Dependence on oil blamed for rising health and climate change costs

Reliance on oil is costing states billions, group says

Sacramento Bee 10-29-16



RICHARD VOGEL The Associated Press— Los Angeles is shrouded in early morning coastal fog in August. Southern California had a smoggy summer and hospitals reported an increase of people with breathing problems. An American Lung Association report blamed petroleum for health problems and what it called climate costs.

A report released Thursday by the American Lung Association in California says that an over reliance on petroleum-based fuels for transportation costs 10 U.S. states, including California, $37 billion in health expenses and climate costs annually.

The report, titled “Clean Air Future: Health and Climate Benefits of Zero Emission Vehicles,” asserts that a significant shift to zero-emission vehicles would not only clean the air and reduce health and climate concerns but save tens of billions of dollars.

Clean Air Future says that petroleum-based fuels cost California about $15 billion a year. That’s nearly twice the costs associated with No. 2 New York, estimated at $7.9 billion.

The report also presents data from nine other states that have adopted the California Zero Emission Vehicle program: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“Relying almost exclusively on oil for transportation hurts our air, our health and our environment,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director of air quality and climate change with the association.

Every year, the report says, pollution from passenger vehicles costs the 10 zero-emission states about $24 billion in health costs.

Welcome to lunch in L.A.

Welcome to a 1950s lunch in L.A.

The report says that putting a significant number of zero-emission vehicles – including battery-powered, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles – on the roads by 2030 could save $13 billion in health costs in the 10 states. By 2050, under previously stated goals adopted by the zero-emission states, the annual savings could total $20 billion, the report says.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has set a goal of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

CaliforniaGeo response—

The American Lung Association has it right.  Living in cities with frequent atmospheric inversions and plentiful pollution can make life difficult.

la-downtown-heavy-smogLos Angeles has been a focal point for the word “Smog” for over 75 years.  There has been remarkable progress in fighting it and winning part of the time, particularly when considering the massive population and vehicular traffic increases in the Los Angeles Basin.

But, the truth is that social policy and regulation is not yet strong enough to guarantee residents in such places unaffected health (as a 25 year old report of low birthweight newborns close to LAX due to smog).  In addition to degraded health and threats to length of lifespan, there are major healthcare costs associated with treating respiratory ailments related to air pollution.

Better pollution controls, more zero emission vehicles, and walking away from fossil-fueled power plants, trucks, and locomotives would improve conditions immensely in the L.A. Basin.  A steady move toward renewable electricity (sun, wind, and water) without combustion could be completed with health care savings, according to Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University.

And let’s not forget that geothermal heat pumps can take the fossil fuel use out of buildings by tapping the plentiful thermal resource underground for heating, cooling, and making hot water.  It’s available everywhere we live and work.

—Bill Martin