Rôle du secteur des transports dans la pollution de l'air

Dans cet article intéressant, Gordon Dalzell jette un coup d’oeil au secteur des transports et comment il est devenu l’une des plus grandes sources de pollution atmosphérique.

En pensant à ce qu’on peut faire, à comment on peut améliorer nos actions et à ce qui se qui se fait présente-
ment, nous pouvons évaluer la meilleure façon de protéger la santé humaine et l’environnement pour l’avenir.

 

 

                      

 

Role of Transportation Sector 
in the 

Air Pollution Equation

   Gordon Dalzell
   Citizen's Coalition for Clean Air
   February 2000

 

he fossil-fueled combustion engine has not fundamentally changed in its basic technology since its invention about 90 years ago. It has been a primary source of air pollution contributing to smog, acid rain, greenhouse gases and climate change.


(photo: Environment Canada)

Our health and environment have payed a big price for the gasoline-powered engine over the last 50 years. It is important to note that the transportation sector, which accounts for significant contributions to Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) and CO2, has been subjected to substantial control requirements on motor vehicles and fuels over the past 20 years. Although there have been additional controls and more stringent standards for sulphur emissions (such as low emission vehicles program), changes can’t happen fast enough if we are to see reductions in these transportation source air pollutants. Emissions endanger our public health, the integrity of ecological systems and physical environment.

In Saint John and southeastern areas of New Brunswick, the clean air movement has been very strong over the last six years. We have seen air quality advocacy efforts primarily directed to the large industrial sources such as power plants, pulp and paper mills and oil refinery industry, at the expense of cars, trucks, trains and the transportation sector in general.

Air quality problems in most parts of New Brunswick, Canada and the U.S. have multiple sources of pollutants. For example, in respect to nitrogen oxides (a contributor to acid rain formation), the transportation sector contributes 49% of this pollutant, electric utilities 29% and industry 28%. Sulphur dioxide emissions by contrast are electric utilities 66%, industry 28% and transportation 3%. When it comes to carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change), the transportation sector makes up 30%, industry 22% and electric utilities 36%. Source: Canada/US Air Quality Agreement Progress Report.

We are finally starting see new tougher regulations coming into effect to dramatically reduce the amount of sulphur content in gasoline. Last October, the big three car manufacturers publicly endorsed Irving Oil for its efforts in manufacturing the lowest sulphur in gas content ahead of the new Canadian regulatory standards deadline. The Irving refinery has been producing this low sulphur gas for the US market, and its compliance with these new and tougher sulphur emission reductions will give the other refineries, such as Imperial and Esso, a wake-up call. According to Othmar Stein of Daimler-Chrysler, if all Canadian vehicles on the road today used the new gasoline, it would be the equivalent of removing almost ten million older vehicles from our roads. The government of Canada has demanded a nation-wide drop to 150 parts per million within three years and 30 parts per million within 6 years. These new standards should have been implemented years ago.


(photo: 321clipart.com)

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Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), with their additional weight and gas-guzzling powerful engines, have had a negative impact on emission reductions
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Even with this encouraging development, it does nothing to address the issue of consumption and wastage. In California such new low sulphur emissions have been in place for several years and it was expected that there would be improvement in smog conditions. However, as a result, there was an increase in vehicle use; consequently, more gas was used! Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), with their additional weight and gas-guzzling powerful engines, have had a negative impact on emission reductions, even with a gasoline that has lower sulphur emissions. The challenge for the future will be in the area of lifestyle changes that will result in less consumption of fossil fuel such as gas.

The encouraging light at the end of the tunnel is that fast-paced development of alternative fuel technologies are now being actively embraced by the Big Three car manufacturers. In April 1999 it was reported that General Motors and Toyota were to form an alliance to develop alternative power technologies powered by fuel cells and other environmentally friendly technologies. Recently Ford Motor Co., Daimler-Chrysler and Ballard Power Systems Inc. announced a deal with oil companies to develop a demonstration fleet of fuel cell vehicles. In my view it is the beginning of the end for gasoline-only combustion engine, as we have today. Other alternative technologies that are in place are the natural gas cylinder units used in cars where natural gas is available, as well as fully operational cars powered by electricity.

As consumers, we have to promote, demand and purchase these alternative-fuel-powered vehicles if we are ever to see substantial air pollutant reduced from the transportation sector. We need to promote strategies and use less gasoline and diesel oil. In the 1970’s when we had the oil embargo and the price of fuel sky-rocketed, energy conservation was the order of the day. Many small gas-efficient automobiles were produced which people desired and purchased, but today it is difficult to find these smaller vehicles to purchase. More than ever, we are seeing more trucks, SUVs 
and larger vehicles.

There has been discussion in Ottawa about introducing a carbon tax on gasoline or
fossil fuel itself to curb its use. With the high price of furnace and gasoline over the last few months, consumers are being careful to consume less. A carbon tax, some people say, is the answer to get the kind of reductions we need, but it is unlikely that Canadians would accept a carbon tax. Governments would be committing political suicide to even consider such a move 18 months before an election.

If you see cars and trucks pumping out black and blue heavy smoke from their exhaust pipes, be sure to contact your nearest law enforcement agency. The Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch is the usual police agency that deals with such cases. Exposure to diesel fumes is dangerous and can have adverse health impacts depending on the exposure and levels. In the recent publication, "The Health and Safety Guardian", produced by the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Vol. 10, #1 Jan.1999, research is reviewed on diesel hazards. One compound found in the exhaust of diesel engines by Japanese researchers and reported in the "New Scientist", Oct. 1997 may be the most carcinogenic compound ever identified. It is called 3-nitrobenzathrone, which is emitted in increased quantities by diesel engines when they are under a heavy load. One of the Japanese scientists, Hitomi Suzuki, believes that 3-nitrobenzathrone is so potent a cancer causing agent, that it alone may account for the rise in lung cancer in vehicle congested areas.


(photo: NBEN-RENB )

Benzene is a product pollutant of the trans- portation sector and needs to be completely eliminated. Benzene is an environmental problem as well as an occupational hazard. "Although precise level of exposure varies, it is clear that some risk to the health of Canadians in general exists as a result of benzene." (The Health and Safety Guardian Communica- tions, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Special Edition - Benzene Vol 10 #4, Aug. 1999). The Council of Ministers of the Environment is presently considering a national standard for benzene. Another area of concern is the release of fumes while using self-serve gasoline pumps. In some areas of Canada there are vapor control technologies right in the gas pumps to prevent these gasoline vapors from escaping right into our faces when pumping our gas. Vapor control technologies need to be built directly into the vehicle’s gas tank or into the gas pump itself, and gloves need to be available to consumers in order to prevent gas from getting on our hands.

With respect to other industrial sources, provincial certificates or operating permits need to identify benzene levels based on the principle of achieving as low emission levels as technically feasible.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the role of the transportation sector is significant. It is a matter of making lifestyle choices that reduce energy consumption and get the most of out of the energy we use. When it comes to our love affair with our cars and truck, lifestyles choices will be tough to implement.

However there are a number of actions we can do, including:

1. Taking care of our vehicles will make them last longer, burn less fuel and produce fewer emissions. Poorly tuned engines can use up to 50% more fuel and produce up to 50% more emissions.

2. Avoid idling.

3. When buying a new car, purchase the most fuel-efficient vehicle or one that is fueled by some of the alternative fuel sources such as the soon to be released Homla or the new fuel-efficient car called Insight, with its fuel efficiency of 3.9 litres per 100 kilometres or 72 miles a gallon.

4. Use alternative active forms of transportation such as walking, cycling, public transit or car pooling, etc.

In conclusion, it is clear that the transportation sector has been a significant source of air pollution in our society in terms of smog, ozone formation greenhouse gas emissions, etc. At the same time, it offers us as a society an opportunity to reduce pollutants associated with its gasoline combustion engine. The question is, are we willing to make the harder lifestyle choices necessary to reduce emissions associated with the transportation sector? Time will tell … my prediction is that we will do what has to be done to protect human health and our environment.