Now many of you know I’m not the biggest fan of government. Ok that’s the understatement of the century. And so looking at today being Earth Day I decided to challenge myself a little. Do some digging into the facts. And look at one aspect, cars and clean air.
So lets dive in.
What is Earth Day?
According to Wikipedia, “Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.”
Now I know that depending on which side of the political fence you lean, it could mean different things. It could be about saving the planet from human destruction. Or it could mean environmental socialism run amok.
But today lets step back from the rhetoric, and look at some of the facts and positive elements we can all possibly agree on.
And of course there will be a business bent thrown in for good measure…
Now Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. So lets take that as our starting point for looking at how we’ve done in terms of reducing our impact on the environment since then.
Looking first at fuel economy, Dean Bill Chameides, of the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment, shows in a Chart of Miles per Gallon from 1975 to 2011, that MPG went from about 13 to 23 MPG – a 76% improvement
What about fuel prices?
According to Energy.gov’s inflation adjusted pricing, in 1975 you could buy a gallon of gas for $1.81 (actual price was $0.53). in 2011 it was $3.53 (actual price was $3.64) – a 95% increase.
So if we compared the cost per mile of 1975 to 2011 we’d get the following comparison.
1975: $1.81 / 13 = $0.13 dollars per mile
2011: $3.53 / 23 =$0.15 dollars per mile
So a 15% increase in fuel cost per mile traveled over this time period. Not a huge increase but certainly not savings to the consumer.
RESULT ==> Significantly better fuel economy but higher cost to the consumer
But that’s all great that the consumer didn’t see much of a negative effect from tighter emissions. But how about our environment? Are we doing any better there?
Let’s look at the facts.
According to the EPA’s data, since 1975 allowed car emissions have dropped (GPM=grams per mile of pollutants) significantly:
1975: 3.1 GPM
1977: 2.0 GPM
1981: 1.0 GPM
1994: 0.6 GPM
1993: 0.3 GPM
2004-2009: 0.07 GPM
This has resulted in allowed emissions from cars to be in 2009 at 2.26% of 1975 levels.
A tremendous victory for clean air and a clean environment!
So what does clean air feel like to you and me?
Well I remember growing up in the 70’s in Northern California and my trips to Southern California. I remember the smell of leaded gasoline (you can leave your window down and not smell anything now).
I remember the refineries in Benicia that smelled like someone farted (yes, everyone asked who cut the cheese in the car lol). I don’t smell that today when I drive by them.
I remember hardly being able to see for more than a mile driving through Los Angeles in 1970. Not so today; even the worst days today are better than many of the best days in the ’70’s.
So should we go farther? That is a subject for another day. I think we can all agree there is a time for government intervention and a time when businesses are best left alone. Both are at play in this discussion.
But for today let’s celebrate Earth Day. And celebrate leaving the ’70’s. And disco sucked too…in case you’re wondering.