Brainstorm on air pollution

As someone recently moving into the Wasatch Front, I’ve been stunned by the air pollution here. (I apologize in advance for posing a question that’s fairly exclusive to people with a particular geography; I didn’t care at all about Utah’s air pollution when I didn’t live here.) I’ve been thinking that there ought to be better ways to work through the problem of air pollution, and I’m starting to toy with the idea of an ad campaign to help those of us with LDS roots and commitments to express our concerns about air pollution. I’m wondering whether people could help with brainstorming ideas.

The idea my wife and I were leaning toward was a six-year-old child (maybe a girl?) with her mouth wrapped around a cluster of smoke stacks (as from a coal-powered electric plant) meant to mimic a pile of cigarettes. The caption: “Welcome to Utah, where all the children smoke.”

What do other people think? Is the family/Word of Wisdom angle the right way to go? What would need to be on a billboard or an ad to catch attention and reframe this issue (historically it seems to have been a Western ethos against liberal environmentalists here, though I’m fairly new to the scene)? The sad facts, however overblown they can get in the passion of the moment, are that Wasatch Front air is toxic and does have health effects, and it’s something forced on children, the elderly, and the sick. There is a deep irony in our pride in the health effects of tobacco abstinence when we continue to overuse electricity, private automobiles, and support legislators who authorize new coal-based electricity plants.


  1. I like it.

  2. I would find the billboard offensive. It’s just , a mean-spirited slap at people who live in Utah; at least that’s how I would percieve it. A billboard that says “Welcome to Utah, where winter inversions make the air pollution a lot worse than you would expect for a population this size” would be more accurate, but just as ineffective at decreasing the air pollution.

    I also think it’s debatable whether Utahns overuse electricity, automobiles, etc. I doubt per capita use is higher along the Wasatch front than elsewhere in the US. Do you have any data to support your implied point that it is?

    Another problem with your proposal, in my mind, is that it seems too LDS-targeted. Not everyone in Utah is LDS.

    Finally, I would definitely support any proposal to reduce air pollution in Utah that is politically and economically realistic and doesn’t rely on moralizing or shaming. I agree with the idea that there is no reason to build more coal-based power plants in the US and believe we should be working toward making nuclear power plants policically easier to build.

  3. Sorry for the typos. I also think every home in St George should have a solar panel on it’s roof.

  4. E, my concern is that your reasoning that it’s the inversions just distracts attention from more important conversations. We have a civilization in a constrained topography which we cannot change, so we should emphasize what we can change. Your second paragraph is unfortunately also a distraction in light of the problems of topography. That Kansas can pollute more is irrelevant–Utah air quality is exceedingly poor, and we cannot (and should not): demolish the Wasatch Mountains to allow air to flow more freely.

    As for the LDS targeting, the perception is that there’s a gap between environmental concern and LDS culture, so targeting an influential community (the legislature is dominated by LDS Republicans, even as the state becomes less LDS) may be important. Of my friends and acquaintances, the proportion of non-LDS who are conserving domestic energy or buying hybrids or cycling to work is much higher than the LDS. The reasons for the differences may be complex, but we can’t ignore important disparities.

    Finally, my concern is that you can’t build support sufficient to make responsible changes without a certain amount of reframing the debate. Otherwise it all dissolves into fighting about the meaning of private property and freedom and the need for the most robust possible economy right here right now.

  5. What about a more positive framing:

    “Help your kids stop smoking”

    would that be less offensive but still eye-catching?

  6. Sam, yes, “Help your kids stop smoking” is eye-catching and less offensive, but I don’t see how it would affect air pollution. I think almost everyone already hates air pollution, including those who do not make up self-righteous slogans implying that any one ethnic or religious group is primarily to blame. I believe virtually everyone of any background or religious or political philosophy would love to see less air pollution. And so, as I said, I would favor action that is realistic and aimed toward specific changes that can be expected to reduce air pollution, such as building nuclear power plants and using alternative sources of fuel (solar, wind) where feasable. With existing technology, it would be difficult to reduce the amount of air pollution from automobiles (the main source of our problem on the Wasatch Front) and I think that needs to be acknowleged.

  7. I would also like to point out that, in my opinion, one reason why efforts to reduce pollution have so often failed is that it is already framed in moralistic, judgemental ways rather than just as a problem we all share that needs to be solved. Your proposals would simply continue that tradition.

  8. E, the problem is that no one likes air pollution, but there’s a magnificent disconnect between this distaste for polluted air and policy on coal plants, public transportation, construction of new highways, and general skepticism about the “environmentalist” perspective. In my (admittedly limited) experience, people are dramatically passive, unwilling to make substantial sacrifices to make this work, and that is the reason I perceive for this consciousness-raising. For most people it’s “inversions” and the complaints of fruity leftists and a vague hope that something will get better.

    Funny, my two-wheeled human powered conveyance fits well within current technology, as does bus/trax/carpooling. And yet the state offers rights to use HOV lanes to single-occupant Hummers for a mere $50. That doesn’t strike me as serious concern about air pollution.

    If we want to breathe better (and stop poisoning our kids), we’re going to have to make sacrifices, and we’re going to have to militate for policy changes, and that takes fire in the belly.

  9. And Sam, I still don’t believe that mormons use more electricity than non-mormons. Or gas.

  10. E, on 7, I’m skeptical of the claim. The reason it appears that way in my view has to do with the way this Western ethos has been framed historically. Within that ethos, even rather civil and positive conversations become the harangues of elites against local culture.

  11. OK, Sam, use the fire in your belly to convince the fruity leftists to quit fighting nuclear power!

  12. Sam, re #10, I don’t even know what that means. But I think the haranging elites use just as much energy as the contemptible locals. So find a solution other than haranging.

  13. The solution to air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley is easy. We just need to move the mountains surrounding the valley so that they don’t trap the air in a valley with the hotter air above the colder air that gets socked into the Valley.

    I’m not for nuclear fuel (I’ve been to Chernobyl and you still can’t get within 20 miles without serious health risks). However, we have enough natural gas for several hundred years and it burns about 90% cleaner than coal. If you’re looking for a solution, just move the mountains and get everyone to burn natural gas.

  14. BYU Professor C. Arden Pope has done a lot of research about air pollution and its effect on public health. Look up some of his work and consider building on it. For example, this article from BYU Magazine summarizes some of his work.

  15. Utah Valley has awful air quality. I had no idea until I lived there during the summer as every previous visit had been fairly short. Sure, I know that the inversions cause a substantial part of the problem, but when you can’t breathe, that doesn’t really seem to matter. I have pretty bad allergies and mild respiratory problems that act up on occasion, and I spent my entire time there feeling like I was just about to get really sick. I don’t think the wheezing it triggered went away for the entire eight weeks.

    I’d like to see a big push to clean up Utah Valley, to the extent that it is possible. It’s a shame, because it could be so beautiful, but after living there for a summer, I was thinking that it was a really good thing I opted not to attend BYU, because I would have spent 4 years being miserable. I really don’t know how or why people put up with it. I would move.

  16. I’m a semi-regular visitor to Utah (family off half the exits between Provo and Ogden). UTA has done some nice things, but frankly, if I’m in Provo and need to get to SLC, what are my practical options? Not UTA, frankly. And if I were to live in SLC, what are my options getting downtown? The car, not UTA.

    People don’t drive because they want to pollute. They drive because it’s the most time-effective method of getting to point A to point B (we’d all love to save money, but *time* is an important motivation).

    So how do you influence UTA to offer more services and influence more citizens to ride UTA?

    BTW, I do think you’re giving short shrift to the geological problems. You’re never going to suddenly turn the Wasatch Front into a Clean Air Winter region.

  17. With regard to Provo, I’ve often said that the way to reduce cars – and parking problems – was to figure out ways to ban student vehicles. One way would be to mandate that freshman live on campus and to then to ban vehicles from on-campus dorms. I don’t know how many students this would impact, but I have a thought that it might reduce the number of cars by 10%.

    (Draconian, yes. But that’s part of another theory I have on the rights of college students, especially freshman, and especially those at private universities).

    I had a professor who served on a faculty advisory board, who often said that the best way to encourage shuttle ridership on college campuses was to start tearing out parking lots. Reduce parking options at universities, you start encouraging public transportation. (And faculty are equally to blame.)

  18. Two words: Pigovian taxes.

    If we want to reduce pollution, we should tax the people that generate it, in proportion to the amount that they generate. The closest thing we have now is the gasoline tax, but that is not an adequate measure of pollution.

    A better way would be to assess pollution taxes by a combination of vehicle weight, mileage, model, engine age, and emission tests. Rural exemptions should be eliminated as should exemptions for old cars. That is backwards. Old cars pollute more.

    Other taxes should be reduced accordingly. Gasoline taxes should ideally be used to pay for road construction and maintenance and nothing else. They can be relatively light – but pollution taxes should be severe, to provide an adequate incentive to cut pollution to a small fraction of its present level – whether by repair, replacement, or whatever. (I don’t really consider carbon dioxide pollution – it would have to be treated differently for a variety of reasons (i.e. no economic alternative) in any case).

    One other thing – our low sulfur diesel fuel standards are probably too lenient. One way to reduce the amount would be to charge a tax on diesel fuel manufacture and imports proportional to to the amount of sulfur included. A comparable idea would be a stiff tax on oil used in the gas-oil mixture of two cycle engines.

  19. I always shake my head in bewilderment when someone suggests eliminating exceptions for old cars and taxing them more heavily than new cars – since these same people tend to cry about the effects of tax breaks for the wealthy and taxes that fall more heavily on the poor.

    If you want to pressure manufacturers to produce more efficient cars, that’s one thing. Taxing the only means of transportation that is available to many poor people more heavily than that available to others who can afford the newer cars, especially in rural areas where the inversion factor isn’t as extreme . . . Sorry; I have a hard time supporting that as a major part of the solution.

  20. Old cars pollute more.

    They are also cheaper and are favored by people who cannot afford to buy newer cards. Forcing the abandonment of their old cars in favor of buying a costlier new one seems a regressive approach.

  21. new cars, not cards.

  22. I should add that we should consider a pollution tax sufficiently severe if it would completely cover the cost of removing the pollution from the environment after the fact.

    Local source reduction would be more economical than that, but once it is emitted general pollution scrubbing is the only way to mitigate the harm done, and the pollution tax level should reflect that cost. Then we could use the revenues to operate ambient air scrubbers if necessary.

  23. Ray / Queno,

    If you want to play Robin Hood, there are far better ways than giving poor people an enormous incentive to pollute the environment.

  24. Mark,

    1) Who said I and queuno want to play Robin Hood? Talk about misreading a very simple concern.

    2) If you tell me a realistic way for poor people to trade the old car they drive for a newer, more efficient one, I will change my response – in a heartbeat. I have yet to hear a realistic way to do so.

  25. MikeInWeHo says:

    Why doesn’t Utah just adopt California’s air quality standards and regulations? That would probably solve the problem quite easily.

  26. Ray,

    Under the principles of civil law, individuals are responsible for the harm that they cause. We do not allow people to commit crimes or other trespasses simply because they are poor. Would being poor make me immune from the law if I disposed of a pound of mercury in an adjacent field? Or in a nearby stream? I don’t think so.

    That is why objections of regressiveness are spurious. Most regulations are regressive by nature – they cost time and money to comply with. If you want to increase the progressiveness of society, increase welfare or some other subsidy (even a subsidy to help poor people replace old cars) rather than destroy the principles of civil law.

  27. Mark, I’m tired and headed to bed, so my patience is thin. To be blunt, I don’t need an over-simplistic lecture on civil law. Nobody yet has said the principles of civil law should be destroyed. Build your hyperbolic straw man arguments against someone else.

    BTW, your first response said NOTHING about subsidies. All it mentioned was a very heavy tax. I responded to what you actually wrote, so don’t get condescending when someone points out a major flaw in what you actually wrote.

    As I said, I am not a Robin Hood proponent. Give me an actual proposal for subsidies that would work (both in the short term and in the long run), and I will change my response. Until then, good night.

  28. I should add that not taxing pollution is an implicit subsidy of polluters. If we do not require polluters to cover the cost of the harm they cause we are playing a game much worse than Robin Hood – we are subsidizing evil.

  29. Ray, These are basic principles of economics. No hyperbole required. The objective here was to solve air pollution not end poverty.

  30. Mark, I’ve taught economics. Seriously, good night.

  31. I agree with a previous comment that UTA is doing some good things … the commuter rail to Weber from SLC is scheduled to open next year, I think. I used to use the public transportation in SLC quite a lot and don’t think it’s as bad as some people say. Sure, it’s not as convenient as a car, but nothing is. Outside of SLC it is not easy to get around with public transportation though.

    The problem, as I see it, is that in order to make any meaningful changes, you would have to significantly reduce the number of cars on the road. I think people are willing to sacrifice, but there are limits. How many people will move closer to where they work if that means they won’t have a yard? Or give up their car and with it mobility/freedom?

  32. Ray, I worry about the poor in terms of expensive cars too. I think the best solution is to tax the cars but then provide extremely high quality public transportation into areas of greater poverty and give people below a certain income point free passes for the transportation.

  33. Utah’s coal-fired power plants are hundreds of miles from the congested urban valleys, and contribute nothing to the inversion-related air pollution.

    If we can’t move the mountains, and we can’t (and shouldn’t, IMO) stop people like Sam MB from moving in, then we can either live with the sporadic accumulations of pollutants or adopt measures that target the sources, mostly private automobiles and UTA buses.

    I think tighter emissions controls, backed with on-the-road detection and enforcement, is less intrusive than some of the other ideas mentioned. That would fall more heavily on older, untuned vehicles, but those create a disproportionate share of emissions.

  34. I recently moved from SLC to a similar-sized city in the midwest. My husband and I would love to have some sort of public transportation similar in quality and scope to UTA, but that just doesn’t exist here. In fact, the bus system is downright pathetic for a city of this size, and so we drive 30-45 minutes to work/school and back every day (and so do about a million other people, and we all seem to be on the same road at the same time). I wish more people would utilize UTA and realize that although it could be better, it could still be much, much worse.

  35. Maybe if we built a huge nuclear power plant right smack in the middle of the valley then the updraft from the cooling towers would overturn the inversion and bring in cleaner air.

    Nuclear plants are cleaner than any other industrial sites I’ve ever seen. They are cleaner than making paper, steel, cars, wires, cardboard, or just about anything. They don’t emit greenhouse gases, of course, and their generation costs are far lower than those of fossil fuel plants. People who are serious about the environment are pro-nuclear.

  36. For a few years at the beginning of this decade, about half of my time was spent on pollution controls at coal-fired power plants. It was only a short period of my working life, but I like to think that I have done more personally to reduce air pollution than most people. I was impressed with how non-ideological the people I worked with at the plants were; when the EPA gives them a standard, then they do what it takes to meet the standard.

    For those interested in understanding Utah’s particular air quality issues, I recommend at least skimming the Utah Division of Air Quality Annual Report for 2006. For example, a large portion of the comments here complaints about cars, but cars aren’t much of a factor for the Wasatch Front’s worst air quality problems. Also, you’ll see that in some areas great progress has happenned over the past dozen years; that’s a positive fact that can be used to encourage further progress in the areas that are still problems.

    There really are those for whom environmental causes are just a handy way of expressing their contempt for society. So if air pollution is what you really care about, not merely as a convenient stick for whacking humanity with your misanthropy, well then, don’t act like it. Attack pollution, not people.

  37. From a policy standpoint, you should campaign for state legislation requiring that all state-funded institutions implement telework, structured in a way that the burden of determining the feasibility of telework for each position lies on the employee, not management.
    The Utah state government is likely the biggest purchaser of goods and services in the state, so the state government should make vendors’ environmental behavior a point of consideration in the awarding of all state contracts. In other words, if multiple vendors submit comparable bids for a state-funded project, the state should evaluate the proposals with an eye to the vendors’ processes for recycling, purchasing green power, telework, etc.

  38. Ardis Parshall says:

    Back to your original question, Sam — dreadful idea. You cannot overestimate the offensiveness of something intended to be clever but which in any way appears to play on religion around here. Are you familiar with the “baptize your tastebuds [in beer]” or “St. Provo Girl [beer]” or Polygamy Porter [beer] ad campaigns, or the coffee company pouring its product into Moroni’s upturned trumpet? A “stop smoking” theme to an anti-pollution campaign would be seen either as Mormons imposing our religion on everyone else or, more likely, a slam against Mormon hypocrites for smoking carbon emissions instead of tobacco. (You may think both of those are silly fears, but trust me, it would backfire. Anything that can be twisted into a religious controverys *IS* so twisted around here.)

    And I echo everything negative that has been written here about UTA. Great, courteous drivers, but everything connected with administration is lousy, corrupt, and inefficient.

  39. John Mansfield:

    Thanks for the Link to the Air Quality Report. It sheds some useful light on a discussion that can quickly become as clouded as the air on the Wasatch Front in January.

    As to the contributions of vehicles to the pollution, it appears that they are responsible for 36% and 20% respectively of the two classes of particulates, inconsequential percentages of the sulfur oxides and volatile organic compounds, but substantial portions of the CO (56%) and NOX (44%) emissions.

    I don’t know anything about the chemistry of air pollution, but it appears that the contribution to air quality problems by vehicles is substantial.

    As to your suggestion that we “Attack pollution–not people”, that sounds a lot like the mirror image of “Guns don’t kill. People do.” And neither is particularly helpful in solving the problem.

    The simplest way to reduce automobile emissions is to drive less. Add all the catalytic converters and other anti-pollution devices to a car, and then fine tune the fuel-air mix and so on and on, and you still produce more emissions than a bicyclist. And, fifty of those single-occupant vehicles produce more emissions to move their occupants one mile than one bus would.

    How to advertise it? I’m afraid that Ardis is right. Here in NYC one can be anti-smoking without being accused of being a Mormon hegemonist. Out there in the promised land, you can’t.

    Why not blame the pollution on the illegal immigrants? That’s something that a huge majority can agree on.

  40. If I were going to do an add campaign against air pollution I would found it on two components.

    1.- proving there is a problem
    2.- Offering real solutions to the problem

    For 1.- The most effective way to do this would be to have a BillBoard which noted the level of air pollution at which it becomes a problem (I don’t know, but for the sake of argument, let’s say 10%) and then have a meter which shows the current level of air pollution (Which would probably be above the previously mentioned 10%) This way people can see visual proof there is a problem in a dramatic way. It also gives you a long term way to proove you are adding a solution to the problem.

    For 2. I don’t know. What is the solution to air pollution. I don’t see any practical answers.

    As a subnote, I have a friend who is an environmental scientist who goes to coal plants to ensure they are doing everything legally required of them to keep the air clean. The plants really do have a lot of equipment to keep them clean and have made massive improvements

  41. So it would seem based on the Air Quality Report that we probably have to add wood burning stoves to the mix? I’m assuming this is where the bulk of the rest of the PM comes from during the inversion, but maybe I’m overlooking something.

    So maybe an ad trying to reduce pollution could talk about driving less or using public transportation and doing maintenance on or updating your wood burning stove? Or getting a better furnace or switching from wood burning to natural gas?

    The report did say that a voluntary program to not drive or not burn on “Red” days was fairly effective, so maybe just having an ad that is informative would be the best way to really reduce the smog.

  42. I haven’t read any of the other comments yet, but I do think the proposed ad would seem too targeted at Mormons. Perhaps a picture of a child looking longingly through a window at a seemingly-gorgeous day with all the fun play things sitting outside (bike, sprinkler, pool, whatever) and the smokestacks in the distance. And then some short way of saying, “Joey has asthma and can’t play outside today”.

  43. As a Utah native but now expatriate to the Puget Sound area, I have to tell you that I don’t miss those winter inversions which sock in the valleys with smog and fog.

    Sam, I think Ardis is right about any perceived religious angle to a campaign would backfire on you with both members and non-members.

    There are two reasons to cut down on driving. Pollution, and the continuing issue of high oil prices, increasing demand, and shrinking supply of crude. I applaud Utah for improvements in the UTA, and the TRAX, which has succeeded in spite of many predictions. From my observations, light rail has been a success everywhere I have seen it go in over the last 15 years or so, and expansions there can only help the problem.

    Sam, maybe a better campaign would be something along the lines of “Utah: World’s Greatest Natural Scenery. Too bad you can’t see it.” It could be paired with some picture of a murky day with the mountains totally shrouded in smog.

  44. My recollection is that the inversion-induced pollution problem is worst in Cache valley, of all places, which is relatively rural compared to Salt Lake and Utah counties.

    If that’s true, it seems like reducing emissions is not going to really make a large impact. The inversions just trap all emissions in the valleys and eventually make the air unbreathable no matter what level of emissions you have; assuming, of course that the level of emissions is never going to be zero.

    Isn’t it possible that science can discover a cure for the inversions (other than moving the mountains, of course)? That seems like the best possible solution to this particular (or particulate) problem.

  45. It seems we’re going about this all wrong. If the mountains cause the inversions by trapping the cold air and smog, then the mountains must be removed. There is a precedent for mountain moving (see Ether 12:30). I’m not sure what the unfortunate Mount Zerim did to cause it to be moved, but away it went. Now, if we all picked the first Sunday in January to fast and pray and had enough faith, we could move the mountains, perhaps to Kansas, or to fill the Grand Canyon.
    Then, we could pray for eternal southwesterly winds to blow all the pollution up to Canada or somewhere.

  46. John,

    Great idea, but I’m kind of partial to the Grand Canyon, so Butte Montana seems a likely place to drop a mountain to me, or maybe Renton, WA.

  47. I grew up in Utah and all of my family is there. As much as I’d like to live close to them, the first two things that keep me from returning (although they are intertwined) are the population density and the air quality. There are days when you wonder if the sky is still blue in Utah instead of brown. And even when it is clear, all you see are billboards blocking your view of housing developments bunched too closely together. And no, I don’t live on a Midwestern prairie farm, I am in a metro area the size of Salt Lake County.

    I think (#40) Matt W’s idea of a billboard with a meter to show the current level of air pollution is the best method to point out just how bad it is. People need to constantly see some form of measurement or else the problem isn’t “real” enough. In an area inundated with billboards for jewelers and car dealers, why not make them useful?

  48. And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him.

    Billboards, shmillboards. All we need is Enoch’s faith and the language he used and all environmental problems will be solved, including our water issues.

  49. During the build-up to the 2002 Olympics, there were newspaper articles about all the crowds coming. The transportation gurus estimated there would be an additional 70,000 cars due to Olympic visitors. The next sentence said that the increase in cars wouldn’t affect pollution levels at all. An inversion is an inversion is an inversion. Based on that newspaper article, I’ve quit worrying about cars contributing pollution. Sheesh, if adding 70,000 cars doesn’t cause an uptick, what’s the point in driving less?

    That said, I’m completely in favor of driving less. We picked a home close to my DH’s work (5-minute commute), and when I worked in SLC, I took UTA. I am scratching my head about the comments complaining about UTA. I think it’s a fantastic system. The buses and trains are clean, and most usually on-time. Getting from Provo to SLC is a snap.

    Going east-west on UTA is a pain. I recently wrote them a letter, protesting the building of yet another big road and suggesting that they improve the east-west mass transit to match the quality of the north-south mass transit. Paving the whole state so everyone can drive to work is a stupid idea, regardless of its effect on pollution.

    Forget taxes and subsidies – to encourage driving less, they should stop building roads. People would eventually get tired of the constant traffic jams, and switch to mass transit. Or else they’d quit buying McMansions 70 miles away from their jobs.

  50. Hey, leave Renton alone. Tacoma’s where you want to dump a mountain.

    If pollution is that bad, can’t everyone see it everyday they’re living in it? Would putting a meter on a billboard really be necessary?

    BTW, I suspect the air pollution in the Puget Sound area would be one of the worst in the nation if it didn’t rain so often there. When I lived there up until a few years ago, if it didn’t rain for a week, you couldn’t see Mt Rainier from Seattle anymore.

  51. Susan M,

    Quoting from “The John Report” on KING5 TV’s “Almost Live”:

    “The Renton City Council has voted to change their name to South Bellevue. In related news, Kent has voted to change it’s name to South Renton.”

    Actually, Tacoma probably could win a prize for the greatest contract between the ugliness of the city and the beauty of the geography. Plus all that lead, arsenic, mercury, and who know what else from the old Asarco smelter at the bottom of the bay.

  52. Contrast, not contract. Aarrgh!

  53. Sam, you may have seen the this SLTrib article earlier this month: “Utah’s air: Expert says breathing pollution is like smoking five cigarettes a day
    The article describes a group called “Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment,” which sounds like a good place fore you to trade ideas.
    I appreciate any efforts to identify what measures can be taken to improve Utah AQI, and to muster the community will to make it happen. In the meantime, as a backup plan let’s split the cost of a cabin in the mountains. During inversions we can take turns on who gets to escape and breathe more cleanly.
    (Today as I was cross-country ski-skating on the Weston Ski Track here in the Boston area, I was reminded of reading about a family that decided to move away from the Wasatch Front to maximize their children’s lung capacities for highly aerobic sports (xc skiing, skating, cycling)).

  54. Melinda, forget roads, just stop building parking lots. If no one can park downtown, no one will drive there.

  55. Kevin, I thought the Tacoma aroma was from a rendering plant, mixed with fragrances of frying potato chips wafting over from Nalley Valley. Are you saying there’s more? I can’t believe I survived living there for three years. Bring on the inversion, I can take anything now!

  56. MCQ, there was also the pulp mill. Have you noticed any obvious physical deformities, or a desire to wear a wife-beater and take a starring role on “Cops”?

  57. I think the biggest thing that can be done is somehow changing the culture so people are not so dependent on cars. That will take a lot of work and depend on a lot of things to change. Like a lot of people mentioned, UTA is decent, but it certainly needs work. I lived in Orem and drove to BYU because I could get there in 15 minutes by car instead of over an hour on the bus. Thankfully we lived across the street from my dh’s job. Our ward in Orem was only 4 blocks square, yet almost everyone in our ward drove to church. I’d see families get all six kids in the van and then drive two blocks to church. Maybe we should stop building such big parking lots and then people will have an incentive to leave their cars home. The amount of free (!) parking at BYU and UVSC is also ridiculous. There are over 30,000 students at BYU alone, and most of them drive a few blocks to get to school. I’m embarrassed to admit that we used to drive from Wymount to BYU just so we didn’t have to walk for 20 minutes to get to school. If parking hadn’t been free, I certainly would not have done that. Now that we live in a different university’s student housing we can’t even get a campus parking permit. If we lived somewhere else off-campus we could buy a permit for $250 a semester; that’s much more of an incentive to use the bus than BYU’s free parking. Utah County and most of Salt Lake County (and Davis too) are also not very pedestrian friendly. Shopping is all arranged in giant strip malls with acres of parking lots that are dangerous to cross on foot. It’s much more difficult to run errands on foot (I used to try when I lived in Orem and my kids and I nearly got run over a few times) than it is to just hop in your car and run to the store. Living in a city where I always have to pay to park has really cut my car usage; I think Utah needs to look much more seriously about changing the car-dependent culture if they want to cut down on pollution.

    I really don’t like the religion angle either, especially because many people in Utah aren’t Mormon. A lot of people move there for the family-friendly atmosphere and the scenery, so I would go with that angle. My daughter’s asthma has been a lot better since we moved away last year.

  58. Melinda,

    Unfortunately, stop building roads is about as realistic a policy as stop having children. If there is no population growth, there is little need to build new roads.

    The problem with forcing people into mass transit is that depriving people of their time (especially where they would have to make three or four transfers to get to work) would impact quality of life much more than requiring them to mitigate the pollution they generate.

    If we made mass transit mandatory in urban areas the GDP (and hence material standards of living) would probably drop by ten percent simply due to time wasted, plus another ten percent drop in non-material measures (spare time, etc.)

    I would rather pay pro rata taxes that are used to subsidize anything that actually takes pollution out of the atmosphere – upgrading old cars, pollution scrubbers, whatever.

  59. Who cares if it’s offensive? It’s to the point and it’s true. Sometimes giving offense is a good way of gettingattention to ones’ causes and convictions.

    I live in Cedar City and the air’s pretty clear here. Why don’t you come down here and we can be friends and I won’t be all alone in this blogger-less city?

    One thing we’ve just started is recycling. We’ve never had a recycling place in Cedar, except for the occasional aluminum can stuff. The place that takes them stops every once in awhile. We have four garbage cans, one for cans, one for aluminum, one for plastic, one for glass, and then we put our paper and cardboard in another place.

    Now. We haven’t actually taken this stuff in to the recycling place yet, so we don’t know if they take it all. So it could get ugly if Bill gets up there with it all and they say, “man, we don’t take plastic, or glass….”

    The dogs in the neighborhood have taken to hanging around our back door in case some intersting residue is on the can. Or plastic. Or bottle. Then my dogs bark up a storm. I’m waiting for my neighbor to come complain so I can tell her to go to hell.

  60. #59:
    The air is clear in Cedar because the wind blows all the time. Any air pollution you guys generate gets blown up I-15 to the Wasatch Front!

  61. MCQ, I don’t think kevinf is referring to the Tacoma Aroma, but to the poisonous stuff lying under Ruston, if I remember right.

    The Tacoma Aroma is worst in Fife, which always cracked me up.

    Can you tell I’ve lived in both Kent and Tacoma?

  62. Set up some nuclear power plants in Utah. It’d be great.

    Then mandate that all hybrid cars can plug into your wall to charge at night. Most people only drive 50 miles or less a day. Good hybrids could handle most of that off their batteries.

    But realistically people drive because they need to. As much as you might wish to reduce car use until you provide a real alternative it is all moot. Mass transit works in SLC only to the degree folks go to a few central places. It doesn’t help much for the rest of the location. (Although I’d surely welcome a fast train from Utah County direct to the airport or downtown SLC)

    The real solution is finding alternative fuels for vehicles. But that takes research investment.

  63. BTW – if not nuclear let’s at least put a massive effort at large wind farms and solar power. Utah is pretty ideal for those.

  64. Mark D. seems to assume that time spent on mass transit is wasted–as if sitting in traffic isn’t. With Blackberries, cell phones, laptops, books, magazines, briefcases full of papers, or naptime, how on earth can you call that time wasted?

    In my two-subway-train, 25 minute commute to Wall Street (back in the 80’s, when I had that commute), I would

    get a brisk quarter-mile walk twice a day
    read the NY Times
    do the crossword puzzle
    read The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist
    interact with other human beings without 2 tons of steel and plastic and 150 horsepower interfering

    I guess I would have been better off walking 10 steps to my garage, driving to a parking terrace 20 steps from the elevator, cursing under my breath at the other idiot drivers and raising the GDP.

  65. Salt Lake City’s issue is polluted air getting trapped by the Wasatch Mountains until a front moves through to blow it eastward.

    Denver has the same pollution issue caused by (you guessed it) polluted air trapped by the Rocky Mountains until a front moves through to blow it eastward.

    I’ve worked in both Salt Lake and Denver and their pollution issues mirror one other. Take Chicago or Boston which have much larger population bases and their air is cleaner mainly due to weather fronts moving the polluted out of town.

    All of the responses dealing with public transportation, car pooling, not driving, etc. are good but won’t change the weather related inversions which trap the pollution in place.

  66. Sooooo, we’re back to Enoch.

    Kevin, the answer is yes, and I’m thrilled that I now have something on which to blame both my physical and sartorial deformities. It’s all on account of my time in Tacoma! Can this account for my taste in music as well?

  67. :) I live in Enoch. And John’s right, the wind is a problem. Not as much as pollution, though.

    Although, I think Satan is in the wind because I feel just threatened when the wind blows as if it were an evil entity and I hate it.

    Did you guys read that Senate thing that said the 400 scientists dispute Al Gore?

  68. kristine N says:

    Christmas day my Dad, husband, and I drove down 1-15 from Kaysville to Taylorsville and watched the clouds accumulating at the top of the inversion layer. It’s pretty cool to see, though depressing since the next day is invariably gray and depressing. Nevertheless, if you watch how it forms it’s pretty obvious anthropogenic pollution is only part of the problem.

    The Salt Lake valley has a rating system for air quality already–it’s been in place at least 15 or so years (I remember it from highschool, and I graduated 11 years ago)–and people are asked to not burn wood and reduce driving on red and orange days. I don’t know that it does much for air quality, though it does encourage those who are respiratory-compromised to stay inside.

    It would be great environmentally if we could switch to nuclear, but people are too scared by it. Utah wouldn’t be a good spot for traditional nuclear anyway–it requires far too much water. Now, if we started using smaller, pebble-bed reactors that are gas-cooled, and so far less susceptible to meltdowns, that would be a reasonable solution. As Clark and others have pointed out, we’d have to quit driving petroleum-fueled vehicles to make a significant dent in air pollution. Two of the major pollution sources in the SL valley are the refineries on the north side of the valley and the I-15 corridor, at least for NOX and the ozone formed by NOX’s. Any sort of combustion produces NOX, which is what creates the yellow haze that really is indicative of pollution.

  69. kristine N says:

    wow, a whole 400 scientists dispute Al Gore. Wonder what fraction of a percent of the total number of scientists in the US that is.

  70. Mark B.,

    That is a good point in favor of those who like mass transit. Giving people a sufficient incentive to do something about the pollution they generate would certainly motivate more people into taking it. The relative cost would be lower. We would just be pricing the cost of pollution into the type of transportation people choose. That is a lot nicer than forcing a one size fits all solution.

  71. Old cars pollute more

    When Dallas had to deal with polution issues, part of it was paying to help people reduce the pollution that some old cars create. One bad old car pollutes more than a hundred or more new ones. But getting oil burners off the streets helps everyone.

  72. I’ve used UTA when visiting Utah. I still remember when Denver did publicity shots using Salt Lake because you couldn’t see Denver from the air at the time.

    But the proposed advertisement campaign is exactly the sort of thing that would really offend.

    The first thing to do is to encourage everyone who can to move somewhere else. The fewer people in Utah, the less polution.

    Probably mandate that all non-students who have been there less than five years leave the state. Work from there. That would reduce pollution.

    Population reduction, combined with other approaches is your fastest solution.

    If you were older, you would remember when downtown Los Angeles couldn’t be seen from the freeway.

  73. I read that sidebar on MM about 400 scientists and wanted to comment, but there was no post. Now there is :)

    The article, trumpeted by Sen. Jim “I Heart Exxon” Inhofe, has about as much credibility as you’d expect from an elected official in an oil patch state who is politically to the right of Orrin Hatch. It brought to mind the occasional lists of “scientists who dispute evolution” that the creationists pull out. I’m waiting for the global warming community’s parallel to the NCSE’s Project Steve: a list of scientists named Steve who support evolution.

  74. Most of the supposed 400 aren’t really scientists. (Sorry, I don’t care what they think of themselves, economists aren’t scientists in the usual sense. Even if they were their thoughts on global warming are largely irrelevant.)

  75. Kristine, a coal plant and a nuclear plant use about the same amount of water. I’d note that over by Delta there’s a fair sized coal power plant.

    Utah actually has a reasonable amount of water – enough for nuclear power.

    But I agree with those who say nuclear power is unlikely not because of the technology itself (most compare it with highly flawed Soviet designs from the 1950’s) but simply because “nuclear” has become a scary buzz word of mysterious meaning. It’s become so emotionally cloudy for folks that the facts are largely irrelevant.

    I do think wind and solar could do a lot more – especially with technologies developed over the last 5 years. I’d add that geothermal is very doable as well. Utah has a lot of volcanic activity. (There are even a lot of hot springs here – let alone what is below ground)

  76. “…economists aren’t scientists in the usual sense. Even if they were their thoughts on global warming are largely irrelevant.”

    Clark, that comes across a little “ivory towerish” to me. It seems to me that if one is going to claim true domain on an issue, then one ought to be sure where the domain begins and ends. Are you certain, for example, that economists aren’t well enough grounded in methodologies that may crossover with the data collecting procedures or simulation models used by physicists? Crossover enough, that is, that their criticisms may actually carry some weight?

  77. Kristine, I think they were particular types of scientists and it was in a Senate report. This is the link.

    As you can see, it says 400 prominent scientists from all over the world. I don’t know if that’s enough to be conclusive.

    “These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.”

    Many of the scientists featured in this report consistently stated that numerous colleagues shared their views, but they will not speak out publicly for fear of retribution. Atmospheric scientist Dr. Nathan Paldor, Professor of Dynamical Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of almost 70 peer-reviewed studies, explains how many of his fellow scientists have been intimidated.”

    “This new report details how teams of international scientists are dissenting from the UN IPCC’s view of climate science. In such nations as Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Russia, New Zealand and France, nations, scientists banded together in 2007 to oppose climate alarmism. In addition, over 100 prominent international scientists sent an open letter in December 2007 to the UN stating attempts to control climate were “futile.” (LINK)”

    That’s probably irrelevant to those who face the daily pollutants in northern Utah; however, without having any kind of real education on the subject, it does seem open to debate.

    I still think the billboard is a good idea.

  78. Clark,

    Very few of the signatories to the Dec 13 letter to the UN are economists.

    Economists may be unqualified to judge whether anthropogenic global warming is significant, but they are highly qualified to evaluate the social costs of doing anything about it – far more than any of the conventional scientists. The UN is a policy making body, is it not?

  79. Mark, the issue of what to do versus whether there is a problem are quite different.

    Sorry about the way I phrased the above. I meant to indicate not that most were economist (which is what I wrote) but rather most aren’t involved in climatology related studies and so their opinions are about on par with yours or mine in terms of authoritative significance.

    Jack, if we are making an appeal to authority (which is what this statement is) then those in it must be authorities. I certainly don’t think only those in climatology can know about climatology. However only those in climatology can be authorities on it.

    I’d simply note that within science (as opposed to politics) the issue of authority is irrelevant. There arguments are what win the day and the overwhelming consensus is that there is global warming. All opposing views in terms of argument have pretty good answers.

    I used to be a warming skeptic but when you go through the arguments I found that the mainstream body had good answers and that the skeptics were typically unable to respond to these answers.

    Certainly some of the reasoning is ultimately inductive and not absolute. But it is there.

  80. Clark,

    The problem with something like Climatology is that it is built upon other more (shall we say) foundational sciences–as is Astronomy (unless one is merely talking about it in “sidereal” terms). One must know something of chemistry; of physics; of meteorology; of math, and so forth. And so experts can poke holes in climate theory from anyone of those directions–and really make a mess of things.

    Now I understand than most sciences are premised upon other sciences, but it seems to me that Climatology–as it is a relatively new field–has yet to ween itself (if indeed it really can) from other more established fields of study and become more autonomously authoritative on it’s own subject.

  81. Once again Jack, that doesn’t make one an expert nor does it mean that the people in question have made good arguments. All you say is completely true but is completely irrelevant when one is making an appeal to authority.

    Now if you are talking science instead of politics all one need to is ask what the arguments are. I’d note that those putting up this list are not doing that. It’s purely designed to illicit a response from those ignorant of the debate and the scientific arguments.

  82. Economists may be unqualified to judge whether anthropogenic global warming is significant, but they are highly qualified to evaluate the social costs of doing anything about it – far more than any of the conventional scientists. The UN is a policy making body, is it not?

    Actually, economists invented applied statistics, which is all that this entire debate devolves to. They are by far the best experts to analyze the data.

    However, and as a complete aside, geothermal (mentioned above) has had some recent technological improvements taht affect cost and that make it attractive at the current price of oil. It may well herald dramatic shifts in population distribution in the United States. There is a lot of very interesting new literature on it.

    Geothermal and short range electrical and fuel cell vehicles go very well together, and have a zero footprint (H20 isn’t treated as a pollutant for footprints and doesn’t do much to create smog, at least in the aounts that fuel cell vehicles create).

    Anyway, an interesting thread.

    Reminds me of the days that global cooling was predicted to have us all die in the ice by the year 2000.

  83. Well, it’s sad to think that scientific authority must be grounded by politics in order to have any real traction in society–because who knows what kinds of conflicts of interest might be mixed up in all of that. But then again, I hate to think of what the world would be like if it were run solely by a bunch of nutty professors. :)

  84. Sorry in advance for the length. I hate to waste good research so I’ll reprint what I figured out back in November regarding public transit in my area. To avoid undue sympathy, I will state at the onset that I have a car that currently runs just fine.

    “What if I needed to take a bus to church with my family? (We walk the 4 miles if the issue comes to a head.) Here are my findings.

    In order to use public transportation in my town on Sunday, I would need to reserve the dial-a-ride service 24 hours in advance. $30 for the family, one way.

    No service is available early enough for seminary.

    Service to get us all there on Tuesday night would be $3.75 if just the mutual age kids and I went. For a court of honor or young women in excellence program where the entire family goes it would cost $6.75. There is no service that runs late enough to get us home.

    Getting my cub scout and I to scouts would only run us $ 2.25 and there is still bus service at 5:30 when we finish up so we could ride home for another $2.25.

    No buses run between my home and the home where activity days are held. But it’s only a half mile to walk.

    If we decided that we were on the bus often enough to justify buying monthly bus passes, we can get them for $261. Good to know that the baby rides free.

    That’s only getting us to church activities. How about groceries? How about school activities? [How about my husband’s job?]

    Remember that all of these routes require a half a mile of walking here, a fifteen minute wait there. Additionally, there are numerous homeless, drunk, high and insane people on our buses. Even if the bus were free it would be a stressful, inadequate way to travel.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it would be anyone’s job to make it all better.” (from BCC, Why We Need the Poor, Nov 12, 2007)

    Today’s thoughts on public transit as a solution to pollution: In order for it to work, it would need to be free. It would need to run 24/7 and it would need to go nearly everywhere, within a half mile of every place in America. Insane, high, drunk and lewd people would need to be banned. (We’d have to have the mad-mobile for them.) And to top off that list–you’d have to stop supplying the public with gasoline. Even then you might just have to shut down the highway system.

    Mark D. (18, 20, 22, 26, 28)–There are very few poor people who are glad to be driving a piece of crap polluter. (Personally, I’d love a hybrid.) Even if you gave a HUGE cash incentive to people to drive nasty polluting cars, most people would choose a clean, newer car if they had the ability to own one and pass on the cash.

    I will say that if you take away poor people’s cars through regulation you frequently take away their jobs. Sometimes transportation issues can even result in kids being placed in foster homes, due to lack of ability to get to school, doctors, court-ordered counseling, etc. People with real lives drive those disgusting polluters. It complicates things a bit.

  85. Jami,

    I do not think anyone should be deprived of their car – but rather that everyone should make fair compensation for the harm that they cause. Suppose someone invented an automobile that operated by siphoning power off the electrical power grid. Should they be able to stiff the local power company?

    Pollution without fair compensation is a form of theft – theft of health, happiness, and quality of life. I do not know what mitigation adequate compensation might be, but I suspect the equivalent of twenty five cents a gallon for the average vehicle would go a long way towards mitigating the pollution they generate – whether by repair and environmental control subsidies or by other means.

    That is about half as much as we pay to build and maintain the roads in the state of Utah (state 24.5 cents + federal 18.4 cents per gallon) – applied in combination with similar measures it could lead to the cleanest air in the country.

  86. Could I point out that if you are driving a family (there are 6 in mine) anywhere, your minivan is a better choice than public transportation both economically and environmentally. Public transportation is economically and environmentally preferable for single commuters, but not for groups like a big mormon family.

  87. Mark D
    I doubt if anything I say will make my point clearer to you. I will simply say that if you jack up gas prices for poor people, if you make it financially impossible for a poor person to register their car, then you can cause a huge personal harm to those individuals.

    The problem with financially punishing people as a way to change behavior is that rich people don’t need to change. They’ve got enough moola to do what they want. Poor people don’t have the resources to choose a different car, regardless of the financial consequences. So the fine just takes away from their resources for living. You just add to their burden by adding to their taxes.

    By the way, not all poor people are on welfare. So upping welfare payments would only help a portion of those effected by your suggested pigovian taxes.

    Think of it this way, I like many impoverished people, haven’t taken a flight anywhere for more than 10 years. Think of all the pollution I’m not responsible for. I’m too poor to do alot of the travel and leisure activities that pump toxins into the air. Does that make you feel better?

  88. Jami,

    Your position is clear. My position, however, is that not taxing polluters is like giving people a license to steal. No self respecting person should want to live off of the misery of others.

  89. We get it, Mark. I and other “poor” people (those who can’t afford to buy a newer model car) are thieves and contributors to evil. We already barely can afford the pieces of junk we drive, so we should pay even more for that – making it impossible for us to drive at all. Just because I make my living by driving to multiple places each day (that I can visit in no other way), that shouldn’t play into the equation.

    As you said to Jami, your position is clear. How about you and I agree to disagree on this one and cease that part of this discussion?

  90. I am sorry Ray, I wasn’t talking to you. I believe the issue is very much on topic. Some people want clean air, but aren’t willing to take the most rudimentary responsibility for their own actions.

  91. I think that is too severe, so I retract my last statement. My apologies.

  92. Yes, Mark, you were talking to me – as well as every other person who chose to have a large family and work in a profession that pays only enough to barely make ends meet. In my case, that was a school teacher, so I have no excuse for how I am encouraging the degradation of the planet. I received a world-class education, but I chose, consciously and intentionally, to live such a life, blindly thinking my efforts to educate and shape souls made me at least a decent human contributor to this world. However, since it was my choice, I chose my thievery and evil with eyes wide open.

    That paragraph was over-the-top intentionally, as I was trying to match your own hyperbole – impossible as that is in reality. When you use words like “thief” and “evil” in these discussions, you can’t divorce them from the people to whom you are applying them. I know Bishops and Seminary Teachers and Nurses and Caregivers and those who run charities who fit your description of thieves and evil-doers. I will NOT sit back quietly while they are slandered as such. I will respond with as much meekness as I can muster, but I will respond – at least this much.

    I will not address this issue again. I really don’t like having to write something like I just wrote, and if this continues it will only get ugly. I am throwing in the towel. As important as it is, even this topic is not worth what will happen otherwise.

  93. Thanks, Ray.

  94. I wrote that last comment prior to reading #91. It might have softened my response a bit.

    Good night, Mark.

  95. Ray,

    It is a difference in degree, but not in kind. You don’t think pollution is a serious enough problem to justify taxing polluters. I do.

  96. Most gas tax proposals are revenue-neutral. That is, the cost to poor people will be offset with tax credits.

    I don’t blame a poor person for driving a polluting vehicle. I certainly blame those who keep voting for representatives who haven’t seen fit to raise CAFE standards for thirty years.

  97. Bill,

    Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have nothing per se to do with pollution. Unless you count water vapor and carbon dioxide, both of which warm the environment but don’t make people sick (at the levels we are talking about anyway). Carbon monoxide, ozone, nitric and sulfuric oxides, lead, hydrocarbons, particulate matter, etc. are what I would like to see removed.

  98. I’m not sure how increased fuel efficiency, which would lead to less consumption of the gasoline that releases noxious chemicals into the air, has nothing to do with pollution.

    Lead was banned from gasoline in the 1980s (except for NASCAR, which in the 90s convinced congress to grant them an exemption, along with the airline industry).

    In any case, nothing in comment 96 argues against the regulation of all those other pollutants you mention. Quite the contrary.

  99. Coming to this late, but I am very sad to see that many of the children of the can-do, desert-blossoming Mormon pioneers are citing geography as an impediment to clean Utah air.

  100. I can certainly accept that public transportation is not a solution for everyone. My experience is from living in downtown SLC and traveling to the U or to Murray and that worked quite well both with public transportation and with a bicycle. Then again, I didn’t do it with a family.

    But what about the pollution that comes from heating your house? I think some of the solutions for this would be expensive (upgrading furnace, etc), but what about just insulating your house better so it is easier to heat? Or turning the temperature of the house down a degree or two? It seems like these things would not only help decrease the pollution but also save money. And for people with wood-burning stoves, you can do things like making sure that the chimney is clean and not burning wood that hasn’t been dried out sufficiently.

    Maybe others have other (better) ideas, but I think that conservation can actually make economic sense as well.

  101. Bill (#98), as a general principle, the hotter an engine runs, the more efficient it is and the less fuel it takes to do a given amount of work. Yet, at the same time, hotter temperature also increase formation of NOX (essentially burning the air itself). So its a tradeoff: hotter engine, less fuel consumed, and more NOX; or cooler engine, more fuel consumed, and less NOX.

  102. As a follow-up to my #101, since cars receive an absurdly disproportionate share of attention in any discussion of energy consumption or pollution, consider the pollution controls on a coal-fired power plant. A prime concern in the design of equipment removing pollutants from the exhaust stream is: What’s the pressure drop? Pressure drops across the pollution control equipment reduce the power available to drive the electric generators. To produce the same amount of electricity, more coal has to be burnt compared to a plant with no pollution control equipment. The added fuel consumption is a price we pay because we don’t want to just dump the raw exhaust stream into the atmosphere.

  103. Bill (#98),

    If increasing fuel efficiency is the best way for car manufacturers to reduce pollution then I am all for it – I just think targeting pollution directly and letting everyone figure out how best to achieve that goal is better policy than targeting proxies with other unfortunate side effects – like greater vulnerability in crashes, for example.

  104. I live in a rural area. The fact that there are less of us means we can pollute 10 times as much as you city dwellers and still have better air quality.

    Forcing your regulations on rural people simply because people in cities have congregated and notice how much nasty pollution there is when you gather people together in large groups is foolish.

    “Hey, I ruined my grass by having a wedding reception on it. People walk on the grass, and the grass dies. Let’s make a rule that no one is allowed to walk on the grass.”

    Lovely bit of reasoning that is…

    A more accurate auto pollution law would slide the scale of the tax with the amount of pollution that local environment is able to support. The goal can never be to eliminate pollution. Econ 101 teaches thats far too costly (and probably impossible).

    Rather, I prefer to pollute just the right amount :)

  105. It so happens that I came upon a timely article last night regarding pollution and ways to rein it in. It discussed how now the government penalizes factories and power plants for exceeding a limit of pollution. But this gives them no incentive to improve, just not to exceed the limit.

    Then it discussed “pollution credits”, where homeowners or companies are given a certain number of credits allowing a given amount of pollution. These credits can be bought and sold, meaning if you use less pollution than you are allotted, you can make a profit, and if you “need” to pollute more than you are allotted, you can buy credits. The net result in places where this has been implemented is that overall pollution was dramatically reduced, since the incentive then is to lower pollution to as low as possible in order to maximize profit off those who can’t. They cited how a town in Colorado (the name escapes me, as I was drifting in and out of consciousness from a Sabbath-induced slumber) started this in 1988 with homeowners installing wood-burning stoves, and the air quality in their town improved significantly as a result.

    It seems to me that this would be more beneficial in the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys, where the refineries and coal plants would have some monetary incentive to change, rather than to just avoid the punitive slap on the wrist.

  106. And to answer Sam’s initial question, I think a “Noah’s ark”-themed billboard with a message to care for the earth, or be good stewards would carry more weight and not come off as heavy-handed. (Cue Ronan and Gilgamesh….)

  107. Did someone mention Bilgames?

  108. Indeed. If Gilgamesh/Bilgames can help reduce emissions, so be it!

  109. The title of another post on this blog is “be not afraid.” I like that line of thinking. I do my best (we now have 5 garbage cans and we recycle), but ultimately I do trust in the Lord. Things are happening as He has planned and in the end, this life is but a minute and this earth is going to pass away, with or without our pollution.

  110. sam (#104),

    The specific example I was thinking of was motorists from rural areas driving non-emissions checked cars into urban areas. With regard to point sources you have more of a point, allowing for geography and proximity.

  111. Porter Rockwell says:

    While a BYU student in the early 90’s I had a jacked with “Geneva Sucks” in 4″ high gold letters on the back. Geneva was a steel mill that was pumping nasty particulate into the Utah Valley air. I always wondered why the locals were so accepting of the junk in their air.

  112. Coal plant is something bad and it should be replaced as as soon as possible with some renewable source of energy. Way how to do it, is act green. I work for company that helps other people to buy and sell houses in Toronto and what I do is promoting of green lifestyle as well. The reason why I do it is that I like Green lifestyle and also more of our clients are interested in being Green. I can add one tip how to decrease air pollution. It is all about decreasing the electricity consumption. I have already described it in other related blog. In general it is about using of combined solar-gas central heating system and we have installed to our living room stoves which can be filled with renewables as well. So, on the one hand we have decreased our energy consumption connected with heating and on the other hand we decreased our bills as well.