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We’re all polluters

The New York Times is one of the most heralded newspapers for a reason. Their writing staff is unparalleled, they are seasoned veterans at their craft, and best yet, maintain a captive audience. When one says, “the NY Times said this,” or, “according to the Times,” these phrases are attention grabbing.

Now that auto emissions are front and center, where transportation is reported as the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases, who drives where, how often, and the amount of emissions per city, county and state is of extreme interest. The Times recently published a fascinating map of emissions per state. Incredibly easy to navigate and fascinating to the core, emissions from just driving for example in the New York metro area increased faster than the overall population between 1990 and 2017. Yikes!

Another doozy – 60 percent of all emissions come from the 250 million passenger cars on our highways. If you want to add in the impact of freight trucks we’re looking at another 23 percent. The U.S. has done a decent job reducing carbon dioxide emissions from our various electrical grids. This has been achieved by switching from coal to natural gas that is less polluting. Yet, emissions due specifically to transportation remain high and don’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

A Boston University team of researchers reported that the increase in driving-related CO2 is mostly occurring in and around cities. Surprisingly, even in extremely dense cities where one might assume folks would shun their cars for subways or buses, most trips still occur in a car. Over the entire country total emissions have ticked up since 1990. Areas like Dallas-Fort Worth are experiencing very large emissions increases as is Los Angeles, Chicago and of course New York.

California, as we’ve reported here earlier, has its own set of pollution standards that are stricter than national rules. This however has done little to curb the increases. While Los Angeles for example is much cleaner than in previous years, emissions are still up. Most cities take the federal standard as a suggestion and attempt to beef it up a bit. What works in Dallas after all might work as well in Detroit. But aside from copying best-practices, cities are trying to get at the heart of their specific pattern of emissions.

Car proponents are proponents for a reason – cars are great! But until the electric revolution takes shape be prepared for emissions to be a nasty part of our daily lives. 

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