Lung Association lobbies to cut California car pollution, greenhouse gases

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Traffic stacks up on the west- and east-bound lanes of the 210 Foothill Freeway near Los Angeles as Thanksgiving holiday travelers hit the freeways on November 24, 2010 in Duarte, California.

Ninety percent of Californians live where air pollution exceeds federal limits. Cars are responsible for much of that. A new American Lung Association study pinpoints the costs and benefits of cleaning up those cars.

Imagine it’s 14 years from now, and a fifth of cars on California roads release zero emissions – and the rest have cut the smog and carbon they spew to meet standards far stricter than any the state requires of cars rolling off the line now.

"That’s actually the scenario that follows what the air board projected would be needed to ensure California can stay on track to meet our goal of reducing greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050," says Bonnie Holmes-Gen. Holmes-Gen directs policy for the American Lung Association in California.

She says a new study the group commissioned shows that if air regulators enact those rules by 2025, a quarter as many people would suffer lung and respiratory problems than they would if nothing changes. "Strong standards for new cars that would bring these advanced technology and zero emission vehicles into the market in California could avoid at least $7.2 billion per year in health costs and reduce all major health-related pollution impacts."

The state’s Air Resources Board has already passed stricter standards for the next five years. This fall the board will consider rules that combine pollution limits with carbon reduction goals.

The American Lung Association is heating up the debate as it lobbies for the toughest rules air regulators will consider. Holmes-Gen hopes the study will persuade them – and everyone else.

"This is the only study out there that actually quantifies the specific public health costs that are avoided by converting our fleet to these cleaner, more efficient vehicles."

The zero-emission and advanced technology cars in the study’s projected future already exist. Holmes-Gen says new regulation can multiply them.

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