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Discussion #11 - Smog / Air Quality

As we cram more & more people into already densely populated urban areas, we increase the "heat island effect", & smog. The problem is further exacerbated by dirty industry, especially coal-fired power plants & factories. Coal is a preferred energy source in some areas of the world, as it is plentiful & cheap. I hate to pick on China, but they are having a really tough time this year, with record heat & smog. In Beijing, tourism is down dramatically because of the bad air quality. Smog does not just smell bad & look ugly, it is extremely unhealthy, with many nasty chemicals & fine particulate matter in the mix. Many people are resorting to wearing masks, but this does not filter out everything. Every year, more bicycles are being ditched for cars, as affluence rises. Richer countries are not just exporting their factory jobs, but also the air pollution & carbon emissions that go with them.

There is an air pollution sub-issue in the world today that is not getting very much attention, but should be. While the world's large trucks, buses and various other industrial and commercial machines do seem to function better and longer powered by diesel engines, there is a massive environmental price to pay. There is also a huge sub-culture of diesel-loving people who think of diesel power in a sort of religious fashion. The recent fiasco with a very well-known auto-maker's diesel passenger vehicles has brought an extremely important fact to light. The vast majority of diesel vehicles spew up to 40 times the amount of air pollution than the equivalent gas engine vehicles do, when the software turns off the pollution controls after AQ testing is done. When the pollution controls are then turned on (virtually never), a diesel engine does not outperform a gas engine in all areas that count (including fuel cost/mileage), with the only major exceptions being engine longevity and towing torque.

I don't know what your experiences are, but whenever I follow along behind a diesel vehicle, I am not loving the smell (or often the view). Then there is the insane idling that goes on, which can basically stink up the entire neighborhood. It's pretty obvious the differences coming from these tailpipes, especially when the engine is older. In rural areas, it doesn't matter as much, but in the bigger cities, this extra air pollution really adds up quick. It's really not very fair to the good folks who play by the rules and spew very little from their tailpipes (or all of the poor people who have to breathe the air). Generally, all societies in the world make huge exceptions for diesels because of their commercial/industrial nature, but we forget, or are just unaware of how many smaller passenger diesels there are on the roads these days as well. These engines may last much longer, but when they get older, they spew a ton of air pollution into our precious bubble of atmosphere!

In many ways, the major cities of Europe are way ahead of the rest of the world, especially in this area. Long ago, Europe basically decided to stop choking on polluted air, and opted to embrace renewable energy in many of it's forms (especially wind). High-speed electric trains are everywhere, & many of these cities also have some of the best economic conditions in the world.

Obviously, many European cities are also very old, & have high concentrations of people, which has also contributed. Due to the very nature of man (& woman), we tend to think that our own country is obviously the best in the world in every department, but this is just not the reality. We would be very wise to research & learn from other countries who are obviously getting it right in certain areas. Once again, the human ego is always at the root of these sorts of things.

Many of the serious problems we are seeing in cities like New Delhi & Beijing, are mainly the result of the addiction to cheap fossil energy, combined with a lack of concern for the health of certain classes of people. Obviously, both China & India are also very old cultures, and they are also advanced in certain ways, but in this area, not so much.

As advanced as Europe is in this area, there is one major exception. For many years, the use of diesel-powered vehicles has been hugely promoted in Europe, mainly for the reason of it's lower CO2 output. Unfortunately, the trade-off is pretty horrible, as the fuel has much higher NO2 emissions. NO2 is an extremely noxious chemical, that along with smelling horrible, literally shortens the lifespan of humans. The NO2 levels in London England, for example, are actually higher than the biggest mega-cities in Asia.

They are currently attempting to now transition to Electric, but with roughly half of all passenger cars in Europe presently diesel, it's going to be a massive challenge. There has even been the odd day in Paris France, when the air quality has been worse than Beijing China, mainly due to the huge number of diesel vehicles on their streets.

The public tolerance for this massive health violator is fading quickly, as more & more people are waking up & smelling the coffee on this incredibly important issue.
Discussion #11 - Smog / Air Quality

As we cram more & more people into already densely populated urban areas, we increase the "heat island effect", & smog. The problem is further exacerbated by dirty industry, especially coal-fired power plants & factories. Coal is a preferred energy source in some areas of the world, as it is plentiful & cheap. I hate to pick on China, but they are having a really tough time this year, with record heat & smog. In Beijing, tourism is down dramatically because of the bad air quality. Smog does not just smell bad & look ugly, it is extremely unhealthy, with many nasty chemicals & fine particulate matter in the mix. Many people are resorting to wearing masks, but this does not filter out everything. Every year, more bicycles are being ditched for cars, as affluence rises. Richer countries are not just exporting their factory jobs, but also the air pollution & carbon emissions that go with them.

There is an air pollution sub-issue in the world today that is not getting very much attention, but should be. While the world's large trucks, buses and various other industrial and commercial machines do seem to function better and longer powered by diesel engines, there is a massive environmental price to pay. There is also a huge sub-culture of diesel-loving people who think of diesel power in a sort of religious fashion. The recent fiasco with a very well-known auto-maker's diesel passenger vehicles has brought an extremely important fact to light. The vast majority of diesel vehicles spew up to 40 times the amount of air pollution than the equivalent gas engine vehicles do, when the software turns off the pollution controls after AQ testing is done. When the pollution controls are then turned on (virtually never), a diesel engine does not outperform a gas engine in all areas that count (including fuel cost/mileage), with the only major exceptions being engine longevity and towing torque.

I don't know what your experiences are, but whenever I follow along behind a diesel vehicle, I am not loving the smell (or often the view). Then there is the insane idling that goes on, which can basically stink up the entire neighborhood. It's pretty obvious the differences coming from these tailpipes, especially when the engine is older. In rural areas, it doesn't matter as much, but in the bigger cities, this extra air pollution really adds up quick. It's really not very fair to the good folks who play by the rules and spew very little from their tailpipes (or all of the poor people who have to breathe the air). Generally, all societies in the world make huge exceptions for diesels because of their commercial/industrial nature, but we forget, or are just unaware of how many smaller passenger diesels there are on the roads these days as well. These engines may last much longer, but when they get older, they spew a ton of air pollution into our precious bubble of atmosphere!

In many ways, the major cities of Europe are way ahead of the rest of the world, especially in this area. Long ago, Europe basically decided to stop choking on polluted air, and opted to embrace renewable energy in many of it's forms (especially wind). High-speed electric trains are everywhere, & many of these cities also have some of the best economic conditions in the world.

Obviously, many European cities are also very old, & have high concentrations of people, which has also contributed. Due to the very nature of man (& woman), we tend to think that our own country is obviously the best in the world in every department, but this is just not the reality. We would be very wise to research & learn from other countries who are obviously getting it right in certain areas. Once again, the human ego is always at the root of these sorts of things.

Many of the serious problems we are seeing in cities like New Delhi & Beijing, are mainly the result of the addiction to cheap fossil energy, combined with a lack of concern for the health of certain classes of people. Obviously, both China & India are also very old cultures, and they are also advanced in certain ways, but in this area, not so much.

As advanced as Europe is in this area, there is one major exception. For many years, the use of diesel-powered vehicles has been hugely promoted in Europe, mainly for the reason of it's lower CO2 output. Unfortunately, the trade-off is pretty horrible, as the fuel has much higher NO2 emissions. NO2 is an extremely noxious chemical, that along with smelling horrible, literally shortens the lifespan of humans. The NO2 levels in London England, for example, are actually higher than the biggest mega-cities in Asia.

They are currently attempting to now transition to Electric, but with roughly half of all passenger cars in Europe presently diesel, it's going to be a massive challenge. There has even been the odd day in Paris France, when the air quality has been worse than Beijing China, mainly due to the huge number of diesel vehicles on their streets.

The public tolerance for this massive health violator is fading quickly, as more & more people are waking up & smelling the coffee on this incredibly important issue.