air pollution

RECENT POSTS

Savings May Come Soon Under New Fuel Economy Standard

Consumer group says 54.5 mpg by 2025 a win for drivers & car makers

Mark Blinch / Reuters

The new fuel economy standard gives automakers credits for using electric power and cleaner air conditioning systems.

Gasoline prices hit record highs in 2011 and for the first time last year, the cost of gas equaled or exceeded even the cost of owning a vehicle: on average, the roughly $2,800 dollars that a household spent at the pump was more than a year’s worth of car payments.

Crunching the numbers on a hypothetical new car purchase 13 years from now, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) says what we’ll save in gas will more than cover the extra spent on new fuel-saving technologies — an $800 savings even at the end of a five-year loan.

What’s  different about this new fleet standard standard — 54.5 MPG by 2025, proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) — is what it means for the auto makers as well. Cooper says that by setting the standard far enough in the future, it gives car makers a reliable goal and enough time to work things out.

And it’s an “attribute-based” approach: it doesn’t tell carmakers to build smaller vehicles or different types of vehicles (like electric or alt-fuels), it just mandates the mileage standard itself and allows the manufacturers to come up with an individualized mix of vehicles and features to accomplish it. This is part of the reason you’re seeing more large hybrid SUV’s on the road, and why one of the most touted vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show this week was a V6 “eco-boost” Ford F-150 truck. The first five pages of this report from the Congressional Research Service has a good explanation and the back story.

The automakers get credits or allowances for attributes like electric power and cleaner air conditioning systems, so that 54.5 number works out to just under 40 MPG across a given manufacturer’s fleet. But CFA’s Cooper acknowledges that and still sees the new standard as “a landmark in U.S. Energy policy. They will be making fewer trips to the gas station when they get these vehicles,” he told reporters in a conference call today.

Now I’m just waiting to hear about the woman suing Honda in Small Claims Court down here in Torrance, California. She claims the automaker told her that the hybrid Civic she bought would get 50 miles per gallon. Not so, says the woman. An L.A. County Superior Court judge wants more info. Stay tuned.

CA, Capitol Republicans Lock Horns over Tailpipe Regs

Committee calls CA Air officials “unresponsive, ” suggests CA stepping on feds’ toes

Reed Galin / Lone Tree Productions

Updated Monday, November 28, 2011

For California Air Resources Board (ARB) chair Mary Nichols, pre-Thanksgiving prep meant responding to list of requests from Orange County Republican congressman Darrell Issa and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

As part of its expanding probe into how the newest Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were set, the letter asked for information about how California came up with its vehicle emissions standards and what role state officials played in developing the newly announced federal fuel economy standard. Continue reading

Clearing the Air on Climate and Smog

By Lisa Aliferis

Why climate change and public health policy make good chemistry

A major study released today in Fresno details the direct link between higher levels of air pollution and asthma-related ER and hospital admissions. So, what’s that got to do with climate change? Plenty.

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Tourists snap photos of a murky sunset in San Diego

“There’s a division in the public’s mind between global warming and health effects of pollution,” says Dimitri Stanich of the California Air Resources Board.

In reality, there’s significant overlap. Some components of air pollution shown to have harmful warming effects on the planet are also harming people, especially children, right now.

Let’s start with ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is different from the ozone layer, which lies about 15 miles above the earth (not exactly ground level). The ozone layer shields us from most of the sun’s harmful rays. Ozone is good in the atmosphere but bad, in many ways, at or near ground level. Continue reading

Parks May Not Offer Refuge from the Smog

It’s not just California cities with lousy air

This was posted originally by our content partners at California Watch, one day after a new report cited several Golden State cities as having with the nation’s worst air quality.

By Agustin Armendariz

Air pollution in national parks is at a three-year high, and two California parks have recorded the worst readings, according to a report by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Craig Miller

A winter day offers a break from the bad air at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, located next to each other, exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency standard for ozone pollution 68 days so far this year, the most of any of the national parks that monitor air quality. Joshua Tree National Park came in second, with 49 days above the EPA standard.

These readings are not only high among national parks, but also for the state as a whole. According to data maintained by the California Air Resources Board for 2010, the number of days exceeding the ozone standard at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks was equal to that of readings in Arvin, just outside of Bakersfield. Last year, both stations recorded 66 days above the ozone standard. Continue reading

Report: Five Smoggiest US Cities Are in California

And they’re not necessarily the ones you might guess

California may have great weather but also some of the nation’s worst air. The advocacy group Environment California has issued a report ranking the nation’s worst metropolitan areas for air quality. The five worst are in California, as are six of the top ten.

Craig Miller

Smog in the Los Angeles Basin

Based on data from 2010, the report’s “Top Smoggiest Areas in the US” were:

1. Riverside-San Bernardino

2. Visalia-Tulare-Porterville

3. Bakersfield (tie)

3. Los Angeles-Long Beach (tie)

5. Fresno Continue reading

Where Will Climate Change Affect Health the Most?

A new online tool maps where Americans’ health may be most vulnerable to climate change

Reed Galin

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released an interactive tool today that maps climate-related health risks across the country, including extreme heat, poor air quality, drought, flooding, and infectious diseases. The maps present a snapshot of current health vulnerabilities using recent data at the state and county levels.

“If we stay on our present course, we can expect these health vulnerabilities from climate change to accelerate” said NRDC Senior Scientist Kim Knowlton on a conference call with reporters. “We need to prepare for the worst in extreme events and the health vulnerabilities that will result.” Continue reading

California Likely to “Suffer Most,” Says Study

Photo: Craig Miller

California is likely to suffer more than any other state from worsening air pollution due to climate change by the end of the decade, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report finds that in 2020, “climate change-induced ozone increases” could result in nearly half a million additional cases of “serious respiratory illnesses” and add more than $729 million to the state’s health care costs. Continue reading

The Other Effect of CA’s Clean Air Laws

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

By Andrew Freedman

Pollution reduction measures that were aimed primarily at reducing California’s notorious smog problem and improving public health, also helped cut emissions of black carbon — a key global warming agent — according to a new study published Tuesday.

Black carbon, more commonly referred to as soot, is an atmospheric particulate that scientists have shown to be a significant contributor to global warming. It is an attractive target for emissions reductions because relatively cost effective technologies to reduce it already exist, such as diesel particulate filters for trucks, and because unlike carbon dioxide (CO2), which stays in the air for decades to millennia, black carbon only remains airborne for days to weeks. Continue reading

Cow Power Not Cutting It

Cows at Fiscalini Farms in Modesto, California. (Photo: Sheraz Sadiq)

Last year, as part of a radio series on methane, I drove down to visit John Fiscalini, who was building a huge methane “digester” to convert his cows’ “byproducts” into clean energy, and reduce the carbon footprint of his sizable dairy farm and cheese factory outside Modesto.  After millions of dollars in design and construction costs, Fiscalini was fed up with state air and water regulators, who he felt were pulling him in different directions. A year later, have things improved? Not so much, as Quest’s Lauren Sommer found out, when she returned to the San Joaquin Valley for an update. — Craig Miller

Three years ago, KQED’s QUEST visited a Central Valley dairy that was taking an innovative approach to its waste problem. Instead of collecting thousands of pounds of cow manure in open holding ponds, Joseph Gallo Farms uses it in a renewable energy technology known as a methane digester. Continue reading