Transportation and Future Air Quality

EM – October 2022: This month, EM highlights the effects of transportation emissions on air quality and discusses some of the policies to reduce emissions in order to improve future air quality.
by Zuber Farooqui

Transportation systems have enormous socioeconomic benefits, providing seamless connectivity. However, rapid transportation has come with a cost, as it has significant impact on ambient air quality and climate change. Combustion of fossil-derived transportation fuels has led to noteworthy air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to diminishing air quality status and climate change around the world. According to 2020 data, the U.S. transportation sector contributes more than one quarter (27%) toward total national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which is highest among all sectors.
Over the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion have increased by 7%, with an overall increase in GHG emissions of 6.6%. The articles in this issue highlight the effects of transportation-related emissions on air quality and discuss some of the policies that aim to reduce emissions for future air quality.
The first article by Zuber Farooqui and Jhumoor Biswas provides an overall picture of land, air, and water transportation in the United States, highlighting the contribution of transportation emissions toward GHG emissions totals and climate change. The authors focus on how transportation-related emissions might be curbed and provide a snapshot of the future of transportation in all modes.
Next, the article by Jim Lyons describes the current drive to force the implementation of zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) technology, highlighting some of issues that will need to be addressed if the aspirations of those behind this drive are fully realized. The article examines how the zero-emission technology is being driven by the U.S. light-duty vehicle sector and by California's ZEV's regulations.
In the third article by Chris Whitehead and Evan Belser, the authors outline the opportunities for sensible policies to account for the rapid market shift toward electric vehicles (EVs), that in turn will ensure a profitable EV industry and steep reductions in air pollution. The article discusses federal, congressional, and state policies to reduce emission from transportation sector with adoption of EVs in the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) Program.

Finally, the article by Seth Hartley and colleagues presents work done by consulting firm ICF and the American Lung Association (ALA) to create a comprehensive analysis of the potential health and climate benefits of a future scenario that envisions increasing on-road vehicle electrification across the United States. The analysis considers the disparate impacts of the existing air pollution burden.

Continue reading the full October 2022 issue of EM.


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