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Don't Blame Cars for Smog, AAA Says

WASHINGTON, DC, September 29, 1999 (ENS) - Federal regulators should refocus efforts to cut air pollution away from automobiles, the motorists’ advocacy group AAA said today. Smog from motor vehicles has declined much faster than pollution from other sources, and AAA says its time to give drivers and automakers a break - and concentrate on power plants and factories instead.

In a report released today in Washington DC, AAA - formerly the American Automobile Association - presents evidence of major reductions in air pollution from automobiles, despite the growing number of vehicles on the road and miles driven. The study is based on data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by local air planning agencies.

The study even includes emissions from light trucks, sport utility vehicles and minivans, which are not held to the same emissions and fuel efficiency standards as cars. "Clearing the Air - 1999" is the third such study performed by AAA.

"Overall air quality in our cities is improving, and it's due in large part to the automobile," says Susan Pikrallidas, AAA interim vice president of public relations. "This study confirms that smog produced by automobiles continues to decline and does not contribute inordinately to ozone problems in our cities when compared to the contribution of other sources."

The study, conducted by Virginia based Energy & Environmental Analysis, Inc., examined pollution from cars and light trucks; stationary sources such as power plants, factories, refineries and commercial businesses; paints, cleaning solvents and other products; road vehicles like motorcycles and large trucks; and other mobile sources such as airplanes, boats, lawn mowers, trains and construction equipment.

Less than 24 percent of the emissions that lead to ground level ozone problems in 25 major cities come from motor vehicles, the study finds. In cities such as Atlanta, Georgia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, 65 percent to 80 percent of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) come from stationary sources and mobile sources other than cars and light trucks.

Since 1970, VOCs emissions from all sources have decreased by 56 percent, and NOx emissions have fallen by four percent, the study finds. During the same 30 year period, passenger vehicles have cut VOCs by 80 percent and NOx by 38 percent.
In some cities, including Baltimore, Maryland and Phoenix, Arizona, car and light truck emissions have declined by about 65 percent, despite a more than 100 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled nationwide.

AAA attributes the reductions to the production of cleaner cars, stimulated by the tightening of federal tailpipe emissions standards, cleaner gasoline and more effective state inspections. The group projects continued significant decreases in pollution from autos through at least 2005.

"Through these studies, AAA sends a clear message to governments - federal, state and local - that they need to go beyond simply targeting passenger vehicles if they hope to make any real progress in further cutting the smog in our cities," says Pikrallidas.

Environmentalists challenge AAA’s conclusions. Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program said in a statement, "It sounds like AAA has been breathing too much smog. A third of the nation's smog and 20 percent of the nation's global warming pollution spew out of America's tailpipes. With asthmatic children being hospitalized at an ever increasing rate, it is foolhardy and callous for AAA to imply that now is the time to let up on auto pollution."
The EPA did not challenge AAA’s numbers, but a spokesman for the agency said the group’s conclusions may be "shortsighted." The agency is committed to reducing emissions from all sources, according to EPA spokesman Dave Cohen.

"This is not a contest," Cohen said. "Letting motor vehicles off the hook for their past performance is not a useful way of combating air pollution."

©Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.

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