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Hundreds Of Lives Saved If Fuel Efficient Cars Became The Norm, California

July 18, 2017

If California adopted super-efficient cars that ran on 64 miles-per-gallon equivalent fuel, there would be hundreds of fewer premature deaths, 70% fewer asthma attacks, and $7.2 billion less spent on healthcare each year, says a new report issued by the American Lung Association in California.

For the health and economic benefits to occur, California would have to replace its current fleet of cars with extremely low emission vehicles - zero to near-zero emission vehicles, the authors stressed. Ideally, this should occur by the middle of the next decade.

Despite apparent efforts to improve California's air quality, the state still has some of the most polluted areas in the country. Over 90% of California residents live in areas that perpetually fail to meet national air quality standards.

California's transport sector is the leading source of its air pollution. Even though legislation has helped improve air quality, the report stresses that there is still a very long way to go.

The combustion of petroleum fuels is responsible for most of the smog and fine particle emissions in the state. Add to that greenhouse gas emissions and you have a respiratory health hazard which will affect future generations.

California must seize the opportunity when the California Air Resources Board prepares the next round of vehicle standards to move away from reliance on dirty fuels.

The report says that vehicles meeting current tailpipe standard will cause (per year): $14.5 billion in health and societal costs per year 570 premature deaths 610 cardiac and respiratory hospitalizations More than 11,000 asthma attacks Each gallon of consumed fuel has been calculated to cause an extra $1.19 in health and societal damages, or $20 dollars' worth for every 16.4 gallon tank. These costs are not reflected on gas prices.

In order to really impact on health and costs, the report makes the following proposals: Gas emissions must go down by between 45% and 52% Vehicle smog-forming emissions must drop by between 75% and 85% Petroleum consumption must be reduced by between 38% and 49% Aim for a reduction in premature death and illness rates of between 65% and 75% Bring down public health, global warming and societal costs by 50% to 56% If this were done, and California's current fleet of vehicles became super-fuel-efficient, there would be the following benefits: 181,000 to 190,000 fewer acute and upper respiratory symptoms annually 28,100 to 29,300 fewer work days lost each year 390 to 405 fewer heart attacks annually 400 to 420 fewer premature death each year 420 to 440 fewer emergency room visit and hospitalizations for cardiac and respiratory conditions annually 5,100 to 5,300 fewer acute and chronic bronchitis cases each year 8,085 to 8,440 fewer asthma attacks and lower respiratory symptoms each year 8,800 to 9,500 fewer school days lost each year A reduction of between $7.2 billion and $8.1 billion in health, global warming and societal damages each year Adopting a proper clean air policy also saves people a great deal of money, the report explains.

A typical vehicle today that meets current standards consumes nearly 4,000 gallons of gas during its lifetime. The car of the future in a strong regulatory scenario would consume 1,927 fewer gallons.

The current fleet of cars consumes over 120 billion gallons of fuel. In a strong regulatory scenario, consumption would drop by 59 billion gallons.

The authors wrote:

"This amounts to an annual cost saving of $780 per vehicle or $24 billion in annual savings across an entire "Car of the Future" fleet (based on AAA's April 1, 2011 California Daily Fuel Gauge Report price of $4.05 per gallon, which is conservative compared to gas prices that have spiked to $4.25 as of May 1).

Carmakers are resisting attempts to make cars more fuel efficient. A preliminary proposal by the Obama administration to tighten up fuel efficiency standards from 35.5 mpg in 2016 to 47 mpg - 62 mpg by the middle of the next decade would be too expensive to carry through, automobile companies claim.

"THE ROAD TO CLEAN AIR - Public Health and Global Warming Benefits of Advanced Clean Car Standards"
The American Lung Association in California