The Cost Of Air Pollution And Pollution Control

Air quality plays a major and complex role in public health. Among the factors that must be considered are the levels of pollutants in the air, the levels of individual exposure to these pollutants, individual susceptibility to toxic substances, and exposure time related to ill effects from certain substances. Blaming health effects on specific pollutants is also complicated by the health impact of nonenvironmental causes (such as heredity or poor diet).

Sales and specifications of available advanced technology vehicles as of 2004

Fuel economy (city/hwy) Emissions rating

Passenger capacity

Cargo capacity

Price

2005 Honda Insight CVP

57/56

SULEV-2

2

16.3 ft3

$21,380

2005 Toyota Prius CVT"

60/51

AT-PZEV

5

16.1 ft3

$20,875

2005 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT SULEV"

48/47

ULEV

5

10.1 ft3

$19,800

2005 Ford Escape Hybrid

2WD

36/31

AT-PZEV

5

27.6 ft3

$26,380

4WD

33/29

$28,005

2005 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid

2WD

18/21

ULEV

5

56.9 ft3

$30,345

4WD

17/19

$31,835

2005 GMC Sierra Hybrid

2WD

18/21

ULEV

5

43.5 ft3

$28,132

4WD

17/19

Calendar year sales In the U.S.

1999

2000 2001

2002

2003

2004b

2005 Honda Insight CVTa 17 3,788 4,726 2,216 1,168 570

2005 Toyota Prius CVTa 0 5,562 15,556 20,119 24,627 41,838

Note: SULEV=Super ultra low emission vehicle. AT-PZEV=Advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle. "Specifications are for the model containing a continuously variable transmission (CVT). bSales through October 2004.

2005 Honda Insight CVTa 17 3,788 4,726 2,216 1,168 570

2005 Toyota Prius CVTa 0 5,562 15,556 20,119 24,627 41,838

Note: SULEV=Super ultra low emission vehicle. AT-PZEV=Advanced technology partial zero emission vehicle. "Specifications are for the model containing a continuously variable transmission (CVT). bSales through October 2004.

source: Stacy C. Davis and Susan W. Diegel, "Table 6.5. Sales and Specifications of Available Advanced Technology Vehicles," in Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 24, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Planning, Budget Formulation and Analysis, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Washington, DC, December 2004, http://cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb24/Edition24_Chapter06.pdf (accessed August 4, 2005)

Scientists do know that air pollution is related to a number of respiratory diseases, including bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema, lung cancer, bronchial asthma, eye irritation, weakened immune system, and premature lung tissue aging. In addition, lead contamination causes neurological and kidney disease and can be responsible for impaired fetal and mental development. The American Lung Association estimates the annual health costs of exposure to the most serious air pollutants at $40 to $50 billion.

Like most environmental issues, pollution involves limits. There is only so much air to receive automobile emissions and so much land on which freeways can be built. Many transportation analysts think that interest in public transportation is long overdue. Several major cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, have had positive environmental results with mass transit systems.

A major problem with the effort to reduce air pollution further—as well as some other types of pollution—is that most of the relatively cheap fixes have already been made, and many economists argue that the expensive ones may not be worth the price. The very premise of cleanup—that air pollution can be reduced to levels where it no longer poses any health risk at all—is questioned not just by industry but by observers as well.

Virtually all gains in the war on ozone have been achieved by reducing auto emissions. The costs for future air quality improvements, from some points of view, may exceed the value of any improvement, and the disparity may only get worse over time. However, some sources believe that there are other technologically easy—if politically unpopular—steps that could be taken to improve air quality. Such steps would include forcing light trucks, minivans, and SUVs to meet the same smog standards as standard passenger cars.

Other possible improvements could come from changes in "grandfather" clauses—that is, loopholes that exempt companies from compliance with laws because the companies existed prior to the law. Power plants rank first in grandfathered emissions. Other top industries affected by grandfather clauses include aluminum smelters, oil refineries, and carbon-black plants.

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