Emissions: Who Generates What?

To read the popular press, the average person would believe that automobiles are the single worst polluter on the planet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dr. Mark D. Warden of the Council of Vehicle Associations, set off on a mission to determine what proportion of various pollutants emitted each year could be attributed to passenger vehicles. Dr. Warden relied primarily on the Environmental Air Pollution Emission Estimates, 1940-1990, as published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Technical Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

The following numbers represent a comparison of the pollutants emitted by passenger automobiles (versus aircraft, railroads, etc.) and stationary and industrial sources. Also not included in these comparisons are emissions related to natural sources, solid waste disposal, and fires.

If Table 1 gives you pause to wonder why the automobile has become the EPA's whipping boy, consider the following raw numbers. Keep in mind that the vehicle fleet increased over 50% and the miles traveled increased 65% (from 1970-1990).Any neutral observer would have to surmise that the automobile has done its part. It's time to focus on other sources of air pollution.

Here's a proposal for Mr. Clinton and company. Let's take all the money we are now squandering, and will squander, by marching tens of millions of motorists through inspection stations, and instead, make low or no interest loans available to industry to upgrade its emissions systems. A portion of the savings could be invested in research and implementation of technologies to selectively identify gross polluters (vehicles). A small percentage could be set aside to help low income people with vehicle repairs.

This will leave about 90% of heretofore wasted money available for deficit reduction-and unemployment compensation for several thousand former emission inspection employees in need of retraining for productive employment.

                                        Stationary &
                 Passenger Vehicles   Industrial Sources
Volatile Organic      1970  11.7%       1970  38.0%
  Compounds           1990  17.8%       1990  48.1%

Carbon Monoxide       1970  48.4%       1970  13.3%
                      1990  30.9%       1990  20.3%

Nitrogen Oxides       1970  21.5%       1970  53.0% 
                      1990  11.1%       1990  60.2%

Lead                  1970  76.5%*      1970  16.4%
                      1990  28.2%*      1990  38.0%

Particulate Matter    1970   3.3%       1970  81.6%
                      1990   8.3%       1990  60.0% 
* This is lead from all mobile sources, not just automobiles. 

                                     Stationary &
  Passenger Vehicles              Industrial Sources
   Nitrogen Oxides                 Nitrogen Oxides
   from 1970-1990                  from 1970-1990
   45.5% reduction                 20.4% increase

   Volatile Organic                Volatile Organic
   Compounds                       Compounds
   from 1970-1990                  from 1970-1990
   50.7% reduction                 5.8% reduction

   Carbon Monoxide                 Carbon Monoxide
   from 1970-l990                  from 1970-l990
   62.2% reduction                 9.6% reduction

Source: March/April 1993 NMA News

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