Report: Low Income, Rural Drivers are Disproportionate Polluters

A new report points to the 10-15% of vehicles in California that cause half the smog caused by light duty vehicles. Rather than urban strategies such as transit or TOD, the authors support improving the vehicle retirement and replacement program.
March 9, 2014, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The 'No Californian Left Behind' report set forth by the Next Generation 'think tank' concludes low-income residents in rural areas, including Solano County, still drive older, high-polluting cars and can't afford electric vehicles," writes Sarah Rohrs. Furthermore, they "spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on their vehicles," according to the report made public (Feb. 27).

Consequently, this demographic - low income and largely rural drivers are disproportionate polluters. Next Generation's blog post indicates that "10-15% of California's cars and light trucks emit over half of the smog generated by the state's light duty vehicles," according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Burea of Auto Repair.

"That's between 2 million and 3.5 million inefficient models dating mainly from the mid-1990s, which are often unable to pass emissions tests, said report co-author Kate Gordon.

"This large fleet of polluting vehicles form a big barrier in the state's effort to cut down on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as required by law, the report notes," writes Rohrs. Yet most GHG reduction strategies are either unaffordable or inappropriate for these drivers.

"We are huge supporters of the electric vehicle program and public transportation programs and all the efforts on high speed rail," said Kate Gordon, Next Generation vice president of climate and energy.

"But the state has missed a huge portion of the population -- those who are car-dependent and non-urban. They should also get access to safe, clean and efficient cars," Gordon said.

"The report has been released as CARB starts to rewrite guidelines for both the state's vehicle retirement and replacement program, and the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program," adds Rohr.

The state of California has an opportunity to address these problems by helping families replace these cars with cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles - and in the process, help a lot of families save a lot of money on gasoline," according to the report.

The full Next Generation report (PDF), “No Californian Left Behind: Clean and Affordable Transportation Options for All through Vehicle Replacement,” can be downloaded here.

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Published on Friday, February 28, 2014 in Napa-Solano Times-Herald
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