Los Angeles Air Pollution Dilemma and Mitigation Programs
Los Angeles, California air pollution dilemma stems from the 1940’s, specifically on October 14, 1947, when the first air pollution control program was established, the Los Angeles County Air Pollution District (AQMD, 2019). Beginning in the early 1940’s, numerous gas attacks descended on Los Angeles, California streets. Several gas companies shut down due to the detrimental effects of the smog evading people’s eyes and irritating their throats. In the 1970’s, the catalytic converter was required for all vehicles to reduce tailpipe emissions (AQMD, 2019). The converters significantly reduced vehicle gas emissions. In the 1990’s, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), created several low and zero-emission technologies to combat the air pollution problem in Los Angeles, California: fuel cells, electric vehicles, zero-VOC paints and solvents, and reformulation of barbeque products (AQMD, 2019). Clearly, AQMD has made a great effort at minimizing the air pollution problem; nevertheless, air pollution caused by vehicle emissions is having substantial harmful health impacts on minorities residing near freeways in Los Angeles, California.
Minorities are the most at risk for breathing toxic air pollutants because they live near freeways. In the journal article, ‘Structural Disparities of Urban Traffic in Southern California: Implications for Vehicle-Related Air Pollution Exposure in Minority and High-Poverty Neighborhoods’, by Houston et al., the researchers concluded that minority neighborhoods are congested with twice the traffic density level compared to the rest of Southern California; as a result, they are exposed to more vehicle-related pollutants (Houston et al, 2004). In another article, ‘Is Los Angeles’ Terrible Traffic Poisoning Communities Near Freeways’, by Aviva Shen, Shen reports that approximately 1 million minorities live within 300 feet of a freeway in Los Angeles, California and pollution concentrations are 10 times higher than anywhere else in the city. Hence, with minorities living near freeways and minority neighborhoods being congested with twice amount of traffic density than anywhere else in the city, they are inhaling a great amount of air pollution. Consequently, the residential property near freeways is notable cheaper. According to Zillow, a leading real estate online database company, Los Angeles, California homes located near freeways, in comparison to those located away from freeways, are approximately $200,000 cheaper (Air, 2019). Living near freeways and high traffic areas is much more affordable; therefore, even though there is a high concentration of air pollution, people who are on a limited income choose to purchase or rent available homes near the freeway. Following affordable residential homes in high density air pollution areas such as freeways, the most dangerous vehicle-related pollutant is specifically nitric oxide. It is the number one cause for respiratory issues. According to the National library of Medicine, nitrogen oxides are compounds made up of nitrogen and oxide; the most hazardous oxides are nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (Nitrogen, 2019). Nitrous oxide is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and pollution is diffused from vehicle smog (Nitrogen, 2019). Nitrous oxide is a toxic pollutant that mainly comes from vehicle pollution and wreaks havoc on our health.
According to the South Coast Air Basin, the air pollution cost is $1,250 per person per year (Air, 2019). The costs include respiratory hospital admissions, asthma attacks, emergency room visits, days of school absences, and mortality. Long term exposure to nitrogen oxides can yield asthma. Minorities who live near freeways and high traffic areas are exposed to an enormous amount of nitrogen oxides every day. The congested traffic emitting nitrogen oxide every day is having a detrimental health impact on the people that live nearby. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nitrogen oxide has been closely associated with asthma, a respiratory disease affecting more than 23 million Americans (The Links, 2018). Asthma cases cost the United States economy a striking amount of money. According to the American Thoracic Society, based on a 2008-2013 study, 15.4 million people in the United States had treated asthma each year, over the course of five years, the total cost for asthma cases in the United States was $81.9 billion. In the same study, the annual cost for asthma per-person was $3,266. Of the $3,266, $1,830 accounted for prescriptions, $640 for office visits, $529 for hospitalizations, $176 for hospital outpatient visits, and $105 for emergency room care (Asthma, 2018). Altogether, the medical care cost for asthma cases related to vehicle-emission smog is burdening the United States economy because as more people are inhaling nitrogen oxide on a daily basis, more money is being spent on healthcare.
California has implemented clean vehicle programs to combat this air pollution dilemma; however, everyone is not eligible for these programs. If programs were made available for everyone, then more people will likely purchase an electrical vehicle. Furthermore, with an increase in electric vehicle sales, this will dramatically decrease the dangerous greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from polluting vehicles. While there are many clean vehicle programs available that provide rebates for electric vehicles, there is one in particular that is making a difference, Clean Vehicle Assistance Program (CVAP). The CVAP is a grant program that helps low-income California residents purchase an electric vehicle (About, 2019). The program is funded by Beneficial State Foundation and California Climate Investments (CCI). Benefit State Foundation is a non-profit shareholder and invests their finances into local, disadvantaged communities. The CCI is an initiative that uses money from the California Air Resources Board cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gases and provide a safe and healthy environment. The application process for the CVAP begins with verifying eligibility, for a household of 2 (including yourself, spouse and dependents), the maximum annual income is $65,840 to qualify for this program. The next step is finding a loan with a 16% interest rate or lower to be eligible for a grant. The last step is choosing a vehicle, out of the total selection of five, using the grant given. The vehicle selection includes cars that are eight years old with at least 75,000 miles. The Clean Vehicle Assistant Program is making a difference by supplying grants for electrical vehicle purchases.
Currently, we have many clean air vehicle programs. There are many rebate programs and incentives associated with purchasing a clean air vehicle. Some of the programs are Clean Cars 4 All, Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, Drive Clean in the San Joaquin, and California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. The Cars 4 All program provides incentives to low-income California residents to trade their high-polluting care for a zero-emission car (California, 2019). The program focuses on low-income and disadvantaged communities. The program offers grants up to $9,500 to replace an old vehicle for a hybrid car and provides $2,000 for purchasing and installing an electric vehicle charging system (California, 2019). Another option is receiving a $7,500 VISA card for public transportation purposes (California, 2019). To be eligible for this program, one must replace an older vehicle for an electric one. In the same manner, the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project offers rebates up to $7,000 when purchasing or leasing a plug-in electric vehicle (About, 2018). The Center for Sustainable Energy leads the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project for the California Air Resources Board (About, 2018). With California leading the country for electric vehicle sales, many programs are targeted towards replacing older polluting vehicles with zero or low-emission cars. In addition, the Drive Clean in the San Joaquin program is aimed at motivating car buyers in the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District to purchase electric vehicles by funding the replacement of older vehicles for low-emission ones. In order to qualify for this program, one’s household income must be at or below the 400 percent of federal poverty level, and if living in a low-income community, one may receive more funding for purchasing a low-emission car (Drive, 2019). With the Drive Clean in San Joaquin program, more minorities and low-income California residents are more likely to purchase an electric car because they can afford it. Clearly, effective programs are targeting low-income neighborhoods to mitigate the air pollution dilemma.
One alternative to Los Angeles, California vehicle emission pollution dilemma is to expand the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program. Currently, the program only serves California residents whose annual income follows the income cap eligibility criteria and possess a 16% interest loan. By changing the income cap, many more people will qualify for this program and more likely purchase an electric vehicle over a fuel car.
By analyzing the benefits and costs of this program, using the following criteria – costs for asthma medications, office visits, hospitalizations, hospital outpatient visits, and emergency department care – the estimated total benefit per person is $36,080.
The following are supporters for this alternative: Beneficial State Foundation, California Climate Investments, California Air Resources Board, CalCars, PHEV Research Center, RechargeIT. The supporter’s list is also fighting against vehicle gas emissions by offering rebates and tax incentives with the purchase of a clean air vehicle. The following are opposers for this alternative: Exxon Mobil, Koch, American Petroleum Institute, California New Car Dealers Association. The main reason for the opposition is that high-income oil industries do not want to lose money. If everyone drives a clean air vehicle, the large oil industries will lose money and their businesses will terminate.
In support of my findings, I recommend the status quo because it is already making an impact on the vehicle emission dilemma in Los Angeles, California. The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program focuses primarily on low-income residents by ensuring an income cap and granting a free loan that does not need to be repaid. In the same manner, the California residents who are being exposed to a high concentration of pollution are low-income, so this program is directly targeted at decreasing pollution in low-income neighborhoods. Although many people may not qualify for the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program because of the income cap, there are many other clean vehicle programs that they may apply for and inquire: Clean Cars 4 All, Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, Drive Clean in the San Joaquin, and California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. All programs offer grants and other incentives when purchasing a clean air vehicle. Choosing to drive a clean air vehicle not only affects the air quality now, but it has an effect on climate change too. Los Angeles, California can benefit tremendously from the air pollution dilemma. The $81.9 billion costs, over the course of five years, can be redirected to the city’s most burdening communities to help with employment, infrastructure, and education.
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