The Bc Air Care Report

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THE BC AIRCARE REPORT

 

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REFLECTIONS ON THE SCALE OF THE AUTO EMISSIONS PROBLEM

(compared with cigarette pollution...)

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Preface

The posting attached to this text file contains a study done by the Province of British Columbia entitled Technical Review of the AirCare Program: Program Year Three -- September 1994 to August 1995.

This is an interesting document containing what may be the first weighted emissions figures from "live" cars -- that is, vehicles in daily use by members of the driving public -- in the world.

For those who are interested in the subject of emissions, I'd like to offer a few remarks of my own on the subject. My intent is to give readers who are not experts in this field a sense of the dimensions of the air pollution problem as it relates to internal combustion engines.

I should emphasize at the outset that I had nothing to do with the creation of the AirCare study, and that although I refer to the study in the following remarks, my remarks and conclusions are strictly my own, and not those of the study or its authors. I am solely responsible for any errors in figures or calculations derived from information published in the AirCare study.  I would urge you to download a copy of the study and come to your own conclusions.

A few qualifiers

1) The AirCare study - like any other emission study at this point in time - is not to be considered absolute or conclusive. The figures are indeed quite optimistic, if one considers that they are pertinent only to cars/light trucks, and do not take into account heavy trucks/buses, industrial pollution, stationary engines, airplanes, and many other contributors. It is quite conceivable that actual air pollution exceeds the study's figures by a factor of five or more.

 2) The emissions reported in the AirCare study are pertinent only to engines that are already at full operating temperature, since the vehicles have to be driven to the inspection stations. Engines pollute much more during the cold phase. Please note that even the emission ratings of laboratories such as C.A.R.B. are not representative of "real world" operating conditions for vehicles. The universally accepted FTP75 test considers "cold" an engine at 23C! A large area of the North American continent has negative temperatures for 4-5 months a year, thus keeping engines in the cold phase for a much longer time, more often, than "accepted" tests reflect.

 3) Since the motorists in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are aware that they have to pass the yearly AirCare inspection in order to get insurance, they tend to tune up their vehicles before such inspection. In all other areas where AirCare is not present, motorists tend to tune up their vehicles only when a tangible driveability problem occurs. Since emissions begin to increase long before any driveability symptom is evident, we can safely assume that in "non-AirCare" areas (the rest of the continent), the emissions per vehicle are significantly higher. Please keep in mind that "slight" malfunctions of an ignition or fuel system increase emissions exponentially. One car with a fouled spark plug can pollute as much as 10-20 properly tuned cars.

 4) So far, the only emissions measured by any laboratory are: Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Hydrocarbons, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide -- the last two being non-poisonous gases. Although present in much smaller quantities, more than one hundred additional substances are also combustion by-products of internal combustion engines. Some of these substances, like Benzene and Formaldehyde, are quite deadly.
 
 

Analysis

Let us now start our journey into the emission world... Let's jump into our (properly tuned up) smoking car, and brake at the first information pit-stop.

 At the AirCare Laboratory computers, we find that in the last year they sampled slightly over one million cars, to be exact, 1,002,566. Since we don't want to bust our brains with complex fractionary calculations, we will consider the amount to be a nice, round 1,000,000 vehicles.

 Let's not forget, folks, that these are real emissions, not theoretical, up-in-the-air estimates!

 Metric Tonnes of pollutants per year per million vehicles

 Carbon Monoxide______________________280,000
Total Hydrocarbons (exhaust + evaporative) ___ 27,500
Nitrogen Oxides_________________________ 17,000
___________________________________ =======
Total Weight of measured poisonous pollutants 324,500 metric tonnes per year

 WOW!!... STOP HERE!

 This means:
 
 

  • 889 metric tonnes per day, or 
  • the payload of 17,078 dirt-filled dump trucks per year (one dump truck = 19 metric tons), or
  • in the Vancouver Area (about 2,000,000 people) 162 Kilograms per person each year (1 kilogram = 2.2 lb.).


NOW CONSIDER...

 These figures are indeed quite optimistic. Consider that they are pertinent only to cars/light trucks, and do not take into account heavy trucks/buses, industrial pollution, stationary engines, airplanes, and many other contributors. It is quite conceivable that actual air pollution exceeds the study's figures by a factor of five or more.

 The emissions reported in the AirCare study are pertinent only to engines that are already at full operating temperature, since the vehicles have to be driven to the inspection stations. Engines pollute much more during the cold phase. 

Since the motorists in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are aware that they have to pass the yearly AirCare inspection in order to get insurance, they tend to tune up their vehicles before such inspection. In all other areas where AirCare is not present, motorists tend to tune up their vehicles only when a tangible driveability problem occurs. Keep in mind that "slight" malfunctions of an ignition or fuel system increase emissions exponentially. One car with a fouled spark plug can pollute as much as 10-20 properly tuned cars.

 So far, the only emissions measured by any laboratory are: Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Hydrocarbons, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide -- the last two being non-poisonous gases, and not considered here. Although present in much smaller quantities, more than one hundred additional substances are also combustion by-products of internal combustion engines. Some of these substances, like Benzene and Formaldehyde, are quite deadly.

 HOW BAD IS IT THEN"

 Much worse. If you want to light up, do so now, you might need one.

 Since we don't want to be too pessimistic, we will consider that reality is only 2.5 times the AirCare emissions. This means:
 
 

  • 2,222 metric tonnes per day, or
  • the payload of 42,695 dirt-filled dump truck per year, or
  • 405 Kilograms per person each year (Vancouver area)

These figures assume more dramatic proportions when brought to a national scale. 

In the United States, for example, there are about 180,000,000 vehicles. If we multiply the above figures (1,000,000 vehicles) times 180, we have:
 
 

  • 145,800,000 metric tonnes of pollutants per year, or
  • the payload of 7,673,682 dirt-filled dump trucks, or
  • 399,450 tonnes per day, 
  • 560 Kilograms per person each year
  • 1,532 grams per person each day


...WOW AGAIN, BUT WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH MY SMOKES"

 Not much, really. It has to do with the air you breathe, and with the fact that everybody in the anti-smoking industry screams bloody murder at the smokers, instigating against them, while making money to buy more cars, and smoking their way home!

 Why don't we see TV commercials brainwashing us on industrial pollution and Detroit's emissions"

 Let us express the above emissions in "cigarette pollution equivalent", or the amount of cigarettes it takes to equal the figures above. Come on guys, let's aerate our lungs, we have overtime work to do!

 The average cigarette contains about 12 mg of carbon monoxide and an equal amount of tar (hydrocarbon-like substance). It also contains about 1.2 mg of nicotine. Nicotine is not a component of internal combustion engine emissions, therefore it is difficult to properly locate in this comparison. However, since it is part of "cigarette emissions" we will be fair, and shall add it to the total, which mounts now to 25.2 mg. 

This is the equivalent of:
 
 

  • 5.78571428515 [to the 15th power] (57,500 billions) cigarettes each year
  • 7,358,400 cigarettes each U.S. square mile every year (including Alaska & Hawaii)
  • 22 millions cigarettes per person each year
  • 20,160 cigarettes each U.S. square mile every day (including Alaska & Hawaii)
  • 157.5 billions cigarettes each day
  • 60,875 cigarettes per person each day
  • 2,540 cigarettes per person each hour
  • 42.5 cigarettes per person each minute

Gee guys, aren't you dead, yet" Don't die, because these are just national averages. 

We assume here that the pollution is equally distributed through the territory, that is, Uncle Joe's farm in Montana gets the same amount of pollution than L.A.. Well, we all know that this is not true.

 In harmony with our optimistic nature, we will assume that the concentration of air pollutants in New York, Chicago, Toronto, or L.A. is only 1.5 times the national average.

 OK you city dwelling, militant non-smokers, here is what your cars put in the air in your towns! Feel guilty, and think of it every time you gasp air to condemn us smokers!

  • 33 millions cigarettes per person each year
  • 91,300 cigarettes per person each day
  • 3,810 cigarettes per person each hour
  • 64 cigarettes per person each minute 

"Ah!" -- the anti-smoker preacher says during retreat -- "But the emissions of cars are diluted in the air, whereas you filthy smokers make me breathe your emissions concentrated in a restaurant!"

 Wrong again, pal.

While is true that AirCare measures car emissions with the probe stuck into the tailpipe of the car, it is also true that EPA measures secondhand smoke emissions with the probe stuck on the tip of the cigarette.  In fact, with a bit of sensible ventilation, secondhand smoke ceases to be significantly measurable under real-life conditions.

 Apple to apple.


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