Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review: Mobile sources – Part 2: Autos, buses, trucks

Reduction of emissions in the on-road category is where discussion is directed in Part 2. I can’t lie: headway has been made in this regard, but the positive work must be sustained. The country can ill-afford to backslide. If it does, then progress made, whatever that is, begins to become undone.

Autos – from: “More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving” (Sept. 3):

“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.”

Yes, some highway investment is needed, obviously. But, it is the way money is invested that matters.

Money for expansion of existing highways can be problematic if for no other reason than for something called “induced demand,” the idea here being that as more road pavement is added which, in theory, creates increased capacity, that increased capacity can “induce” or attract more motor vehicles, often prompting so much traffic (the “demand” aspect) that the point of saturation is reached and thus the thoroughfare becomes constrained.

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]The answer(s)? Not expanding highways which would save money. Barring this, it is up to technology to save the day, as it were – solutions such as vehicle-system propulsion method (hybrid and zero-emissions vehicle designs), the use of alternative fuels and emissions-control equipment (namely, exhaust-pollutant filtering, covered under Trucks), etc.

Efforts are being undertaken to help put more low- and non-polluting vehicles on the road. A couple are detailed in: “To encourage greater usage, should ZEV buy incentives be made part of the sales deal?” (Apr. 15).

“On the Expert Blog on Nov. 18, 2013, Peter Lehner of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), posted: ‘Electric Vehicles Approach Tipping Point.’ Lehner observed: ‘When the latest generation of plug-in electric cars hit the mass market three years ago, they evoked the same mix of reactions as hybrids did: enthusiasm, curiosity, and some skepticism. However, they’re selling at more than twice the rate at which the first widely available hybrids left dealers’ lots.’”

“Meanwhile, Lehner added: ‘California is part of an eight-state coalition, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, which recently agreed to work together to get 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. And the recently signed Pacific Coast Climate Action plan, issued by the governors of California, Washington, and Oregon, and the premier of British Columbia, also calls for scaling up electric vehicle sales.’”

Problem completely solved? Not quite. The purchase of more fuel-efficient, less polluting hybrid and zero-polluting electric vehicles will help, to a point.

Buses – from: “In the spotlight: ‘Dump the Pump Day,’ transport society honored” (Jun. 18):

“‘Today the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) awarded Société de transport de Montréal (STM) with an official certificate for earning Gold-level recognition in the APTA Sustainability Commitment program,’ the APTA in the ‘Société de transport de Montréal Receives Gold-Level Recognition for Sustainability’ press release offered. ‘Chair Phillipe Schnobb and CEO Carl Desrosiers received the award for STM’s sustainability commitment which resulted in decreasing air pollutant emissions per produced seat mile (PSM) by 43 percent from 2006-2012. In addition, STM achieved a 17 percent reduction in electricity use and a 7 percent reduction in fuel use per PSM over this period.’”

Soybeanbus[1]Getting drive-alone motorists out of autos and into public transit like buses, for example, can have a huge impact.

“‘Among STM’s signature policies are an initiative to pursue LEED certification for all new buildings, as well as a policy to reduce emissions by purchasing only electric vehicles by 2025,’ the APTA emphasized.”

Trucks – from: “Particulates uncovered: Diesel, soot get closer look” (May. 5):

“Diane Bailey, who is a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an email adds: ‘Particulate matter as a broader class of pollutants in solid form encompasses all kinds of soot particles including diesel soot, and other types of particles like crustal dust (minerals), ash, etc.,’ and further clarifies, ‘The soot particles themselves contain toxic constituents – you can think of each particle like a micro-honeycomb of carbon filled with other minerals, condensed hydrocarbons, metals, etc.’2

“‘[D]iesel exhaust contains soot particles and other gaseous pollutants like acetaldehyde and benzene – some 400 chemical constituents in total,’ Bailey continues, providing even greater perspective.”

Diesel-smoke[1]In the same article also, listed were major contributing sources of particulate matter. Among them, trucks.

The fix is straightforward: “So, what are we talking about here, exactly? One approach that could fit the bill is the procurement of cleaner-burning, less-polluting equipment. … 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,” this from: “Putting pollution in its place about town, at home, on the job” (Oct. 12).

Not just newer, cleaner-burning engines, but diesel-particulate-filtering equipment could be obtained and utilized where applicable and appropriate.

In Part 3, covered will be aviation.

This post has been updated.

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