EPA’s new ozone standards arrive in midst of Dieselgate scandal

The irony of this is rich –  Today, the EPA announced new ozone standards, strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from 75 ppb to protect public health.  EPA also is strengthening the “secondary ozone standard” to 70 ppb, which will improve protection for trees, plants and ecosystems.  Irony?  We’re in the middle of the unfolding Dieselgate scandal where Volkswagen has admitted to cheating on emissions tests, and that the company’s 2.0 liter TDI Diesel cars emit 10-40x the NOx allowed by law.  Irony? Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the air.

“Put simply – ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today’s action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children’s health.”

Over 2,300 scientific studies were reviewed in the process of developing the new air quality standard.

Scientific evidence shows that ozone can cause a number of harmful effects on the respiratory system, including difficulty breathing and inflammation of the airways. The revised standards will significantly improve public health protection, resulting in fewer premature deaths, and thousands fewer missed school and work days and asthma attacks. For people with lung diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or the 23 million Americans and 6 million children living with asthma, these effects can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Evidence also indicates that long-term exposure to ozone is likely to be one of many causes of asthma development. And studies show that ozone exposure is likely to cause premature death. The public health benefits of the updated standards, estimated at $2.9 to $5.9 billion annually in 2025, outweigh the estimated annual costs of $1.4 billion.

A lot of progress has already been made, according to the EPA.  Nationally, from 1980 to 2014, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent, while the economy has continued to grow.  In other words, environmental regulations did not harm the economy.  Take that, Republicans!

By 2025 the EPA expects the vast majority of U.S. counties will be in conformance with the standards.  The advances of course don’t happen because of the laws, but because of improved technology, specifically “pollution control technology for vehicles and industry.”

Here’s where the irony alert kicks in.  Because, of course, the EPA told us that Volkswagen’s TDI Diesel cars were ultra clean wonder-cars, when the reality was it was a big sham.  Is the EPA following the same self-certification process for this technology as they did with Volkswagen?

It’s one thing to make a law, or decide on government policy.  But those things are just words in a book unless there is actual enforcement.  The Volkswagen Dieselgate situation has shown us that the EPA is failing at the job of enforcement.  It was a 3rd party organization that detected the wrong-doing.

Adding to the irony is a press release I received from the Diesel Technology Forum.   They want us to know that Clean Diesel Technology is continuing to “lead on clean air ambitions.”  I sure hope that’s actually true.

“Today’s announcement by EPA sets the bar higher for cleaner airThe increasing use of new generation of clean diesel technology will be an important asset for states in helping to achieve these more stringent standards,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.  “Expanding use of new clean diesel engines is a major factor in reducing ozone precursors like nitrogen oxides (NOx).  Thanks to the availability of cleaner diesel fuel and advanced engines and emissions control technology, diesel has been transformed throughout the last decade in all applications, from heavy duty trucks and construction equipment to electrical generators and passenger vehicles.”

The Diesel Technology Forum claims that “heavy-duty commercial vehicles manufactured beginning in model year 2010 have reduced emissions of NOx by 98 percent compared to a similar truck built in 1988.”

It’s not just NOx reduction.  The fuel economy rules for heavy trucks established for model year 2014 through 2018 will reduce carbon emissions by 270 million tons and save 530 million barrels of crude oil.

All that’s well and good, and perhaps in this case there’s no Dieselgate problem to worry about.  But, Diesel fuel is still a fossil fuel.  Reducing carbon emissions is one thing, but it’s still gonna be emitting carbon into the atmosphere.  Reducing carbon emissions is like switching from smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day to 2 packs a day.  You’ve reduced your smoking, and therefore reduced the chance of lung cancer, but you’re still smoking and that’s still bad for your health.

Find out more at: http://www3.epa.gov/ozonepollution/

 

 

 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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