Vehicle Exhaust

knorrell's picture

“During the first decade of the twentieth century, a number of experts warned of the environmental consequences of [internal combustion engine]-powered vehicles, including the issues of oil depletion and toxic exhaust,” (Heitmann, 2009).

 

Questions:

·         Why do Americans still drive cars even though they know about the effects of vehicle exhaust on the environment and human health?

·         Should the government step in and try to change the actions of the general public?

·         How could a system go about changing such an old societal habit?

·         Do you believe that people don’t change their habits because they do not truly understand the consequences of vehicle exhaust?

·         Would a PSA campaign help with general knowledge?

 

What causes air pollution?

 

·         Factories

·         Vehicles

·         Smoke

 

Think about the last time you walked down a busy road way; did you notice the car exhaust around you?

 

·         “Today, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly one half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), more than half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and about half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States. Motor vehicles, including nonroad vehicles, now account for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions nationwide.” (EPA, 2010)

·         “Air pollution consists of a complex mixture of thousands of chemical compounds,” (Soll-Johanning et al., 1998).

 

What do you think are the effects of vehicle exhaust?

 

·         “In 2008, transportation sources contributed approximately 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation is also the fastest-growing source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 47 percent of the net increase in total U.S. emissions since 1990, and is the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas.” (EPA, 2010)

·         “Substantial epidemiological evidence has associated air pollution with mortality and morbidity due to respiratory diseases and cancer,” (Soll-Johanning et al., 1998).

·         “Airborn particles, at concentrations that occurred commonly, were associated with daily deaths in Philadelphia,” (Schwartz, 2000).

 

Why do Americans still drive cars?

 

·         Projjal Dutta, Director of Sustainability for the MTA, infers that Americans have not been connecting the dots between transportation and CO2 emissions. (Delaney et al., 2009).

·         “Cars also eliminated the horse manure problem on city streets,” (Heitmann, 2009).

·         Urban vs. Suburban vs. Rural

·         Convenience

·         Work

 

What is being done?

 

·         Clean Buses

·         Diesel Engines

o   New, so-called green diesel engines hitting the market now run just as clean as a gas engine, in some cases cleaner,” (Steiner, 2010).

o   “Diesel engines…can get as much as 50% more mileage out of a gallon,” compared to a gas engine (Steiner, 2010).

·         Better city infrastructure

·         Hybrids

·         Electric cars

·         Increased gas prices

o   “During 2008, a year when gas prices touched historical highs, Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles than they did the year before,” (Steiner, 2010).

 

PSAs?

·         Similar to the Anti-smoking ads

·         “One avenue through changing behavior is through education,” (Boerschig & De Young, 1993).

·         “It is true that views of the environment are deeply ingrained in the traditions, customs, and local ancestral culture that form part of people’s routine,” (Simioni, 2004).

 

Now that you know that scientist in the past expressed concerns about automobiles, does that change the way you view the development of the vehicle?

 

·         “Adjustments [to internal combustion engine vehicles] could have been far more easily made than those that we, in the early twenty-first century, are making now,” (Heitmann, 2009).

 

Relevant/Interesting Links:

DOT & EPA: The 1st Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency for Trucks and Buses

Plain English Version of the Clean Air Act

 

Summary of class session (moira)

Kendra began her presentation with a quote from environmental experts who previously predicted that global consequences would arise in the future from the use of engine-powered vehicles. She then discussed the main contributors that cause air pollution, and explained that she chose to focus on cars because they contribute the most to pollution. The conversation continued with the question of whether or not a large or small car had much of an affect on pollution compared to a hybrid or non-hybrid car, and Kendra explained that hybrid cars can make a significant difference in improving the environment. We then discussed the fact that, in general, Americans prefer to drive large cars while Europeans prefer to drive smaller cars, and we briefly questioned why this discrepancy exists. We said that perhaps Americans feel their two children will be safer in a large, bulky car that seats nine people instead of only four? However, Kendra explained that larger cars are more likely to tip over, so they are not necessarily safer than smaller cars.

Then we considered the importance of the automobile/automobile industry to Americans. A student mentioned that there was even a Bryn Mawr class on this topic, called “The Automobile in America”.

Kendra followed up with the question, “Why do we (Americans) have an aversion to public transportation?” Hope said because we’re individualistic, Leah said because some public transportation is poor quality and Sarah said because for some people public transportation is not accessible. Then Kendra went on to explain what is being done to reduce vehicle exhaust. Hope questioned if the government is considering adding a tax to gas like there is an additional tax on cigarettes and alcohol. Kendra explained that there is a tax in Europe on gas. Sarah expressed concern about having a tax added to gas because she explained that cigarettes and alcohol are both substances that people choose to use, while sometimes it is necessary for someone to drive to their destination, and is not necessarily the person's choice. Therefore, a tax on gas would not be fair to those that don’t have the option of public transportation. Finally, we concluded our discussion with whether or not there should be an anti-driving campaign, similar to the anti-smoking ads that are on tv.

Quotes and Implications to Date

“While such steps are certainly better than none, I find it highly unlikely that any significant progress will be made until society as a whole stops thinking about their own individual needs, and instead thinks about the needs of everyone, and how taking public transportation, or carpooling, could make an impact, and forget about their own personal inconveniences.” smaley

“The subway system saves one from driving in traffic, looking for parking, is cheap, runs frequently etc., and helps the environment. No system is perfect and even the best system has its problems…Some places that actually have a fairly workable transportation system (eg. Septa) under utilize it due to expense, cleanliness, dangerousness, etc.” Colette

“Like Sarah said, I think Americans need an attitude adjustment. I think one thing that needs to change is the status of the car in American society. Having a car/ what type of car you drive shouldn't be a status symbol. Who knows, maybe in the future cars will be a symbol of waste and pollution.” lbonnell

“At the same time, I have some sense that there must be forces operating here that are bigger and more pervasive than those mentioned so far.  The United States is far from the only location in the world with cities over run by vehicles and vehicle exhaust problems.  What accounts for the widespread nature of these problems?” Paul Grobstein

 

·         We need to consider what causes the disconnect between information about air pollution and vehicle use.

·         How can scientist get the information across in a way that stresses the importance of the issue to the public?

·         Scientist and policy makers need to work together to make policies that benefit the environment and human health.

 

 

 

Comments

mlhodges's picture

 To many people, cars are

 To many people, cars are seen as status symbols. I know plenty of families that have three or four cars for a family of four, with two family members too young to drive. In order to decrease the amount of vehicle exhaust we have to change the notion that driving a Benz means you have a certain salary and can afford a fancy car. Going off of what Leah said, until we negate the notion that driving is a luxury, vehicle exhaust from the general population might not decrease. Furthermore, I am very interested in the media’s role in portraying vehicle pollution. The media is a powerful tool. If commercials could portray what our grandchildren will face because of our neglect for the environment the way they portray the horrors of what marijuana can do to us before we get behind the wheel, people may take vehicle pollution more seriously. Finally, if we are serious about getting rid of vehicle pollution we have to find a replacement for vehicles. Cars, trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes run our economy. Like Prof Grobstein said, Americans are not the only ones at fault for this. If economies around the world are to function, we must find a replacement that can do what vehicles do. 

Crystal Leonard's picture

I think that very few people

I think that very few people are actually aware of the environmental and health risks associated with vehicle exhaust. Sure they may "know" that vehicle exhaust is one of the main contributors to climate change and they "know" that vehicle exhaust contains harmful chemicals (ie you should never leave the car running in a garage because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning). However, most people are really bad at risk analysis, so they don't really appreciate the risks of vehicle exhaust. Thus, people don't have a huge incentive to change their behaviors. In addition, until more research is done into alternative energy sources, and they are produced at a level that makes them more affordable, not very many people will make the switch from traditional cars to hybrids or electric cars, etc because they are too expensive. And yes, they are too expensive for the majority of Americans. So in order to get the public to change their car buying habits, there needs to be a clear incentive beyond "vehicle exhaust is bad" and the solution needs to be cheap.

Paul Grobstein's picture

vehicle and exhaust pollution: something else going on?

I share a smaley's sense that one has to look at this from (at least two) perspectives, one is that things have been getting somewhat better, the other is that our population is still not being enough attention to long-run considerations.   At the same time, I have some sense that there must be forces operating here that are bigger and more pervasive than those mentioned so far.  The United States is far from the only location in the world with citiies over run by vehicles and vehicle exhaust problems.  What accounts for the widespread nature of these problems?

lbonnell's picture

public transportation

 I remember someone in class made a comment along the lines of "Anyone seen on a bus over 40 is a failure." I think many people, including myself to some degree, think this way. But we know from an environmental standpoint that people taking the bus should be admired. It doesn't make sense to be judgemental about public transportation anymore. Like Sarah said, I think Americans need an attitude adjustment. I think one thing that needs to change is the status of the car in American society. Having a car/ what type of car you drive shouldn't be a status symbol. Who knows, maybe in the future cars will be a symbol of waste and pollution. 

Colette's picture

Americas tend to be very

Americas tend to be very individualistic and sometimes do not seem to realize that collectively they are harming their own environment through,  for example, increased automobile use. Recently, some state governments have begun to recognize the problem of automobile pollution and have slowly encouraged alternative means of transportation. Washington D.C. where I live has some of the worst traffic congestion, but also one of the best public transportation systems for the central city. The subway system saves one from driving in traffic, looking for parking, is cheap, runs frequently etc., and helps the environment. No system is perfect and even the best system has its problems.

            These systems are expensive to build and not all municipalities can afford them. Some places that actually have a fairly workable transportation system (eg. Septa) under utilize it due to expense, cleanliness, dangerousness, etc. Jurisdictions could cut back on automobiles in other ways. Taxis are useful because many people get transportation from fewer cars since they share them. They could also offer incentives. For example, instead of HOV2 lanes, how about an HOV>2 lane?  Perhaps society should slow down and not be in a rush all the time. If we weren’t in such a dash to get places, people would better utilize the transportation systems already available.

smaley's picture

An Attitude Adjustment

 I think that the what the world, and americans in particular, needs is an attitude adjustment.  Today's society is very much about me, with few people really siting back and thinking about the bigger picture, and how their day to day activities are affecting the rest of us, both in the present, and in the future.  Such an adjustment will not happen over time, and we will never achieve an ideal situation when it comes to vehicle exhaust, or the lack there of.  However, society has made great strides towards making our world a better one for everyone.  Many states now have no-smoking policies in restaurants, and many other public places.  Hummers are no longer quite the status symbol that they used to be, and hybrids are becoming more and more popular.  Unfortunately, such changes are still more about the individual than they are about society, as non smokers don't want to eat dinner next to someone who is smoking, etc.  While such steps are certainly better than none, I find it highly unlikely that any significant progress will be made until society as a whole stops thinking about their own individual needs, and instead thinks about the needs of everyone, and how taking public transportation, or carpooling, could make an impact, and forget about their own personal inconveniences.

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