By on May 13, 2020

Barring low gas prices you couldn’t take advantage of and your author’s adventures in cooking with curry, the past two months didn’t bring much in the way of benefits. Millions are out of work, nerves are frayed, hospital ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients, and bad takes still run rampant on Twitter. Daily!

Anyone who did venture outdoors this spring, however, may have noticed one specific change for the better, and science now backs it up.

The air. Fresh, springtime scented, dangerous droplet carrying air. Turns out it was fresher than before, and not just because leaving the house distanced your olfactory senses from laundry pushed well beyond its best-before date.

According to readings taken in April by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), air quality improved drastically during the height of the nation’s lockdown measures. Pollutants found in abundance flowing from internal combustion vehicles’ tailpipes tapered off, leaving a noticeable change in the smog levels of certain locales. Photos from around the globe soon contrasted the “before” and “after” of the situation, with heavily polluted cities revealing far more of their skyline to distant viewers. In some cases, mountains appeared on the horizon for the first time in ages.

Thanks to this, a plethora of nearly identical “nature is healing” social media posts quickly turned the phrase into a meme.

The NOAA’s COVID Air Quality Study looked into two regions: the crowded Northeast and urban Colorado. As reported by Reuters, the study — which amassed air quality data from ground monitors, airplanes, and satellites — revealed a sizable decrease in lung irritants and greenhouse gases.

Between Boston and Washington, DC, levels of smog-forming nitrogen oxide fell an average of 25 to 30 percent compared to normal, with carbon dioxide levels down 15 to 20 percent. That’s with road traffic down by about half.

In Colorado, where cities huddle together for safety and warmth, urban nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide levels fell 30 percent, the study found. Other bad organic emissions saw their numbers halved.

While the study shows the scale of the lockdowns, it also hands eco types a bucket of data with which to advocate for less fossil fuel use — especially as it pertains to the private car. If the same number of vehicles taken off the road in April simply dropped their ICEs and switched to battery power, the fresh pandemic air experienced last month would become a daily occurrence, the argument goes. And it’s true, but the benefit could only be realized fully if those electric vehicles sourced their electrons from a wall socket or charging handle with no upstream emissions.

In Colorado’s case, coal produced 45 percent of the state’s electricity in 2019. A declining figure, residents would tell you.

[Image: LanaElcova/Shutterstock]

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73 Comments on “Chalk Up Another Benefit to the Big Lockdown…...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Clean air is good, but I bet most people would cough up a little smog to go back to before

    • 0 avatar
      bobbysirhan

      First thing you’ve said that I agree with. The question is whether or not they’re smart enough to force the issue before the Democrats send us into a new dark age to win an election that they have no business even fielding a candidate in?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Are you that weak that you think a republican president and senate is still being dominated by democrats?

        You really are a bunch of weenies who deserve to be sent back to the lunatic fringes from where you came. You can’t even comprehend a balanced government whose job it is to serve ALL it’s citizens

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Bobbysirhan; So you are publicly endorsing a one party state and the end of democracy in the USA.

        Just how close to the Kremlin is your terminal located?

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Arthur I’m suspect of all these new accounts who have little interest in cars but plenty of interest in tinfoil hat politics. We all know who they are

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, I’ve noticed as well-maybe bots have branched out, having destroyed the usefulness of twitter and successfully turned FB into misinformation meme central. I’ve avoided all of it, this is about cars, and if I need to convince someone on the internet they are wrong, well, that’s what Reddit is for :)

        • 0 avatar
          tomLU86

          @arthur

          Bobbysirhan. The name tells you all you need to know. Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy.

          As to lockdown positive effects, yes, the price of fuel is down (for now) and the air is cleaner.

          The latter point–if those cars that were not driven “normally” were magically transformed to Teslas and Bolts and put back on the road, how much more pollution would coal-fired electric generating plants spew (to charge the batteries)?

          Some of the decline is also attributable to reduced industrial and economic activity.

          As you noted elsewhere, this crisis has shown that outsourcing is not all good, and there is something to be said for being independent–even if it “costs” more, and you have to pay people North American living wages.

        • 0 avatar
          teddyc73

          @ Arthur The Democrats have been working towards that for decades.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…the benefit could only be realized fully if those electric vehicles sourced their electrons from a wall socket or charging handle with no upstream emissions”

    1. It’s not an even exchange. Economies of scale – even at coal-fired plants – mean the total emissions of an EV are equal (at worst), to far superior to those from an ICE.

    2. Those reductions cited are relative to an already-cleaned up atmosphere. The 2019 air is way better than it was in 1999, for example, but we’re told the sky is falling faster than ever.

    3. CO2 is not pollution.

    4. The bottom line with greenies: Man is always the enemy.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It is interesting how fast the earth recoups from man-made damage. If we disappeared after a few years there’d hardly be a trace of us

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Your statement is correct but your timeframe is wrong. In human timeframes, we can render this planet uninhabitable for most life if we decided to nuke the place. And man’s imprint would be visible for a few hundred years at least*. From a geological timeframe however, nature would recover and reformat the planet in the favor of the new matrix, just like the Genesis Device would do.

        The decrease in particulates and various emissions has shown what we could achieve if we made a conscious effort to eliminate as much combustion as possible. I’m not advocating the destruction of our economy to do so, rather we could have a long term plan to move in that direction. What took decades to achieve in say, LA, we did in a couple of months. We need to look at what progress can be made and select policies that push us in that direction.

        *What do you think the longest lasting man made objects would be? My bet is on, with longest lasting first: Moonshot equipment on lunar surface, Mount Rushmore, and Hoover Dam…

        • 0 avatar
          Bill Wade

          They said this about Chernobyl. Wildlife is thriving around the plant.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Bill Wade – Chernobyl released a lot of radiation, yes. But compare that to a full blown nuclear holocaust with massive releases of radiation globally, a nuclear winter and the scars of thousands of bombs and warheads. Not the same thing. But the recovery that you see in Chernobyl today would eventually occur to the entire planet; it would just take far longer to occur. The next intelligent life can look at Rushmore and ponder what it means the same way we look at Stonehenge.

            The resiliency of nature when humans stop their activity is quite amazing.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          Grand Coulee Dam contains ~3 times as much concrete as Hoover Dam. Three Gorges Dam contains ~3 times as much concrete as Grand Coulee Dam (~9X Hoover).

          Why Hoover Dam over these others?

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I chose Hoover because of the geology of the area, and what I’ve read about the design of the structure. The others may be more durable – Hoover was just the one I know the most about.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Except for the plastics that have accumulated from pole to pole.

        Imagine if every house and apartment had solar panels, and everyone had an electric car. Fuel for driving is now free and causes no pollution at all.
        You would have a few hundred bucks extra in your pocket each month, and could then retire a few years earlier.
        The air would be a hell of a lot cleaner – and that is a good thing.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Sorry SCX…anything in excessive quantities can become a pollutant. Chow down on a handful of potassium pills, an element that is essential for life. You will probably die before you get to the ER. CO2 in the quantities being released makes it a pollution.

      • 0 avatar
        2manycars

        “CO2 in the quantities being released makes it a pollution.”

        No, it is not. We are not anywhere near close to toxic CO2 levels. I won’t be going electric.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Uh, yes it is, at least in relation to the overall makeup of the atmosphere over the last 800,000 years…

          https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/graphic-the-relentless-rise-of-carbon-dioxide/

          Science matters. And I’m not telling anybody to “go electric”. Besides, politicizing electric cars is so 2010. We have a virus for that now.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          “We are not anywhere near close to toxic CO2 levels. I won’t be going electric.”

          I went electric, despite my thoughts about CO2.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Which is why choice is great. I don’t have an electric car, but will likely consider one for our next purchase. For our use, it would probably cover 95% of our needs w/o any recharging anxiety.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “We are not anywhere near close to toxic CO2 levels.”

          Incorrect.

          Oceans are becoming increasingly acidic. The oceans like human beings can survive only within a narrow pH range.
          Increased ocean temperatures also contribute to acidity because the higher the temperature, the less oxygen the ocean can carry. That isn’t much different than the human body.

          For some, science is such an inconvenient thing!

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            The internet makes it so easy for those who think their misinformed opinions are actually facts to spill their foolishness all over the place.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Not directly related to cars, but it pains me to see the toss-off line about swamped ICUs. That is not the case in the 3rd most populous state and probably not the case outside the NYC metro area and a few others. According to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, as of 5/13, 30% of all Florida ICU beds are available – empty. The hospitals aren’t swamped; in fact, some are on the edge of bankruptcy due to shutdown of elective procedures. Meanwhile, NYC has more C-19 deaths than 44 states. If the MSM would actually venture into fly-over land they would see that ‘one size fits all’ edicts don’t work. It does whip up a good frenzy, a major goal of the press.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Nobody should be saying “one size fits all”. In NY, the most rural areas are reopening, while the densest places are not. The fact that the ICUs are not overrun is a testament to the efficacy of the social distancing programs and should be pointed out as a great example of a successful public policy. Imagine what would have happened if the virus was allowed to unchecked…that said I actually am looking forward to not viewing every human being as a potential killer and the ability to go back to a normal life….that however, is a long way away…

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Actually, the worst hit borough, Brooklyn, has more deaths than 44 states. Quick lookup followed by brain vapor lock.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely criticized in the national media for avoiding a total lockdown, zeroed in on nursing homes, encouraging repeated testing and temperature-taking of residents and staff and isolating anyone testing positive. Florida, a state with 2 million more people than New York, had just 714 nursing home deaths, 13% of the number in New York.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Well, unlike waiting for the extended time frame for the climate change argument, the virus problem is going to play out in real time for all of us. With the states opening up, and the “non-regular*” people that work in the meat packing plants being forced to return to business as usual, we will see what happens. My guess is the states that don’t have a good plan for protection will see an explosion in cases. Sad that death rates are being under-reported but that too will come out. Death rates are quite constant; hence the insurance industry built up around that data. You can try to hide the cause, but you can’t hide the body. It will be very easy to compare the normal death rate to the new death rate. And there is only ONE variable that has changed.

        *https://www.rawstory.com/2020/05/wisconsin-gop-judge-covid-19-is-spreading-due-to-meat-packing-workers-and-not-regular-folks/?utm_source=push_notifications

        Not so sure about “rawstory” site but the video clearly shows the judge being dismissive about the lives of the workers in the plant. And that’s a judge. Wow.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          We are now not just into the fourth week since Brian Kemp said the state could reopen and fourteen days past the shelter-in-place order expired, we are now past the last major revision of the IHME model, which happened yesterday.

          The IHME model is the most widely cited and relied upon model for COVID-19. The White House and Georgia’s Governor rely on it. On May 12, the IHME model predicted Georgia would still have hundreds of daily new cases into August and would have 1,783 daily new cases on June 12, 2020.

          Yesterday, the model updated and the update was significant. Georgia is now expected to have no cases of the virus by August and only 367 new daily cases on June 12.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “Georgia is now expected to have no cases of the virus by August’

            I recall King COVID #45 saying that the USA would be down to zero as well………

            How is that working out for ya’ll?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @thelame: “Yesterday, the model updated and the update was significant.”

            From the IHME notes: “It is worth noting that the full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection, and full disease progression.”

            Kind of conveniently left that part out as usual.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            McSht

            As* covering gibberish was omitted. I rely on you for that. Well done.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Life, uh… finds a way.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

  • avatar

    Another stupid thread. Boy, what a day.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Darn ‘racing gasoline’ is still $9 / gallon Way Out West…..

    My older carburated Motos love the stuff, good thing they get passable fuel economy .

    Damned eco-weenies, those are the dumbshits who trshed a remote logging site and allowed Desel fuel and oil to run down a hill in a pristine stream, right ? .

    Same bunch arsoned a bunch of new Hummers, here in La La Land I think it was .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The Hummers were burned by a group called ELF – Earth Liberation Front. They are hyper-radical and very much an extreme group. They don’t represent the modern environmental movement at all. How much pollution was emitted from those Hummer fires? And they are concerned about the planet? I don’t get it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Earth can heal itself without the human species. Not so much a question of if the Earth can survive as much as can we survive as a species. We cannot replace all our energy needs with solar and wind but then we cannot ignore the effects that increased use of fossil fuels have on climate change, global warming, and cleaner air. There is no one energy source that will solve all our energy needs. As for politicizing the Corona virus a virus has no political or economic agendas it attacks the host without determining political, religious, racial, and economic beliefs and status. The last thing most people want is destruction of the economy regardless of political or religious beliefs but most of us fear getting something that could kill us.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    “hospital ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients” That’s not exactly true but hey, we haven’t had the truth in months from state governments so we’re used to some fact bending.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      One-third of reported coronavirus deaths in the United States, according to the New York Times’s reporting, are of nursing home residents or workers. And nursing homes accounted for a majority of deaths in heavily hit states, such as New Jersey (52%), Massachusetts (59%), Pennsylvania (66%), and Connecticut (55%), and for 80% of deaths in otherwise lightly hit Minnesota.

      That percentage is much lower (20%) in America’s COVID-19 epicenter, New York, but the Empire State still leads the nation with 5,403 nursing home deaths — about 1 out of every 14 COVID-19 deaths in the entire country.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        100% of theloon’s “facts” are BS

        https://www.theloon/dumb.as.a.box.of.rocks/

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Nursing homes are the story of this pandemic. Half of all coronavirus deaths in Europe are linked to them. In our country, most states are reporting nursing home deaths at 40 or 50 percent of their overall fatality rate. For some states – Minnesota, for example – almost 80 percent of all coronavirus deaths have so far occurred in nursing homes.

          And it’s not just that state officials didn’t do enough to protect these vulnerable populations. Rather, they actively endangered the most vulnerable. New Jersey, California, and New York all also mandated that nursing homes take in elderly people known to have the infection. New York even prohibited nursing homes from testing patients before they were admitted, and refused to provide protective gear to staff (“not our job,” the governor said).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Nursing homes are the story of this pandemic. Half of all coronavirus deaths in Europe are linked to them. In our country, most states are reporting nursing home deaths at 40 or 50 percent of their overall fatality rate.”

            If that’s true, theloon, you must really be frightened

            Hey, isn’t it Jello Day in the cafeteria? Better run along or you won’t get any

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            The nursing homes are an issue because it’s almost impossible to social distance. The same comorbidities inside nursing homes exist outside of them as well. You could have an office with individuals that have the same comorbidities as individuals in a nursing home. The nursing home numbers prove that social distancing and the lockdowns are working.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            We are now not just into the fourth week since Brian Kemp said the state could reopen and fourteen days past the shelter-in-place order expired, we are now past the last major revision of the IHME model, which happened yesterday.

            The IHME model is the most widely cited and relied upon model for COVID-19. The White House and Georgia’s Governor rely on it. On May 12, the IHME model predicted Georgia would still have hundreds of daily new cases into August and would have 1,783 daily new cases on June 12, 2020.

            Yesterday, the model updated and the update was significant. Georgia is now expected to have no cases of the virus by August and only 367 new daily cases on June 12.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            The declared purpose of the lockdown was to mitigate what was projected to be a complete meltdown of available intensive care and hospital beds nationwide or in now common parlance “bend the curve.” At the height of the virus outbreak, the nation utilized less than 15% of available hospital beds and less than 20% of available intensive care beds for coronavirus patients. This curve has been bent for some time.

            Deaths from nursing and senior care facilities homes now account for more than 50% of total recorded fatalities since the beginning of the epidemic. In some states it is as high as 80%. Over the past three weeks nursing home related deaths account for nearly 70% of reported fatalities.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            The Spanish Flu and polio generally targeted young and/or healthy people.

            As COVID-19 was new, health care professionals were unsure originally as to its impact, mortality rates, etc.

            Historically ICU units account for 15% of hospital beds and generally are at an occupancy of approximately 90%+. ( I have added a link to the research showing this.)

            An ICU unit requires 3x the resources (nurses,support staff, etc) of a normal hospital admission.

            Those requiring ICU are in an emergency and cannot wait for a unit/bed to open.

            Therefore adding a 15% increase to normal hospitalization rates would push ICU to over 100% and require additional hospital resources equal to a 45% increase in normal utlization.

            Locking down, decreased regular admissions/surgeries freeing up the required space.

            Thus the lockdown worked. As demonstrated even by the flawed statistics used by ‘open up’ supporters.

            https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/ICU_Report_EN.pdf

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          tagged “indefinite” or “permanent.” Alongside announcements of sweeping staff cuts by major employers such as Boeing Co. and U.S. Steel Corp. and the accelerating pace of downsizing in brick-and-mortar retailing, such notices are a sign that even as businesses continue to hope for a speedy recovery, they are starting to plan for a slow one.

          The new permanent layoffs are hitting a wide swath of the economy both geographically and sectorally. Uber Technologies Inc. on Wednesday became the latest major company to announced long-term layoffs, saying it would be eliminating 3,700 jobs, or 14% of its staff worldwide. A day earlier, Airbnb Inc. said it was cutting 25% of its workforce, or about 1,900 people worldwide.

          https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-06/temporary-coronavirus-layoffs-are-turning-permanent-around-u-s

  • avatar
    thelaine

    PA has had less than 4,000 COVID deaths. 70 percent have been in nursing homes after the governor ordered them to take COVID patients. That leaves about a 1,000 non-nursing home deaths, or .008 percent of the population. PA just extended the lockdown into June. Insanity.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      It is rather easy to prove that SARS-CoV-2 is more lethal than influenza.

      As per the CDC web site they state that the annual influenza death rate ranges from 12,000 – 61,000 deaths ANNUALLY since 2010.

      REMEMBER – ANNUAL DEATH RATE.

      The most current statistic for COVID-19 deaths is 86,465.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        here’s a bit from the Atlantic screed that is worth taking another look at. “Because of how infections tend to progress, it may be two or three weeks before hospitals see a new wave of people whose lungs look like they’re studded with ground glass in X-rays.” It’s dramatic imagery. But now, having traveled by the typical method two weeks into the future, we know this prediction simply did not come to pass.

        Since Kemp ordered and then enacted his relaxation of the shut down new cases of coronavirus in Georgia have fallen, not increased. So have hospitalizations. While some hysterical critics may cling to their doom saying by urging its still too early, or there isn’t adequate testing, the numbers show, without any doubt, that the spike they feared, and presented as the most likely outcome, never materialized. Let me put it more simply. They were wrong, Kemp was right.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        @Lou ~

        You’re trying to use facts and common sense with now only a boot licking toady but a knows and self outed shill .

        He cares not a whit about the truth nor you nor any Americans , he says what he’s paid to say and nothing more .

        Sadly he’s not the only one here .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I read that the air in SoCal, infamous for smog, was cleaner during the “please stay home” and closure of many businesses, partly from fewer vehicles on the roads and also it was the tail end of the rainy season here.
    There air is noticeably cleaner after a rain in ‘normal times’ or now.
    As soon as the rains were done there were a few weeks of much warmer weather. Most areas over 90 F. Soon the brown haze of smog reappeared.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      No, the smog did not return. I live in So Cal, east LA County out in Diamond Bar. I live up on a hill that overlooks the SGV. We have not had rain for a couple weeks now and I can still see LA city skyline from my backyard…..its over 50 miles away.

      You read….I live here.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        I am glad the air is better where you live. As always YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Yes and no ~ 50 miles is a long ways, I drive pretty much daily from the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains through the center in down town Los Angeles to South Central and yes, it was fantastic for a few weeks and it’s still far, far better than it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s but also yes, that persistant brown cloud is back and getting worse although no where as bad as it was .

          The late night traffic here has gotten *so* bad I no longer will ride my Moto after dark .

          Every few hours a iniot of more collide and invariably flip over with resulting massive injuries .

          Drive, you must ~ yes but don’t be an asshole about it .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    JMII

    NOAA? Don’t they claim the earth is round by using so called satellites in orbit? Poppycock! Who believes this stuff? They are controlling the weather with chem trails from commercial airplanes so making the smog go away was easy. I read on the internet that NOAA invented COVID-19 since their hurricane machine has been off line for repairs.

    j/k

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      JM II, ROFLOL!.

      As someone said a while ago, “The Earth can’t be flat. Cats would have pushed everything over the edge long ago if it was.”

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @JMII, you’re talking about fancy, pilot-boy, way up in the sky stuff! At your home, you need to modify your microwave. Turn it so the door is facing up. Run two lines of tape all around the window, leaving 1/8th an inch for your grinding wheel. Cut out that clear plastic and perforated metal that makes up your microwave window. Set it for 20:20 to kill all the Covid-19 in your house. Set it to 20:45 to get rid of all the immigrant Covid-19 in your house. Sarcasm/joke font off.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        We have commenters here that believe in chemtrails, flat earth, moon landing’s a hoax, Trump’s telling the truth, all kinds of delusional stuff

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Thanx El Scotto ! .

          Question : do I need to wear my tin foil hat and if so, ear flaps up or down ? .

          I really appreciate the detailed technical information I gain here and also the occasional proper use of gallows humor .

          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            pwrwrench

            A colander with blinking LEDs in the holes works better.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Yabbutt ;

            Then I have to wear a chin strap to prevent it from falling off and you alls know I’m an old guy on a fixed budget ~ those damned batteries don’t last as long as I’d like and I only buy the ‘bunny batteries’…..

            -Nate

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