Air Pollution and Automobiles Essay

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The automobiles that we travel in everyday play a vital role in our lives. They get us around from one place to another on a daily basis. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA 2010) many studies show that exhaust emissions from these vehicles are the number one air pollutant in the United States. Air pollution causes many different issues that affect personal health as well as environmental factors. Over the years many different studies have been done by different people and agencies showing how reducing air pollution from automobiles can only benefit the earth.

The government has been one of the largest advocates of lowering emissions from automobiles. Because excessive exhaust emissions created by automobiles is a major factor in air pollution, the government has enacted many laws and regulations limiting the amount of emissions vehicles may produce. Automobiles are a major cause of air pollution around the world. As the number of vehicles on the road increases, the amount of emissions from these vehicles increases. As of 2003 Leslie Miller shows that the (World Almanac 2003) reported that there were more than 107 million households throughout the United States (U.S. ) Leslie reported that the Bureau of Transportation statistics show that there are roughly 204,000,000 vehicles registered in the U. S.

That produces a ratio of 1. 9 cars to 1. 8 people per household in the U. S. The number of vehicles registered in the U. S. has been doubling every five years. If this trend continues as it has over the past 30 years, by the year 2030 there will be approximately 1,200,000,000 (1. 2 Billion) vehicles producing some type of toxic emission into our earth’s atmosphere. The vehicles that we drive produce many different toxic gasses affecting our earth negatively.

These emissions affect our environment and damage the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the process in which infrared rays are emitted from the sun into the earth’s atmosphere trapping heat that keeps the earth’s temperature in a habitable range. Toxic gasses from our automobiles released into the atmosphere do much damage to this natural process. As the gasses release, the atmosphere will deteriorate which allows the earth’s core temperature to rise. This process causes difficulty in farming as well as the melting of the polar ice caps virtually flooding the earth slowly.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most emitted gas into the atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency (2010) shows that cars release 76% of the CO2 that is present in the earth’s atmosphere. For every gallon of gas used by an automobile there is approximately 20 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere. CO2 is a heat-trapping gas released by the combustion process by our vehicles. (Cakmak 2006), Shows that CO2 is the largest contributing factor to the smog in highly congested areas around the U. S. The following is an emissions chart breaking down the source of the seven most common air pollutants.

As you can see highway vehicles are the largest source of air pollution in the geographic area of The United States. The major pollutants abbreviations are shown below and correlate with the graph that follows. Geographic Area: United States Pollutant: Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (Nox), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), Sulfur Dioxide SO2, Particulate (size < 2. 5 micrometers) (PM 2. 5), Particulate (size < 10 micrometers) (PM 10), or Ammonia (NH3) [pic] Emissions by Category Chart (Environmental Protection Agency, 2002). The exhaust systems on our vehicles also produce another pollutant known as hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are produced by our vehicles when fuel molecules in these vehicles do not fully burn and then travel through the exhaust system. In addition to these deadly hydrocarbons, Nitrogen Oxide (Nox) is another large contributor of air pollution in the U. S. today. The EPA’s (2010) studies links approximately 30% of the NOx in the atmosphere to the vehicles on the road in the U. S. today. NOx has been linked by studies to the formation of acid rain in our in our environment. Simply said the reduction of vehicle emissions will cause the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere to lower creating less negative effects on our earth’s environment and our health. Cakmak, Dales and Jedek (2006) says that air pollution has many negative effects on the environment as well as our personal health. Many respiratory issues come from breathing in the gasses released from automobiles. CO2 affects us by lowering the amount of oxygen our blood can carry throughout our bodies causing death in some cases. Air pollution is linked to lung cancer as well as lower birth rates that are common among people in cities that record higher vehicle registrations. The EPA has shown that these cities are at a higher risk for many health issues. Children residing in areas with higher concentrations of air pollution are three to four times more likely to develop asthmatic conditions. Automobiles are a major cause of vehicle deaths in the form of vehicular accidents. EPA (2010) statistics show that approximately 120 people are killed by a vehicular accident with each day that goes by. Many environmental issues caused by automobile emissions are overlooked by the average person. The acid rain produced from vehicle emissions has caused many bad health problems for humans. Acid rain is has been shown to cause eye irritation as well as coughing as well as asthma in more extreme cases. Urban smog in addition to global warming are the most common factors in air pollution. Smog is a product of different greenhouse gasses mixing together which produces a visible layer very close to the earth’s surface known as the ground ozone layer. The smog acts like a blanket around the earth trapping the harmful emissions allowing us to breathe them in each day. Over the years the effects of air pollution have been noticed by many from politicians to auto manufacturers. Many within these agencies have worked to reduce the emissions that our automobiles produce. One of the major changes in our society that created focus on the issues of air pollution caused by automobiles was the Clean Air Act of 1963. This bill was introduced to allow the government limited enforcement power over interstate pollution issues. In 1965 a Motor Vehicle Act was introduced. Melosi(2004) explains that this act allowed auto manufacturers the ability to practice stricter emission standards for new vehicles with government funding such as grants. In 1970 the acting president of the U. S. Richard Nixon, signed an amendment to the Clean Air act enforcing stricter fuel regulations on auto manufacturers. This Act was the most stringent air pollution law ever passed in the U. S. The Clean Air Act has been revised throughout the years to conform to stricter guidelines as air pollution becomes more of an issue throughout the U. S. The Clean Air Act was not originally designed to prohibit pollution; rather it was enacted to define an acceptable amount of pollution allowed to be emitted from vehicles. Despite the fact that the Clean Air Act was passed there are still major issues that emissions from vehicles create including health and environmental issues. Crabb and Johnson (2010) wrote an article in The Energy Journal showing the main issue that does contribute to the amount of emissions from automobiles is the fuel economy that is attained by each vehicle. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act established guidelines known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE. ) During President Nixon’s time in office the 1975 CAFE regulations were written to require manufacturers to obtain a corporate average of 18 miles per gallon (MPG) or higher starting with 1978 model year vehicles. Between 1985 and 1992 multiple adjustments were made to make the cafe regulations stricter. By the mid 1990’s the government increased the MPG requirement to be raised to 27. 5 MPG corporate average. As we move forward in time the regulations have only become stricter for auto manufacturers. The year 2009 brought on many new accomplishments for the U. S. in that auto manufacturers began making newer models that will take us into the next decade. An article written by Tarlow (2009) shows that President Obama fought hard for his place in the White House, one of his main concerns being air pollution and the amount of emissions caused by automobiles. After being elected President Obama revealed a proposal for new CAFE regulations that will reduce emissions and further reduce the U. S. dependency on imported oil. The regulation that President Obama has proposed will require auto manufacturers to meet the strictest guidelines for fuel economy ever. Obama’s proposal will require auto manufacturers to meet a strict 35. 5 MPG by the model year 2016. The following graphs show the minimum combined miles per gallon that manufacturers are required to meet and post on the vehicles. The graphs break down different types of fuel as well as the amount of CO2 released per mile driven. Chart 1 shows the requirements prior to the EPA changing the way they figure a vehicles MPG. With model year 2009 and newer the EPA became stricter when figuring MPG for different fuel types. Chart 2 reflects the new criteria with the stricter guidelines enforced. As you can see, the Greenhouse gas (GHG) score is higher as a vehicle produces less CO2 per mile. [pic] Chart 1 (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010) [pic] Chart 2 (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010) Meeting the strict guidelines does not come at zero cost. Meeting the guidelines will cost auto manufacturers no matter how it is broken down. The research and development in meeting stricter regulations does have a cost attached to it. On the other end if auto manufacturers do not meet the CAFE guideline the government has allowed civil liabilities to be charged. The liabilities allowed by the government may cost manufactures approximately $5. 50 for each tenth of a mile that they are under the minimum requirement set forth. The EPA (2010), reports that between the year 1993 and 2004, various manufacturers paid approximately $618 million in penalties. This report also included the fact that in the same period no Asian or U. S. manufacturers have ever been charged any penalties. Many have argued that the cost of meeting increasingly difficult fuel emissions has added cost to the bottom line value of a vehicle as well as slowing sales and potentially putting smaller car dealers out of business. Much research has been done in the area of estimating costs of incorporating better emissions equipment on newer automobiles. Initially, when emission regulation were introduced in the U. S. around 1970, many manufacturers were concerned that to meet the guidelines there would need to be costly research done to find the most cost effective practices to lower emissions. Crabb and Johnson (2010) show that many manufacturers estimated initial costs for catalytic systems designed to reduce emissions would cost approximately $3,000. The government challenged the manufacturers and discounted these findings proving that with some changes to the processes the cost can be cut down by two thirds the initial cost that was estimated. The government was able to show that the systems could be incorporated on motor vehicles for about $1,300. , which is significantly less than estimated. The EPA (2010), reports that many other agencies have conducted research regarding any issues caused by stricter guidelines from the government as well as the cost factor included. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) has not been able to document any negative sales because of the Clean Air Act or stricter guidelines. On the contrary, they have been able to show that the sales of new vehicles have fluctuated between 13 and 17 million new vehicles each year for the past 20 years and never declining below these numbers. Much of the fluctuation has been attributed to the changing economical times throughout the history of the U. S. over the last 20 years. Many believe that because diesel engines typically produce a higher rate of exhaust emission than gasoline engines, which may make it more difficult to purchase diesel vehicles in Clean Air States. Diesel engines are most commonly used on vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 8500. The CAFE regulations do not affect the sales or use of these diesel vehicles. The more common everyday on-road use vehicles such as the GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 series as well as the popular Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 series vehicles are the vehicles that will feel the greatest impact on emission regulations. Passenger vehicles such as the Volkswagen Golf TDI are not currently certified under the California Air Resources Board (CARB. ) CARB is a set of standards that the state of California has enacted to control the amount of emissions vehicles registered in the state may emit. Many states followed California in adopting these strict standards that go above and beyond the government requirements. Massachusetts, Maine, New York, New Jersey and Vermont are some of the states that have adopted CARB standards for vehicles sold in those states. As more states adopt their own standards that are stricter than government guidelines, auto manufacturers have difficulty selling certain new vehicles in certain states. Many of the diesel engines used in vehicle applications do not meet the strict EPA and state regulations. In 2010 most new trucks with diesel engines will utilize Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) to lower the NOx released by diesel engines by injecting a urea compound that breaks down the NOx. Cummins, the world’s second largest diesel engine manufacturer has met all emission guidelines that went into effect for all 2010 and newer model year vehicles since the model year 2007. This is helped to benefit sales for the companies that use the Cummins Diesel engine. One such company is Chrysler Corporation that uses the Cummins Diesel in their Dodge Ram Heavy Duty line up. Hirata shows that by using this engine Chrysler has been able to stay at the forefront in technology. As others struggle to find ways to meet regulations, Chrysler will benefit from the technology because their vehicles meet all regulations. The only change Cummins made was adding an inexpensive technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction to further reduce NOx emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. Other manufacturers utilizing diesel engines will be developing systems that require the addition of urea at an additional cost to the customer driving consumer cost through the roof. Cummins has the advantage that the prices for their system will not fluctuate as other diesel engine manufacturers prices will increase because of the cost associated with their new technologies. To reduce the emissions throughout the U. S., not only are the government and auto manufacturers responsible, we are each individually responsible to do our part in reducing the greenhouse gasses we contribute. The manufacturer changing the design of automobile systems is a key part in the reduction. The way we personally use our vehicles will also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gasses. Things that can be done on our part may include reducing the allowable amount of vehicles in an area by issuing quotas and permits for different areas. Many people have looked into the use of hybrid vehicles as alternatives to fully gas or diesel powered vehicles. Lowering the personal use of our vehicles as well as participating in car pools will fully reduce the amount of green house gasses that we individually release into the atmosphere. In doing the things necessary to lower emission we must be proactive and take an interest in the positive things that will benefit us by reducing the amount of emissions. Although the government has worked with auto manufacturers to reduce vehicle emissions, our cars still produce toxic emissions into the air. With the increasing regulations on fuel economy we will only benefit from less emissions being released into the air. Many things may be done on a consumer level as well. We have access to alternative fuels such as E-85 (ethanol) which comes from corn as well as compressed natural gas which releases very little emissions if any. The government and auto manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce emission further. As time goes on unless we completely stop using automobiles we will still be faced with the release of toxic emissions from automobile exhaust systems. The available resources will always become better as time goes on and companies create the next best thing to reduce the amount of emissions released by their vehicles. The only way to ensure that our children have a cleaner environment is by educating them with the necessary information that will allow a greener environment over the years to come. References Cakmak, S. , Dales, R E, & Judek, S. (Jan-Feb 2006). Respiratory health effects of air pollution gases: modification by education and income. (Author abstract). Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, 61, 1. p. 5(6). Retrieved January 22, 2010, from General OneFile via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/gps/start. do? prodId=IPS&userGrou pName=uphoenix Crabb, J. , & Johnson, D.. (2010). Fueling Innovation: The Impact of Oil Prices and CAFE Standards on Energy-Efficient Automotive Technology. The Energy Journal, 31(1), 199- 216. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1942210741). Environmental Protection Agency. (2010) [Graphs that show Greenhouse Gas Score Criteria that vehicles must meet as per the EPA regulations on emissions. ] Greenhouse Gas Scores. Retrieved from http://www. epa. gov/greenvehicles/Aboutratings. do Environmental Protection Agency. (2002) [This is a picture of a chart breaking down the sources of the 7 major air pollutants in the United States] Air Data. Retrieved from http://www. epa. gov/cgi- bin/broker? _service=airdata&_program=progs. webprogs. emcatbar. scl&_debug=2& geotype=us&geocode=usa&geoname=United+States&epol=CO+NOX+VOC+SO2+PM 25+PM10+NH3&years=2002&mapsize=zsc&reqtype=viewmap Hirata, K. , Masaki, N. , Yano, M. , Akagawa, H. , Takada, K. , Kusaka, J. , & Mori, T.. (2009). Development of an improved urea-selective catalytic reduction-diesel particulate filter system for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. International Journal of Engine Research: SPECIAL ISSUE ON EXHAUST AFTER-TREATMENT SYSTEMS FOR DIESELS, 10(5), 337-348. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1873528061). Melosi, M. (2004). The Automobile and the Enviornment in American History. Retrieved from http://www. autolife. umd. umich. edu/Environment/E_Overview/E_Overview1. htm Tarlow, S. (2009). President Obama’s CAFE Standards Will Reduce Auto Emissions. Retrieved from http://personalmoneystore. com/moneyblog/2009/05/19/cafe-standards-car- emissions/ U. S. Enviornmental Protection Agency. (2010). Air Pollution Effects. Retrieved from http://www. epa. gov/ebtpages/airairpollutioneffects. html.

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