Don't hold your breath: CA air quality is better than it used to be
Summer is the smoggy season in southern California, but we're working on that. State legislature considers Smog Check proposals.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 14:49
Air quality has been on my mind lately. And not just in light of Senator Murkowski's defeated attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act. For one thing, summer is coming. Since sunlight and hot weather facilitate ozone formation, sunny days here in LA are a breeding ground for smog. Ozone, a combination of three oxygen atoms, is smog's primary constituent.
This year my car is due to undergo its biennial smog test and certification. California started its Smog Check program in 1984, when the state counted over 17 million registered vehicles; its mission is to eliminate emitters by plucking polluting vehicles off the roadways. There are still a great many exempt vehicles traveling our streets, but that continues to change: as of April this year, light-duty diesel trucks now require biennial smog testing. Also, the Los Angeles Times reports on two anti-pollution measures currently in the State Legislature: AB 859 & SB 435. The proposed legislation would increase the frequency of smog checks to once per year for vehicles 15 years and older, and make currently unchecked, late-model motorcycles subject to biennial smog tests.
The emissions that would potentially be wiped out with passage and enforcement of the motorcycle bill SB 435? 5.2 tons daily. That's a small part of the big, smoggy picture that is Los Angeles air, but it's far from nothing.
The American Lung Association, a co-sponsor of SB 435, recently issued a disheartening State of the Air report that found the majority of the top 10 most polluted cities in the country are in the state of California. Motorcycle enthusiasts are critical of the proposed bill, however, stressing that bikes are just a crumb in the pollution pie, and president of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Tim Buche, cautions in the LA Times that the intended catalytic converter restriction is easily subverted. The debate continues in the comments section below the Times article, and among local government officials ...
Considering that in the past this region frequently found it necessary to advise residents of poor air quality levels and caution them to stay indoors or avoid certain prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities, chipping away at as many pollution sources as possible is critical. Because of a history of local government action on this issue, air quality information is now carefully monitored and readily available to California residents via either the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) site or by dialing up 1-800-CUT-SMOG. Plus we've got the California Air Resources Board (CARB) working for us and providing up-to-date stats on breatheability.
For my part, I decided to check out the size of my car's carbon footprint using fueleconomy.gov. I'm not the best with statistics and calculations, so I loved how simple this was. The site showed me how many tons of pollution I'm contributing to the Hollywood atmosphere and I was disturbed at the (to me) enormous numbers. If I drive 15,000 miles annually (I don't, quite), my automobile puts out roughly nine tons of CO2 in one year. My compact little vehicle consumes about 17 barrels of petroleum on an annual basis! An additional feature of fueleconomy.gov is that it lets you compare your car to other models, so I brought up a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid to contrast — it brought emissions and consumption down by nearly 50 percent! That's enough of a difference to consider making a change ... perhaps by next summer I'll be in a cleaner vehicle and helping clear the air.
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