The Smog State: Vehicle Emissions Still Rising in California, Despite Regulations

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the smog state vehicle emissions still rising in california despite regulations

Despite aggressive regulatory efforts to counter pollution, California emissions from on-road transportation rose by roughly 4.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2015 vs one year earlier, according to the San Francisco-based non-profit Next 10. The state also had the dubious honor of housing six of the country’s 10 most polluted cities, based on data from the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report released last April.

While topography plays a major role (cities located in valleys and basins have a tendency to trap air pollutants), much of the problem has to do with Californians driving more. Let’s face it, gas is cheap and public transit options are typically the less-enjoyable option in all but the most densely packed cities. In fact, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation has seen declining ridership over the last two years — even though the city has a major issue with traffic.

Advocates for stringent fuel economy standards and zero-emission vehicle mandates claim the state should tighten the rules and enforce stricter ordinances. The strategy is something Governor Jerry Brown and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols both appear to be in favor of.

Next 10’s report, cited by Bloomberg, indicated that motorists have been clocking more miles and state residents have abandoned public transportation. The one-two punch lessened California’s total greenhouse gas emissions decrease for 2015 at less than half the rate of the prior year.

“Transportation sector emissions vastly outweigh other carbon-producing areas of California’s economy,” Adam Fowler, an analyst at Beacon Economics, the research and consulting firm that compiled Next 10’s California Green Innovation Index, said in a statement. “The recent spike should alert policy-makers that despite our best efforts, more must be done.”

The spike accounted for a 3.1 percent increase in tailpipe exhaust from motor vehicles in 2015. But total greenhouse gas emissions fell by roughly 0.34 percent, according to the report.

With the Trump administration dug in its heelsvowing to maintain present-day goals, regardless of what the restructured Environmental Protection Agency decides to do. In March, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to move ahead with progressively stricter tailpipe emissions laws, along with a separate mandate that requires automakers to sell more zero-emissions vehicles within the state.

“What were you thinking when you threw yourself on the mercy of the Trump administration to solve your problems?” Nichols asked automakers leading up to the vote.

President Trump issued a soft promise to industry executives at the beginning of the year, explaining he would convince the EPA to weaken existing regulations to defend American jobs and bolster automotive productivity. Currently under review, the EPA is expected to make a final decision on the rules by year’s end.

However, in spite of California’s longstanding zero-emission vehicle mandates, transportation still accounted for 38.5 percent of the state’s total emissions in 2015 — much more than any other sector. Last year, Governor Brown signed legislation requiring the state to reduce its CO2 emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels before 2030.

[Image: Union of Concerned Scientists]

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  • Hpycamper Hpycamper on Aug 22, 2017

    Smog, the unhealthy byproduct of mixing fuel and fire. What do we call the unhealthy byproduct of mixing science and politics?

  • Phreshone Phreshone on Aug 23, 2017

    California... In the words of Harry Reid, "The War is Lost" Time for the Lex Luthor Solution to the California Issue

  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.