Driving gasoline cars is costing California $15 billion a year in health expenses and impacts to the environment, but the state has a chance to reduce the effects of air pollution through its zero emission program, the American Lung Association says.
A shift to electric cars and other zero-emission vehicles could save Californians $13.5 billion in health and climate costs by 2050, the association in California says in a report released Wednesday night.
More importantly, a reduction in pollution would improve health in communities, said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director for air quality and climate change. And the San Joaquin Valley would stand to benefit more than many places in the state.
Cities in the Valley consistently rank among the most polluted in California on the Lung Association’s annual air pollution report card, Holmes-Gen said. “The Valley is a region that desperately needs this cleanup from zero emissions.”
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The Valley is a region that desperately needs this cleanup from zero emissions.
Bonnie Holmes-Gen, American Lung Association in California
The association report, which looks at California and nine other states with zero-emission programs, estimates that in 2015, the harm from passenger vehicles to health and climate was $37 billion. Of that, $24 billion was health costs, including 220,000 lost work days, more than 109,000 asthma episodes and 2,580 premature deaths.
Taking a simpler look, the association says: Each tank of burned gasoline caused $18.42 in health and climate impacts.
In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown directed the state to accelerate the market for zero-emission vehicles so California could have 1.5 million on the road by 2025. The state will need a majority of cars to be zero-emission to meet its climate goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
The Lung Association report says California’s Air Resources Board should strengthen the zero-emission vehicle program. It says the board needs to end a loophole called the “travel provision” that stalls sales of such vehicles outside California. The loophole has allowed automakers to use a credit system to avoid placing zero-emission vehicles in other states, the report says.
Getting to zero or near-zero emissions is the only answer for the San Joaquin Valley to meet healthy air goals, said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. He was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday lobbying for national regulations and funding for truck and locomotive emissions.
Petroleum-based emissions account for 85 percent of the Valley’s pollution, Sadredin said. “We could shut down all the farms, all of the oil industry, all dairies and all the manufacturing facilities throughout the Valley, and we will still be far away from meeting the federal health-based standards for particulate matter and ozone. So the solution really lies in getting to zero or near zero emission level from mobile sources – trucks, passenger vehicles and, in our case, locomotives as well.”
But the state has a ways to go to get gasoline vehicles off the road: With more than 33 million registered vehicles, only 135,759 were electric as of Sept. 30. Another 1,050,857 hybrid cars are were registered.
Mark Davis, planning manager at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, has been driving an electric Fiat 500e for about a year. “It seemed like the right thing to do,” he said.
The electric car is great for his commute from Clovis to the airport in east-central Fresno, Davis said.
It runs great. It keeps up with traffic.
Mark Davis, electric car owner
The airport has six electric-car charging stations for employees and is adding 14 to its public parking lot.
So far, the six stations for employees don’t stay full. Davis said he understands the public hesitation to switch from gasoline to electric vehicles. “One of the the biggest concerns is, ‘I’ll get 40 miles from home and my car will go dead.’ ”
The limited range is a drawback for long-distance trips, he said. But for commuting, the car works well. “It runs great. It keeps up with traffic.”
Holmes-Gen, who owns an electric car, said Californians are moving toward zero-emission vehicles and the 2050 goals are obtainable. “California recognizes the importance,” she said.
The state needs to reach out to consumers to educate them about the health and climate benefits and consumer savings, she said. “I have an electric vehicle and once you drive one, you don’t want to drive with a gasoline vehicle.”