Often, we find ourselves looking into the dangers of air pollution due to the ample new news coming to light regarding the impacts of harmful levels of airborne pollutants. However, today we want to look at a more positive view of air pollution. While not newly released, many people are unaware of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s History of Reducing Air Pollution from Transportation in the United States report. However, this report shows an example of how air pollution has been effectively combated in transportation.
In 1970, the EPA was given the legal authority to regulate pollution from cars and other transportation. Since this year, there have been many successes in decreasing air pollution emitted by vehicles. For one, new passenger vehicles are 98-99% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants (compared to the 1960s). On top of this, U.S cities now have far improved air quality even with more vehicle miles travelled and a higher population.
The EPA then provides some interesting comparisons. Since 1980, GDP has increased by 182%, vehicle miles travelled by 114%, population by 44%, energy consumption by 28% and CO2 emissions by 15%. At the same time, the aggregate emissions of six common pollutants have decreased by 71%. Considering a 71% decrease alongside population growth and an increase in vehicle miles travelled, this is a significant achievement.
Being a study on transport, the report focuses on the emissions of vehicles on the road. Since 1970, vehicles are 99% cleaner for hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and particle emissions. This percentage is the same across cars (such as SUVs and pickup trucks) and trucks and buses. This decrease in emissions is primarily due to the removal of lead from gasoline in 1995.
More work is needed, and the EPA is well aware of this fact. However, this report brings hope amongst all the seeming ‘doom and gloom’ of recent air pollution news. Perhaps most interestingly, the EPA has discovered that every $1 spent to decrease emissions leads to $9 of benefits in public health, the environment, productivity and consumer savings.