Can, will California’s GHG emissions drop to 1990 levels by 2020?

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) in the document: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition)” proclaimed: “The California Legislature and Governor took significant steps to address the concerns raised about climate change, with the passage and signing of the Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, 2006).” The ARB went on to state: “AB 32 set a target to reduce California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by year 2020. In addition, the Governor signed Executive Order S-3-05 to further require California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below the 1990 levels by year 2050 (EO, 2005).”1

In the ARB staff report: “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” meanwhile, released to the public Nov. 16, 2007, in section III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, the agency pointed out: “The statewide 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level of 427 MMTCO2e [million metric tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent] is based on the net amount of greenhouse gases emitted to and removed from the air. The gross statewide emissions in 1990 were 433 MMTCO2e with forestry sinks offsetting approximately 7 MMTCO2e, resulting in net emissions to the atmosphere of approximately 427 MMTCO2e.”2

A few facts

Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information data reveals that in 1990, California’s population was 23.6679 million and in a grand total of 16.8731 million motor vehicles, 15.6687 million Golden State motorists racked up 156 billion miles.

Meanwhile, in 2010, the same source shows California’s population to be 37.3494 million people, and of that total approximately 64 percent – or 23.7534 million – drive. In addition, indications are there were 31.0141 million registered California motor vehicles and vehicle travel miles totaled 322.849 billion. In two decades, while the number of in-state drivers increased by almost 66 percent, vehicle travel miles more than doubled.

So, this brings this discussion to GHG emissions comparing years 1990 to 2010 and 2012.

In-state-produced GHG emissions by sector (in percent):

  • Transportation – 35
  • Industrial – 24
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 14
  • Agriculture – 5
  • Residential – 7
  • Commercial – 3

(Percentages above for 1990)3

  • Transportation – 38.4
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 10.4
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 7.9
  • Residential – 7.1
  • Commercial – 4.7

(Percentages above for 2010)4

  • Transportation – 37.3
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11.2
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 8.3
  • Residential – 6.9
  • Commercial – 4.8

(Percentages above for 2012)5

Finally, regarding state gross per-capita emissions, the trend overall since 2000 has been negative.

“Per capita emissions from industrial, transportation and electricity generation (in-state) have decreased from 2000 to 2012, with a 22 percent decrease in the 2012 in-state electricity generation per capita emissions from 2000. The per capita comparison is a useful metric for emissions evaluation because it shows that emissions have not grown consistently with population, indicating that energy conservation may have led to significant emission reductions,” the ARB noted.6

Please understand that gross greenhouse gas emissions went from 453.1 MMTCO2e in 2010 to 458.7 MMTCO2e in 2012 – an increase.7

On the horizon

To reduce California’s GHG emissions output to 1990 levels of 427 MMTCO2e from 2010 and 2012 levels would result in a reduction of 26.1 MMTCO2e and 31.7 MMTCO2e, or a decrease of 5.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

All things considered, can and will California achieve the 2020 target of 427 MMTCO2e? Based on current trends, it won’t be impossible but whether or not it happens, remains to be seen.

Stay tuned.


  1. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 1
  2. III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 2
  3. Figure 2. 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 6
  4. Table 2. Recent Trends in California Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Inventory Economic Sectors, “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 12
  5. Ibid
  6. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 25
  7. Ibid, p. 9

On the move: A quarter-million electric vehicles and growing

So … since Sept. 15th to the 21st this year is “National Drive Electric Week,” I decided I wanted to investigate electric vehicle numbers and operation in the broader context of total vehicle numbers and operation.

In my previous post: “Thoughts on ‘National Drive Electric Week’,” and echoing what Plug In America had first so-declared in its Aug. 26, 2014 press release: “Record Number of Cities Observe 4th Annual National Drive Electric Week,” what I wrote was: “‘… Just as U.S. plug-in vehicle sales are expected to reach their first quarter-million mark, cities will offer one-day activities or observe the celebration’s entire week, organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.’”

And, lo and behold, just 15 days after the group released its Aug. 26th release, a more recent press release making a Sept. 10, 2014 debut, in effect announced the sale of the two-hundred-and-fifty-thousandth electric vehicle (EV).

That it is what it is, at the end of the day and in the grand scheme of things, what does a quarter-million EVs on America’s roads or one-tenth of one percent of all on-road motor vehicles really tell us?

In looking at the amount of annual fuel required to provide for in excess of 2.97 trillion yearly vehicle travel miles, assuming an arbitrary average 17 miles per gallon (mpg) vehicle fuel economy rating, and using a per-capita yearly vehicle miles traveled average of 9,363, the two multiplied together yields an average per-annum, per-vehicle gasoline consumption rate of about 550 gallons. So, with 253 million motor vehicles logging in a single year close to 3 trillion miles, this more or less means a whopping cumulative total 174.71 billion gallons of fuel that autos and trucks traveling America’s highways and byways are sipping and gulping each year.

Now imagine a nationwide average auto mpg fuel economy rating of 22.5 (effectively a 33 percent improvement). This would result in annual net fuel consumption weighing in instead at 132 billion gallons, a savings of roughly 43 billion gallons.

Considering a nationwide average per gallon fuel price of $3.47, at that cost, over a year, gas collectively would cost American drivers $458.04 billion.

EV use by the numbers

Besting that, of course, is an EV’s fuel economy rating. To determine fuel-consumption equivalency, using my own cost for electricity or an average of $0.17 per kilowatt-hour ($0.17/kWh) based on my charges from Jul. 12-Aug. 12, 2014, say, for example, that to go 100 EV miles requires 25 kWh worth of battery charge (an estimate) and, providing I drove an EV, my cost would be $4.25.

Now, also, say, for example, the fuel-economy rating of the vehicle I do drive is 22.5 mpg, to go a hundred miles this would require 4.44 gallons of gasoline. At a cost of $3.47 per gallon, to drive that same distance would set me back $15.41 – nearly four times as much. If I were the typical driver, and to drive the average 9,363 per-capita vehicle travel miles, over a year’s time my car would consume 416.13 gallons of gas and my expenditure just for that alone would be $1,444.00, assuming, of course, that that per-gallon of gasoline price held.

On the other hand, an EV that requires 25 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles, in driving at the average annual per-capita rate, provided I performed the math correctly, my total capital outlay for purchased electricity would come to just short of $398.00 and that’s for an entire year!

So, you can see the cost savings, although according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Office of Transportation & Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at, the typical driving range for most EVs is from 100 to 200 miles, that is, on fully charged batteries.

Fuel cost is but one factor. But being vehicle purchase cost is another matter entirely, it is important to note different discounts, rebates, tax incentives, etc. regarding EV purchases are available. And there is more on this here.

EV reality

It may be a few years yet before the number of EVs on the road reaches a million. But, their ranks are swelling and are no doubt making their presence felt. Charging stations are becoming more and more and all this is encouraging news.

Whoa, Nelly!

Before I get too excited too quickly, without a commensurate increase in roadway capacity, whether accomplished via more pavement and/or improved technology and/or enhanced traffic management, more motor vehicles is more motor vehicles and absent sufficient capacity increase this could mean further traffic snarling and often tied to that, additional delay.

Emissions-free motoring is good; that and truly balanced transportation or mobility is even better.

EdisonElectricCar19131 On the move: A quarter million electric vehicles and growing
Electric car from Edison

Thoughts on ‘National Drive Electric Week’

Beginning Sept. 15th, and all throughout “National Drive Electric Week,” motorists are invited to take an electric-car test-drive.

But wait. Don’t those in charge know that there are in the U.S. a quarter-billion motor vehicles and that those 250 million (autos and trucks) – roughly three motor vehicles for every four citizens – on average, are idled (parked) 23 hours a day and that those planning to take one (or more) purely electric vehicles (EV) out for an emissions-free test spin will show up in, what else?!, gas-gulping, smoke-coughing driving machines?

And, just what is the point of this now time-tested endeavor?

Here is what Plug In America in its Aug. 26, 2014 “Record Number of Cities Observe 4th Annual National Drive Electric Week” press release made clear:

“A record number of cities—over 115 in 35 states and abroad—will observe National Drive Electric Week, Sept. 15-21, 2014. The annual event is designed to showcase the fun, convenience, clean-air benefits and cost-savings of electric vehicles through ride-and-drives and related activities taking place from Hawaii to Vermont.

“National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day) has quadrupled in size since its 2011 launch. It is expected to draw at least 35,000 attendees this year. Many cities are participating for the first time and others are going on their fourth consecutive year. Just as U.S. plug-in vehicle sales are expected to reach their first quarter-million mark, cities will offer one-day activities or observe the celebration’s entire week, organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.”

Today, as I see it, “National Drive Electric Week” is, at its very core, an electric-vehicle-driving promotional plug. Tomorrow, who knows how broad and to what extent the promotion will be.

Aiming to get people behind the wheel and at the controls under the direction of existing EV owners, “National Drive Electric Week events target people who have never driven EVs and offer ride-and-drives in every plug-in on the market. Events—all of them free—take place in nature centers, at air quality management districts, state capitals, town squares and other venues,” Plug In America explained.

For much more on this week-long event, go here.

Nix NOx where it counts: In – and before it enters – the air

Just say ‘No’ to NOx?

I read somewhere that there is naturally forming NOx, or nitrogen oxide (a gaseous substance) in the air. Then there’s the other kind: the NOx that’s been introduced into the atmosphere through unnaturally occurring events or activities. That’s the far more well-known variety.

You should be aware that in the San Joaquin Valley of California – the second worst area in the country for ozone pollution, to meet the national eight-hour ozone health standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb), established in 1997 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of ozone reduction required as of June 2007, would have had to have been 75 percent.

That was seven-and-a-quarter years ago. Today, the federal standard is 75 ppb (established in 2008). As I understand things, the current primary standard is under review and a revised standard more protective of public health being adopted is possible.1

Well, what NOx has to do with ozone is, is that nitrogen oxide is a by-product of fossil-fuel combustion and, as a chemical, it is one component that, along with others like volatile organic compounds or VOC in the presence of heat, assists in the formation of smog or ozone. Meanwhile, in cold weather, NOx aids in the formation of particulate matter.

You also should be aware that in the San Joaquin Valley, for example, 80 percent of NOx is emitted from mobile sources.2

Down with NOx!

On May 15, 2013 in “CATS: Photocatalysis process helps render some toxic air contaminants harmless,” it was here that I first reported on a product called CristalACTiV™.

“‘CristalACTiV™ photocatalysts, added as an active ingredient in paints or in construction materials or directly applied on a variety of substrates, provide de-polluting and self-cleaning functionality to the surfaces treated, rendering them photoactive. Harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) or sulfur oxides (SOx) are degraded to harmless substances when they come in contact with the photoactive surfaces,’ notes the company on its Web site,” I related.

I pointed out also that “With the inhalation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) – smog’s two main components – there is risk of asthma being triggered, delicate lung-tissue-damage being caused and bronchitis and pneumonia being contracted.”

So finding other ways to suppress NOx, though challenging, is not impossible and as such, should not be a deterrent toward trying or committing to doing one’s part to keep NOx at bay.

Less reliance on single-occupant motor vehicle use and more dependence on carpooling and vanpooling and emissions-free public transit usage; less driving; widespread incorporation of NOx de-polluting agents such as additives in motor vehicle fuels that can significantly degrade or completely render NOx from exhaust pipes non-existent before it enters the atmosphere are several solutions among many in regards to reducing NOx’s harmful impact on life and the environment.

Here’s to no new mobile-sourced NOx and filtering air of the unnaturally occurring nitrogen oxide gas already there. That’s what I’m talking about!


  1. “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards Health and Environmental Impacts Division, EPA-452/R-14-006, Aug. 2014.
  2. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Board meeting minutes, June 21, 2007.

More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving

Six months ago – to the day – I posted “American traffic, travel and transportation profile – 2013.”

In that posting I emphasized: “Beginning with aggregate vehicle miles traveled (VMT), the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration reports in its ‘Traffic Volume Trends: December 2013’ survey that the estimated 2013 cumulative VMT was 2.9723 trillion, up 0.6 percent compared to year 2012 which means that clocked off last year were another 18.1 billion more traveled motor vehicle miles.”

Supplied also were statistics regarding public transportation and airline use.

‘Bout time for a VMT progress report, I’d say.

Last Friday, Aug. 29th, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) put out a press release: “New Data Show U.S. Driving at Highest Level in Six Years: Nearly Three Trillion Miles Traveled Over Last 12 Months Supports Call for Greater Transportation Investment,” and in it the FHWA expressed: “Americans drove more than 2.97 trillion miles between July 2013 and June 2014, the most recent month for which data are available. In the first half of 2014, drivers traveled 1.446 trillion miles – the largest since 2010 and the fourth-highest in the report’s 78-year history.”

In addition, the agency, also in the release, called for increased highway investment.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog USA Editor, Tanya Snyder, stressed, “While the FHWA’s press release trumpets that ‘American driving between July 2013 and June 2014 is at levels not seen since 2008’ – adding, alarmingly, a call for ‘greater investment in highways’ – that’s not the whole story. Yes, the total driving rate now approximates where it stood in 2008, when VMT was in freefall. But it’s still way down from the peak – 3.05 trillion miles – in 2007.”

What has transpired here should lead one to immediately ask if the call for increased highway funding has more to do with extending and/or expanding highways or more to do with highway infrastructure maintenance and repair. There is a huge difference.

As a matter of fact, Snyder, in quoting the Frontier Group’s Tony Dutzik wrote: “‘If rising VMT, according to the FHWA, fuels ‘calls for greater investment in highways,’ then, by the same logic, falling VMT would result in reduced need for investment in highways. Right? Yet, I can’t recall FHWA ever making that argument. And we have continued to plow money into highway expansion over the last decade.’”

My question now is: Has this investment resulted in any improvement in terms of reducing congestion plaguing America’s highways, which, by the way, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, have a 42 percent congestion rate. I believe that this is the most important metric to consider here.

And, even though the aggregate VMT increase continues, according to Snyder, per-capita VMT is and has been in retreat.

“If you look at the per capita driving rate, it’s still dropping,” declared Snyder. “In fact, it’s as low as it’s been in nearly 17 years.”

What this says is with motorists individually driving fewer miles but with total VMT rising, this must mean there are more motorists on the road.

All of which tells me that if they build highways, motorists will come in droves. This points not to better traffic flow patterns and by association fewer emissions, but an invitation to more highway usage.

Unless there is a tremendous inclination toward hybrid and zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) use reflected by a corresponding influx of such vehicles hitting the roadways relative to the number of vehicles relying exclusively on internal-combustion-engine power for propulsion, then the way I see it, the emissions already in the air will only be added to rather than more being removed. And, should the latter be the case, sad to say but what I see is a lose-lose proposition.

Hydrogen vehicle1 More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving

Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour: Coos Bay, Oregon

The ninth and last in this series.

This tour winds up in Coos Bay, Oregon and I think fittingly. How so? Picture this “Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour” series as a train. It has a beginning (the locomotive), a middle (the rolling stock) and an end (the caboose – you remember those, right?). In the lead-off spot is Grand Prairie, Texas followed by Vail, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Luis Obispo and Long Beach, California (in that order); Flagstaff, Arizona; Mountain View, California; Reno, Nevada and last but by no means least, today’s entry, Coos Bay, Oregon – the caboose. Funny how the two – Coos Bay and caboose – syllable- and pronunciation-wise even sound alike. And, as it turns out, as words spelled out, there are many common letters.

A seaport city, Coos Bay isn’t what I would call “typical,” like Newport News or Norfolk in Virginia; Charleston in South Carolina; Seattle in Washington; or even Los Angeles or Long Beach or Stockton in California are. Nope, this coastal port situated in Oregon along the eastern Pacific is one of the cleanest and greenest I can think of anywhere in the continental U.S. In fact, during my stay – which was back in the early 1990s – I can’t remember at any time the air not being good. Moreover, nowhere on the American Lung Association’s “Most Polluted Cities” list for ozone, daily or yearly particle pollution can Coos Bay, Oregon be found. And, that’s a good thing and I hope it stays that way.

So back to the visit, on vacation then in late summer, I had driven north along the California coast on Highway 1 and on some parts on combination SRs (state routes) 1 and 101 this resulted in my entering Oregon south of the appropriately named Pacific Ocean seaport town of Harbor and Brookings just north of that. It was a relatively long trek from there to the town of Coos Bay which sits a little ways inland from the ocean on an inlet.

One of the things that really stood out about Coos Bay was in its own harbor were these huge ships that were docked there. I also remember rain and the extremely craggy and rocky coastline. And, as well, I very distinctly remember seeing a place called Simpson Reef – named for a prominent family whose own roots were in tree (wood) harvesting and processing? I was amazed by all the local lumber-related industry, there and elsewhere in state. I also recall the weather being cool but not cold.

Like this account, short but sweet my Coos Bay visit was.

Oh, and incidentally: In getting to and from there were many highlights. Driving up and down the Oregon coast took me to and through towns like Florence, Gold Beach, Newport, North Bend, Reedsport and Tillamook (known for its cheeses) to name a few. Thinking back, places along the way through which I had traveled were some of the most picturesque this side of the Mississippi. I even spotted a covered bridge or two.

“This side of the Mississippi,” the river, that is, what this whole “Great Western Cities ‘On the Air’ Tour” series really is about.

This concludes the “Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour” series. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Coos Bay Waterfront Coos County Oregon scenic images cooD00881 Great Western Cities ‘On the Air’ tour: Coos Bay, Oregon
Coos Bay Waterfront

Image above: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

Ground lost in 2012 vs 2011 in California GHG-emissions-reduction fight

On Feb. 24, 2013 in “Global greenhouse gas emissions reduction a work in progress,” I remarked: “Being that on the world stage California contributes a sizable chunk of GHG emissions, I would like to think the state is among an amalgamation of front-lines leaders making progress on the fight against global greenhouse gas emissions. I believe California is and that is good.”

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB), meanwhile, released its latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory report for California: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012” in May 2014. I want to know if California is winning the war in its effort to appreciably reduce its GHG.

What I found was, “In 2012, total GHG and per capita emissions increased by 1.7% from 2011 emissions. This increase was driven largely by the increased reliance on natural gas-generation sources of in-state electricity due to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as well as dry hydrological conditions in 2012 (drought) causing a drop in the in-state hydropower generation. Total statewide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased from 466 million [metric] tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2000 to 459 MMTCO2e in 2012, a decrease of 1.6 percent,” as reported by the ARB. Even more encouragingly, Golden State GHG dipped below 2000’s mark, to 458.4 MMTCO2e in 2009, the first time this had happened since 2000, this after reaching a high of 492.9 MMTCO2e in 2004.1

Not surprisingly, since 2000, both California and the U.S. in this regard have trended negatively. Encouraging, such news is.

To give some perspective, the biggest GHG improvement between 2000 and 2012 occurred between years 2008 and 2009, which saw emissions drop from 487.1 MMTCO2e to 458.4 MMTCO2e, or a decrease of nearly six percent. Between those same two years, this mirrored the national trend.2 The then recessionary economy was likely responsible for the improvement.

But there is more going on in California in this regard than may meet the eye.

The ARB in its Dec. 2011 report: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 2000-2009” stated, “The California Legislature and Governor took significant steps to address the concerns raised about climate change with Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, 2006), with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as the lead implementation agency. In addition, Executive Order S-3-05 requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (EO, 2005).3

Moreover, in the Golden State, with AB 32’s passage along with the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (Calif. Senate Bill 375) enactment in 2008, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in 18 state regions are tasked with meeting agreed-upon GHG-emissions-reduction targets for years 2020 and 2035. For example, throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley, those reduction targets are five percent and 10 percent, respectively. In other regions of the state, the GHG-reduction targets are more ambitious.

So you know, in being broken down into its constituent parts, by far carbon dioxide (CO2) represents the single biggest source and accounts for 86.5 percent of GHG in state. Other GHGs including chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFC) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) contribute lesser quantities to the total amount. CFC, HFC and PFC, incidentally, are classified in a broader group known as “Other halogenated gases.”4


  1. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, pp. 6, 7 & 9
  2. Ibid, p. 11
  3. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 2000-2009,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Dec. 2011, p. 5
  4. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, pp. 2 & 7

For one praiseworthy program business is ‘cleaning up’

Longtime Air Quality Matters blog readers are no doubt well aware of the fact that one of the included categories is “Clean up.” Now, it’s interesting: Most though not all Air Quality Matters posts have this one category listed. “Clean up” is in reference to “Air pollution;” another of this blog’s categories.

And on cleaning up, well, there is this praiseworthy program in Fresno, California known as “Operation Clean Up.”

In “Garbage in = garbage out? Not always” I made brief reference.

What I wrote was: “Described as follows, ‘Operation Clean Up program is designed to assist City of Fresno (not county residents) single-family homeowners and residents in the removal of excess trash, rubbish, and other bulky goods (such as old stoves, refrigerators, water heaters, sofas, etc.) not picked up by Solid Waste.’”

The program is quite commendable because it is effective in terms of having all of the aforementioned refuse picked up and hauled away in what I would call a sustainable way.

Interestingly, there are typically those “rummagers” making their rounds as they course in their motor vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, pickup trucks with trailers) through and around neighborhoods rummaging through quite a bit of the discarded materials searching for “finds,” that is, prior to when the material is removed by paid city employees whose jobs it is to pick up and haul away the curb-placed items. To give an example, seen can be quite a number of people who in pickup trucks outfitted with trailers have loaded on them such things as: old refrigerators, washing machines and dryers. I even saw one individual transporting in a trailer attached to a pickup truck a soda dispenser of all things. Some of this stuff probably gets refurbished and then resold.

Much of the waste is greenery; clippings from trees mainly, that more than likely ends up getting chipped in a chipper or shredded in a shredder and hence turned into compost. This very effort is praiseworthy indeed. And, as a result a goodly proportion of the throwaways are kept out of the waste stream and out of landfills.

This once-per-year city cleanup service is an excellent way to prevent at least some of the debris from being incinerated, the smoke from which would needlessly add to an already local dirty air condition.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that there are a host of city employees operating a contingent of front-end loaders, refuse trucks, street sweepers, etc. that are themselves cleaner-burning.

The business of Operation Clean Up and others like it is, well, cleaning up – literally.

Tighter restrictions on wood-burning in Valley could make for cleaner winter air

With a focus on winter, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the air district in this region is at this time contemplating tightening wood-burning restrictions and, as I see it, with good reason: The Valley is one of America’s dirtiest air basins.

Fireplace Burning1 300x225 Tighter restrictions on wood burning in Valley could make for cleaner winter air In the Valley, meanwhile, the standard for fine particulate matter is currently 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The air district may decide to tighten wood-burning restrictions making it illegal to burn wood in either a fireplace or woodstove whenever PM 2.5 concentrations are expected to rise above the 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter-of-air level. The exception: for those with federally certified wood-burning appliances and for residents whose living spaces lack a connection to a natural gas line and therefore rely on a wood-fire for heat instead, for both, under the proposed new rule, via a special permit, wood-burning above the daily 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter level up to 65 micrograms per cubic meter inclusive would be allowed. Above 65 micrograms, all burning would be prohibited. FYI: A wood-pellet stove is cleaner-burning than what burning firewood in a fireplace is. And cleaner still is the burning of natural gas via a natural gas fireplace insert.

In the Valley during wintertime, and being that as much as 30 percent of fine particulate pollution can be tied to wood-burning activity, still, as of this writing the decision to tighten wood-burning restrictions to the more healthful 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter standard is still very much up in the air. The 30-micrograms-per-cubic-meter-of-air standard (a Valley air district standard), is applied on a 24-hour basis.

Meanwhile, for particulate matter pollution smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter in size – PM 2.5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s daily ambient air quality health standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air, while 12 micrograms per cubic meter is the federal agency’s annual ambient air quality PM 2.5 health standard. Keep in mind that particulates that fine entering the bloodstream can lead to heart attack, stroke and even premature death.

I’ve mentioned this in this blog before: Considering wood-burning restrictions in the Valley being in effect from Nov. 1st to Feb. 28th, therefore to allow PM 2.5 concentrations to exceed the 12-micrograms-per-cubic-meter threshold (anything higher is deemed unhealthful), my question is: Can the standard ever be reached and healthy air realized?

Alternately stated, the Valley, short of meeting the healthy air standard, is, in a word, unacceptable.

I plan to report more in this regard as information becomes available.

Cutting delay on track: Enhanced safety system could improve railway operations, air quality

Railway and train operating environment: Background and basics

At this juncture, there is just a glut of train traffic moving over America’s approximately 140,000-route-mile rail network and the system has gotten bogged down.

Congestion? We don’t often associate that idea with railroads. But like on motor vehicle platforms, railroads are not immune either. Capacity is the operative word here and finding the correct solution to increase it sufficiently is one of the challenges.

And then there is the safety aspect. And relatedly, just this past Aug. 17th at 3 a.m. two freight trains collided head-on in Hoxie, Arkansas. It could be months before a cause or causes are determined and a corresponding statement released. A similar incident happened in June 2012 in the Oklahoma panhandle region. While in the former two of four crewmembers total lost their lives (the other two sustained injuries but survived), in the latter, again, of four crewmembers total, only one survived. Railroads could be made safer in my opinion and in so doing this could be far-reaching in terms of improving overall system functionality.

So, first question: How can all this rail traffic be moved more safely, efficiently and cleanly than what is the case already? Next: Does all of this traffic traversing the rails really need to be moved more safely, fluidly and cleanly than what is the case already? I believe it does.

In “CATS: In ‘passing’: On ‘track’ to trim emissions” I penned: “One of the strategies railroads employ to mitigate air pollution is to cut delay. And, I am not just talking about so-affected motorists delayed while waiting for trains to pass at highway-level crossings (railroad crossings), but those operational inefficiencies within the industry itself; operational inefficiencies such as that which can occur at interlocking plants (junctions) whereby one railroad’s trains might be delayed by another’s in going through and past such interlocking until such time that the waiting train can proceed through such itself.

Is Two over one Railroad Fare1 340x209 300x184 Cutting delay on track: Enhanced safety system could improve railway operations, air quality
Triple Crossing, Richmond, Virginia

“Another would be that which is created by conflicting train movements as is common-place in single-track territory that incorporate passing sidings used as a means to get trains traveling in opposite directions past each other.”

It is the latter condition on which I will focus as it has to do with Positive Train Control or PTC. I earlier discussed other air-pollution mitigation strategies.

PTC: What is it?

From the Federal Railroad Administration document: “Quantification of the Business Benefits of Positive Train Control,” prepared for the Federal Railroad Administration by ZETA-TECH Associates, Mar. 15, 2004 revision, as presented in the “APPENDIX A: Acronyms and Abbreviations” section, PTC is described as follows:

Positive Train Control (PTC) – A generic term (and acronym) used to describe any processor-based system of train control that will: (1) Prevent train-to-train collisions (positive train separation); (2) enforce speed restrictions, including civil engineering restrictions and temporary slow orders; and (3) provide protection for roadway workers and their equipment operating under specific authorities.”1

Meanwhile, more on PTC is found earlier in the document in the “Executive Summary,” Definition of Positive Train Control subsection beginning on page 5.

For purposes of this discussion, PTC and what effect this could have on line capacity is what is being explored.

Line Capacity: How is it determined?

Line capacity is affected by such factors that are both route- and location-specific, such as line curvature and gradient, train speed, signal-control type and the mix of rail-borne traffic.2

In the FRA document, line capacity, it is further stated, can be increased in either of two ways: by adding track or through signal system improvement.3

It is important to note that by incorporating a system of preventing train collisions and at the same time reducing the distance between trains and maintaining system integrity meaning the safe operation of trains is maintained, the opportunity exists to increase railway track capacity and PTC can assist in helping to bring this about.

Elaborating further, the FRA in the document noted: “Dynamic headways can increase line capacity by permitting shorter and lighter trains to operate on closer headways, rather than constraining all trains to the separation by the longest and heaviest trains. … Dynamic headways can also, in conjunction with a local tactical planner reduce average running times. For instance, a 20% reduction in run time means that a train which used to take five hours for a trip will now take four hours. This provides an extra hour when the track is free to run another train. Any reduction in run time produces an equal increase in track availability.”4

From what I understand, a federal mandate is in place for the nation’s railroads to have between 70,000 and 80,000 route-miles of the industry’s total 140,000-route-mile network of track outfitted with PTC and be operational by December 31, 2015. Unless, subsequent to its enactment, this mandate has been amended, that is the deadline. Prompting the legislation was a 2008 head-on collision between a freight train and passenger train in Chatsworth, California; a crash that claimed 25 lives and left scores injured. It was one of the worst train-to-train collisions in modern times.


  1. “Quantification of the Business Benefits of Positive Train Control,” prepared for the Federal Railroad Administration by ZETA-TECH Associates, Inc., rev. Mar. 15, 2004, “APPENDIX A: Acronyms and Abbreviations,” p. 128.
  2. Ibid, p. 58: (“IV. PTC B Benefits,” A. Line Capacity)
  3. Ibid, p. 60: (“IV. PTC B Benefits,” A. Line Capacity: “2. Cost of Increasing Capacity”)
  4. Ibid, p. 57: (“IV. PTC B Benefits,” A. Line Capacity)