover stated: ‘Over a two-year period, the project will demonstrate the performance of the lithium-ion batteries in actual system conditions and the capability to automate the operations of the battery energy storage system and integrate its use into the utility grid.’”

But why stop there? I mean, really!

Think for a moment about such batteries and their potential role as energy storage device outside the above-mentioned utility-company application.

A new twist on battery-energy storage?

As I see it, the purpose of battery energy storage is as backup or as a reserve supply.

Hybrid Power System1 Battery energy storage does not exist by wind farm application aloneWhere photovoltaics (PV) are used, for example, PV system panels convert natural or ambient light into electrical energy. The electricity, as initially generated, is in the form of Direct Current or DC. Through an inverter system (depicted in the diagram at left) the DC changes into AC or Alternating Current. It is this AC that in a home application, for instance, can supply electricity to power everything from household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heaters, washers, dryers, etc., etc., etc.) to lights, automatic garage door opening and closing systems, and more, provided the electricity is at the appropriate voltage and frequency. Working in conjunction with PV systems could be battery storage banks to store the energy produced by the PV panels, that is, when electricity generated this way is being produced and relied upon specifically at times when it isn’t; say, at night. In this application, the batteries are employed for their reserve capability. And, this could have tremendous implications.

Furthermore, while driving, I sometimes spot portable lighted signs along highways and such that display messages, to alert approaching motorists, for example, that a section of road will be closed and undergoing repairs between such-and-such dates. When passing these signs, what can be readily heard is the sound of gasoline-powered internal-combustion-engine generators that act as power supplies or sources to enable sign operation.

Well, suppose, instead of said gas-powered generators being on all the time, such portable roadway signs were also outfitted with a bank of batteries capable of storing energy such that the gas-powered generators in question do not require being run 24-hours per day, 7 days per week; that is, until such time that the road repair work is done.

Meanwhile, the “supplemental” batteries, if you like, could kick in when sufficiently charged and cut off when said charge is depleted, at which point the generator would restart. No doubt some type of a starter or igniter would be needed to start the generator, but I don’t think an apparatus of this type or complexity is outside the realm of possibility. And think how much air would be improved as a result if such saw widespread use.

Incidentally, such is the basic operational scheme of the gasoline-/electric-powered hybrid motorcar.

Power produced renewably, sustainably and cleanly. There when needed and in reserve when it isn’t – the real beauty behind the principle of battery backup or reserve.

Image (upper): Pearson Scott Foresman

Image (lower): U.S. Department of Energy

CATS: Tehachapi-area project for storing energy North America’s largest

Number 31 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

One of the great advances – in my opinion – in the area of automation, is the rechargeable battery – specifically, the application thereof.

In the motorcar realm, the battery is what enables such vehicles to keep on keepin’ on, as the expression goes, by holding a charge. Should such a battery’s charge become depleted (consistent with a car-charging system’s failure to recharge said battery, as just one example), via an auxiliary source, such as a battery recharger or a second motorcar via jumper cables, the original, depleted battery can, as it were, be recharged.

So, thinking about applications where storage batteries can be employed, one that doesn’t typically come to mind is in the wind turbine world. But that may soon change.

Enter wind turbines and battery storage.

158px Turbine aalborg1 CATS: Tehachapi area project for storing energy North America’s largestSouthern California Edison’s (SCE) roughly $50 million demonstration Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is comprised of a “32-megawatt-hours battery storage system” that “features lithium-ion batteries housed inside a 6,300 square-foot facility at SCE’s Monolith substation in Tehachapi, Calif.,” SCE in its Sept. 24, 2014 “SCE Unveils Largest Battery Energy Storage Project in North America” news release wrote. “The project is strategically located in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area that is projected to generate up to 4,500 MW [megawatts] of wind energy by 2016.”

The company moreover stated: “Over a two-year period, the project will demonstrate the performance of the lithium-ion batteries in actual system conditions and the capability to automate the operations of the battery energy storage system and integrate its use into the utility grid.”

Upon completion of the trial, if successful, demonstrated, obviously, will be the efficacy of the bank of lithium-ion batteries for its ability to store energy. In addition to that, another primary goal of the project is to prove the effectiveness of “smarter inverter technologies for improved grid performance and to assist in the integration of variable renewable energy resources like wind and solar power,” SCE emphasized.

This is the largest such project of its kind anywhere in North America, the company in the news release stressed.

For more on Tehachapi-based energy generation and storage, see: “Gravity train: Clean-energy generation need not be an ‘uphill’ battle.”

EPA sued over LA’s, SJV’s alleged failure to meet fine particle standard

It is no secret that two of America’s worst regions for particulate matter pollution less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5), about 1/30th the width of a human hair, are the Los Angeles-South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins. What may not be so well-known are longer-term health impacts of heart and lung disease connected with this pollutant’s inhalation.

As it turns out, those two California locales have, so far, apparently, failed to attain even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PM 2.5 annual national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for health of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air or its 24-hour NAAQS for health of 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air, both set in 1997. The current PM 2.5 national ambient air quality standards, meanwhile, are 12 micrograms (set by EPA in 2012) and 35 micrograms (set by EPA in 2006) per cubic meter of air, respectively.

It appears also as though the regions in question have had ample time to meet said standards (the target date or deadline being Dec. 31, 2011), but have not. From what I understand, it is for this reason that groups such as the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air and others, have filed suit in this regard against the EPA in a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California.

Information is spelled out in a court document posted here.

Meanwhile, motor vehicles in state are one of the main contributing factors of the fine particle problem, if not the main contributor.

In the California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association’s report “California’s Progress Toward Clean Air 2014,” CAPCOA, in the Executive Summary, notes, “Examples of the motor vehicle problem exist in the two most severely polluted regions in the state and nation – the San Joaquin Valley (an area with low population density and high traffic volumes) and the South Coast air basin (high population density and high traffic volumes). While these areas have made tremendous strides in improving air quality they are far from meeting state and federal air quality standards.”

As it relates, “The purpose of this report is to provide objective information … on California’s progress toward cleaner air as well as challenges that remain in meeting health-based air quality standards,” CAPCOA further wrote.

The $64 million question then becomes: Will the standards in question ever be attained and to meet them, what actions are needed?

CAPCOA mentions a multi-pronged mitigating strategy.

One: adoption of new regulations and enforcement of existing ones.

Two: clean-technologies incentive-based programs and based on voluntary participation.

Three: public/private efforts involving research and development, demonstration and deployment of clean-air technologies.

Four: community outreach and education efforts aimed at informing constituents and emphasizing air-quality improvement and what constituents can do to help in this regard.

Adds CAPCOA: “The state’s most severely polluted regions, which include the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin, will need extensive deployment of zero and near zero emissions technologies to meet current and future clean air standards.”

The Golden State-based organization then mentions the jointly written Vision for Clean Air: A Framework for Air Quality and Climate Planning document, a collaboration of the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air districts.

Look for more on this matter when details become available.

California high-speed rail clears important legal hurdle

It was in “California style high-speed rail: Will it prevail?” that I presented several of the issues surrounding the project still needing resolving.

To repeat, I wrote: “Meanwhile, Tim Sheehan in The Fresno Bee on June 5, 2014 in ‘Kings County lawsuit challenges Fresno-Bakersfield high-speed rail’ wrote: ‘The Kings County Board of Supervisors, the Farm Bureau and a group of county residents filed suit Thursday in Sacramento County Superior Court challenging the approval of a high-speed rail route through the county between Fresno and Bakersfield.’

train 2 kandel California high speed rail clears important legal hurdle“And, added Sheehan, ‘Thursday’s lawsuit is the latest legal shot fired by Kings County and the Citizens for High-Speed Rail Accountability in a three-year battle opposing the state’s proposed $68 billion bullet-train project. An earlier lawsuit dating to 2012, now pending in a state appeals court, contends that the rail authority’s plan violates Proposition 1A, the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by voters in 2008.’”

Well, the California State Supreme Court, in a near-unanimous ruling, agreed to not hear an appeal sought by Kings County plaintiffs related to funding of the state’s planned high-speed rail system. This decision by the state’s highest court was handed down on Oct. 15th.

Robert Cruickshank at the California High Speed Rail Blog seemed quite resolute in his response. “To be clear: the Supreme Court didn’t feel Kings County and the anti-HSR forces that joined them had enough of a case to merit even a hearing. That’s a much bigger smackdown than if the Supreme Court had taken the case and upheld the Court of Appeals anyway. It’s the Supreme Court’s way of telling Kings County and the other plaintiffs that their arguments were literally not even worth hearing,” Cruickshank wrote.

So, what is in store?

For one, from a separate article, one of the plaintiffs – Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda – vowed to not abandon the fight. Is Fukuda’s goal, then, to stop the 800-mile project from moving ahead or is he trying, through legal means, to ensure that state high-speed rail will be the best it can be when built?

Meanwhile, Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, has indicated that in going forward, movement will be aggressive.

Oddly enough, there isn’t a single high-speed rail system operating anywhere in the America’s – North, Central or South – at least, none that I’m aware of. Though all this could change in the span of a couple of dozen years or less.

320px Acela Express and Metro North railcar1 300x225 California high speed rail clears important legal hurdleSystems, though, are being considered. Among them are Texas (Texas Central Railway high-speed rail linking Dallas-Ft.Worth and Houston), Minnesota (Zip Rail connecting Minneapolis-St. Paul and Rochester), California-Nevada (XpressWest bridging Victorville-Palmdale and Las Vegas) and Baltimore, Maryland-Washington, D.C., (an amalgam of interests proposing a high-speed magnetically levitated train).

Add to these planned systems in Argentina, Brazil and a Mexico City-Guadalajara, Jalisco line.

Ironically, full build-out of California’s system, expected in 2033, if that transpires, some 70 years will have passed since Japan inaugurated its first high-speed train line between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964.

What does all this have to do with air pollution or its mitigation? High capacity, high quality, high-speed electric trains around the globe, emissions-reduction-wise, deliver. For more on this, see: “For National Transportation Week, road, rail, air compared” here.

Image at bottom: Connor Harris

Clean diesels: Are they or aren’t they … ‘clean’?

Not to digress too much, but hanging out by the railroad tracks as a kid (off to the side and at a safe viewing distance, to be sure), you learn pretty quickly some of the characteristics and practices of the industry, such as control-signal-aspect indication (what each signal display color and/or position means – which could come in quite handy as far as determining when the next train is likely to show up). Coupled with this, there is the familiarization regarding the sights, sounds and smells the big diesel locomotives produced and by smells I mean the smell of diesel exhaust, part and parcel of railway diesel-engine operation.

Meanwhile, in the automotive realm? Well, where the diesel engine is concerned, it is little different or, it was, anyway.

As it relates, back on June 22, 2013 in “Diesel: It isn’t just for trucks, buses and locomotives anymore,” quoted was Diesel Technology Forum Executive Director Allen R. Schaeffer who in “Are hybrids the best ‘green’ bet for motorists? No: New diesels go further on a tank, are greener,” stressed, “Gone are the clatter and smoke, and wheezy slow performance. They’ve been replaced with clean, quiet and fun to drive cars.”

182px Diesel engine PSF1 Clean diesels: Are they or aren’t they … ‘clean’?
Two Cycle Diesel engine with Roots blower

I wouldn’t know about the fun-to-drive part. But, diesels being smoke-less?! Let’s just say I have my doubts. They do pollute; I know that. As for how much pollution and what pollutants are emitted from such, that is the question. Furthermore, the last sentence in the paragraph above, that is, except for the “quiet and fun to drive” part, appears to be somewhat at odds with the information presented two paragraphs below.

So, check it out.

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) press release: “New ICCT study shows real-world exhaust emissions from modern diesel cars seven times higher than EU, US regulatory limits,” of Oct. 11, 2014 is quite telling.

The ICCT declared in no uncertain terms, “On-road nitrogen oxides emission levels of modern diesel cars are on average about seven times higher than the limit set by the Euro 6 emission standard, which went into effect September 2014. This is the key finding from a new report published today in Berlin by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an independent research organization.”

Wait, there is more.

“The study, which is the most comprehensive report on the real-world behavior of the latest generation of diesel cars published to date, found remarkable differences among individual vehicle models, indicating that technologies for real-world clean diesels already exist but are not being employed consistently by different vehicle manufacturers,” the ICCT went on to state. “The findings come at a time when the European Commission is preparing to propose an improved car emissions testing procedure, including on-road measurement, that could take effect in 2017.”

According to the research organization, in the EU, around half of new cars, are diesel-powered.

Added the ICCT: “The European Commission is currently preparing to require on-road testing as part of the passenger car type-approval process in the EU. According to these plans, vehicle manufacturers from 2017 would have to test new vehicles not only under laboratory conditions but also on the road, using PEMS [Portable Emissions Measurement Systems] equipment. Technical experts from the EU member states will meet in Brussels on October 15 to discuss further steps and whether the new regulation can be approved at the end of 2014, as originally planned.”

It is my belief in speaking to Europe’s relatively high passenger diesel car numbers, the notion that the diesel cars in question emit lower levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and for that reason, in an effort to try to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gases from motor vehicles, there was a concerted effort advanced to promote increased reliance on diesel as applied to automotive engine propulsion.

Now, as to whether or not clean diesels are, in fact, “clean,” on this I believe the jury is still out.

Image above: Pearson Scott Foresman

Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job

There is no shortage of ideas when it comes to thinking of ways to get air pollution under control. I’m not going to say in doing so it won’t take work. It will. Now, add to this a dash of innovation here and a dash of inventiveness there, and talk about light at the end of the tunnel. That’s it.

About town

320px Salt Lake City panorama1 Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the jobIn thinking about my own situation, the nitty-gritty regarding the waste I generate, well, it’s in two forms: it is biodegradable and non-biodegradable. As for the biodegradable waste (sewage, green waste) as well as the non-biodegradable refuse placed in garbage containers and recycle bins, well, as means to dispose of/dispense with this stuff/substance, there is a waste-collection entity that picks it up and hauls it away for further processing. As such, I pay for this service and that is as it should be. Since I create waste, I pay to have it removed – it’s that simple.

Meanwhile, in the handling and hauling processes there is a certain amount of emissions that are, well, emitted, produced from the waste-collection entity in doing its job.

End of story? It very well could be. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Thinking outside the waste bin for a moment, what if a program existed whereby there was incentive for the entity collecting the waste to encourage or even enable the emissions from its collection and haulage operations to be significantly lowered?

So, what are we talking about here, exactly? One approach that could fit the bill is the procurement of cleaner-burning, less-polluting equipment. Say, the waste collecting, handling and processing outfit in question is able to purchase new trucks and what-not, but only a few at a time. Maybe also the investment for said equipment is greater compared to what so-called “standard” equipment would be. Looking on the plus side, over time there would be less expenditure for fuel because truck types that are cleaner-burning, it is a good bet that they are also more fuel-efficient. What’s more, if in purchasing equipment that is easier on the environment and better from a public-health point of view, there is the strong possibility of such company owning such equipment qualifying for a rebate. It’s not unheard of for rebates to be made available, either offered by the equipment manufacturer or a distributor of such, or even by an air quality/pollution control/management district.

Okay, so now the question becomes where the money to allow for such rebates would come from or what the source for such could be, in other words.

Here’s an idea.

I drive a car. Even though its emissions are considered ultra-low, it still pollutes. Depending on how much I drive (or more appropriately how many miles I put on it over the course of a year) this could be the basis for a charge being levied on the vehicle. Obviously, the more the vehicle is driven, the more emissions would be produced and a fee could be assessed based off of that. Another approach would be to charge a set amount, identical to what others in the region would be charged.

So, getting back to the commercial operation example, at the end of the day, the monies collected could be the very same that could be used to help provide funds for the above-mentioned rebates. Over the long-term drivers would be driving cleaner-burning or emissions-free motor vehicles and air would improve all as a result. And these rebates or incentives would not just be limited to owners of commercial vehicles but to owners of passenger vehicles too.

Along with this, perhaps there is opportunity for owners/operators of said equipment to get a cost break on insurance coverage, simply because the vehicles driven and operated are easier on the environment and on people’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems. As a result, maybe there are likely to be reduced health costs related to community residents where such efforts are in effect. I just do not see why such a program, if put in place, would not be worthwhile.

At home

Immediately coming to mind is yard work. Here again, more environmentally friendly means of taking care of the lawn/yard is really as easy as one, two, three.

SolarpanelBp1 300x168 Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the jobOne: A lawnmower exchange program is coordinated with local air quality control district in cooperation with lawnmower manufacturer. Participating lawnmower owner exchanges used, polluting type for one that doesn’t, such as that of a cordless electric model.

Two: lawnmower owner turns in an existing mower and in response is presented with coupon to be redeemed on the purchase of new mower. At the same time a discount is given or a brand new mower is offered at no charge depending on the exchange program terms and conditions.

Three: lawnmower owner mails coupon to mower manufacturer in question and new mower is delivered to said mower owner.

This is exactly the protocol I followed when I took part in an exchange program of this nature.

For the house, meanwhile, the addition of a photovoltaic system, whether purchased or leased, also helps.

Of course, there are the specifics to be worked through, but many people and businesses are getting and have already gotten with the solar-system program.

On the job

What about in the workplace? For employers who participate in efforts to encourage employees to lead healthier lives, the presumption here being a healthier workforce and work environment is conducive to yielding greater productivity levels, well, there is obviously something to be said regarding an approach like this.

Hydroponic onions nasa1 300x204 Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job
Hydroponic growing technique

There is also the presumption that increased productivity leads to business uptick regardless of type. And, this could lead to upped payrolls. Now the breadwinner, instead of earning less, now earns more. Perhaps as an outgrowth, a so-affected employee who maybe lives a good distance from work will now have the means to move closer to their job, providing for a shorter commute. Because the driving distance is cut, transportation expenses are lowered. The time for commuting being less, this might enable this person more time to spend with family and/or friends. There are any number of benefits that can be had.

Moreover, a shorter commute translates into fewer emissions being put into the air, that is, unless the affected worker already makes use of active transportation (on foot or by bike) in getting back and forth between home and work.

Creating opportunities for less environmental damage whether about town, at home or on the job works for me.

Image at bottom: NASA/Kennedy Space Center

Making sense of air quality data – PM 2.5

Fine particulate matter or PM 2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) is expressed in micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Fireplace Burning1 300x225 Making sense of air quality data – PM 2.5What this refers to is the concentration in the air of fine particulates. For instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assigned a health standard for PM 2.5 of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (35 μg/m3 set by the EPA on Oct. 17, 2006). This particular threshold is in reference to daily ambient PM 2.5 or over a period of 24 hours. So, for every cubic meter of air, if the fine particulate matter concentration is greater than 35 micrograms, the standard is exceeded. This corresponds to an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 101 and places air at the unhealthy-for-sensitive-individuals or populations level.

Then there is the U.S. EPA annual fine particulate matter standard. This is set at 12 μg/m3 of air and became effective on Dec. 14, 2012.

Again, nothing too complicated about this.

Concentrations of PM 2.5 can vary, from a minimum of 1 μg/m3 of air to 75 μg/m3 and higher. For concentrations between 1 and 12, air is considered to be good. Above 12, the quality of the air worsens. For a more detailed description, see: The “Real-Time Air Advisory Network” (“RAAN”) on the Web site of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District here.

Real-time observations, real-world conditions

On Dec. 12, 2013, in Central Fresno, fine particulate matter peaked at 74 μg/m3 at hour zero (the transition from Dec. 11th to Dec. 12th – midnight). Then there was a precipitous decline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. dropping from 75 micrograms to 40 micrograms, respectively. A low of 28 micrograms was reached at 8 a.m.

Between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. it was all uphill from there – literally, downhill from there – figuratively.

By 10 p.m. on the 12th, PM 2.5 concentrations reached a level of 76 μg/m3, finally dropping to 70 micrograms at hour 24 rising slightly from 69 micrograms at 11 p.m. The range for the day? It went from a low of 28 to a high of 76 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The 76 micrograms corresponds to air that is very unhealthy. Between 10 a.m. on the 12th and 7 a.m. the following day when concentrations finally reached 35 micrograms, outdoor Central Fresno air was unhealthy to breathe.

It is important to understand that stagnant air conditions were present throughout the San Joaquin Valley basically between Dec. 2013 and Feb. 2014. There was much written in the media about this high-pressure ridge that had parked itself over California and which seemingly refused to leave. The term given to this condition: “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” also known variously as “Triple R” and “RRR.”

Meantime, check out the difference between conditions in Central Fresno and the Fresno County rural community of Huron in this regard. The highest reading for Dec. 12th was 41. This occurred both at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. On Dec. 13th, concentrations never got above 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air, and that occurred at noon.

In the Oct. 10, 2014 “Making sense of air quality data – ozone” post and today’s post, “Making sense of air quality data – PM 2.5,” evident are several differences.

For one, whereas ozone by-and-large in the San Joaquin Valley is a warm-weather phenomenon, particulate matter, on the other hand, while present in the Valley year round, is far more pronounced and problematic in times when cooler weather is on hand. In addition, the presence of high levels of fine particulate matter pollution in cooler periods is very often associated with wood-burning among other activities. Stagnant air conditions serve to exacerbate conditions in this regard irrespective of whether it is ozone or fine particulate matter pollution we are talking about here.

450px San Diego Fireworks 225x300 Making sense of air quality data – PM 2.5
Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org

One more point to touch upon with respect to PM 2.5. On July 4, 2011, in Central Fresno fine particle pollution spiked to 78 micrograms per cubic meter of air at 11 p.m. Air did not return to healthy levels until 1 a.m. on July 5th when it reached 14 micrograms.

This compares to Independence Day PM 2.5 concentrations only reaching a maximum of 28 micrograms this year in Central Fresno and that was at 11 p.m. Having spent July 4th this year on California’s Central Coast, I cannot speak to weather conditions present in the Valley that day, but apparently conditions were significantly more pleasant or comfortable or favorable weather-wise compared to the 4th of three years prior. What a difference!