Air Quality Awareness Week 2015 – Part 1: Fuel, land use alternatives

Monday, April 27th is the Air Quality Awareness Week 2015 kickoff. AQAW runs through Friday, May 1st.

The Los Colinas community, Irving, Texas
The Los Colinas community, Irving, Texas

The way I see it, Air Quality Awareness Week is an occasion with a two-fold purpose: 1) raise awareness of air issues; and 2) disseminate widely, information that is both practical and valuable with the singular goal of helping bring world air to a more healthy state of repair. For me, this is about talking up the successes – the “quality” part of the total air picture and the main thrust of this multi-part series. As it relates, each installment will be devoted to presenting ideas on how the quality of the air can be improved.

Some background

Many of the world’s inhabitants, unfortunately, are exposed to toxic air pollution in high concentrations – the exposures being infrequent and frequent alike depending. The challenge by all impacted then is in not only finding ways to effectively deal with the short- and/or long-term negative impacts, but in finding comprehensive and lasting solutions to effectively mitigate toxic air.

So, what are some of the efforts or programs that have proven to be helpful when it comes to improving poor air quality?

Just for your information, I mentioned quite a number of these in the “Earth Day 2015: Talk about cause, case for air care, this is it!” post.

Here are several more:

Balancing act: The way land is utilized can have a huge impact on the air. To exemplify, years ago much of the southern California landscape was dotted with orange groves and other high-value plantings. Orange County, as the name suggests, would offer a clue.

320px-Los_Angeles_Basin_JPLLandsat[1]It turns out much southland acreage has been converted to other uses. So, on what was once high-value farmland highways, houses and shopping centers now stand.

It’s a familiar theme; a theme that over the years has resulted in a tremendous increase in the amount of driving and extra miles of travel logged. But, it’s not like this is what suburbanization purposely set out to do, that is, to encourage driving per sé, but it’s exactly what has happened – one of the phenomenon’s unintended consequences.

The trick now is in establishing a building and land-use-development policy-and-program paradigm, a central tenet of which is to find and maintain the correct balance when it comes to building and land use, all the while keeping environment, public health and quality of life among other important aspects in mind.

Fuel for thought: Alternative fuels or alt fuels are among those transportation-related topics with probably the least attention paid. Biofuels, ethanol made from corn and other ingredients as well as waste vegetable oils, for instance, are all alternative fuels and can be substituted in whole or in part (the so-called “blended fuels”) for gasoline and diesel. Then there are the additives like Dimethyl Ether or DME.

Hydrogen_station_pump[1]Though there has been debate regarding ethanol’s effectiveness as a clean-fuel alternative or fuel additive, other alt fuels like waste vegetable oil (WVO) actually pass the, wait for it, smell test. Other alt fuels like liquefied natural gas (LNG) are still in the testing and evaluation stage in the railroad realm, particularly. Compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alt fuel, on the other hand, is already proven.

The problem with many alternative fuels has to do with the refueling infrastructure itself – it’s currently in limited supply. As far as hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles are concerned, for example, the growth in sales has been meager, that is, comparatively speaking. You might say the alternative-fuel field is still in its infancy and still evolving.

Change is inevitable being change is a constant, and should present conditions change, interest in and increased use of alternative fuels could someday pick up way more than what it is now. And that someday could be really soon.

In Part 2 the focus is energy usage both in and outside the home.

Middle image: NASA

2 thoughts on “Air Quality Awareness Week 2015 – Part 1: Fuel, land use alternatives”

  1. Good article. Just one clarification. Dimethyl Ether (DME) is a complete replacement fuel for diesel in compression engines. It is superior to synthetic diesel and biodiesel since it has no carbon-carbon chains, hence no soot formation upon combustion. DME can also run in turbines and fuel cells. Dimethyl ether can be produced from natural gas and uses the propane infrastructure for logistics. Moreover, it is not a single use commodity. It can be used in thermal and cooling applications. It is also a precursor in many chemical processes.

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