Reader Question: Historical Emissions Data?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Bernard asks: I really appreciate your articles. Regarding automobile emissions, I’ve seen you mention numerous times how modern vehicles emit far smaller amounts of harmful emissions than older cars. However, I would be interested in seeing a chart of historical data on that. As an engineer, graphs and data make a big impression with me and I was wondering there is a source of such data available on the web. Perhaps some really eye-catching graphics can be put together to illustrate your argument visually and make a bigger impact to more people. Please let me know if you have any references you could pass along to me.

My reply: I haven’t come across a graph that documents the change in exhaust emissions from the “pre-controlled” era (roughly, 1967 and prior) to the present time. The EPA has a system of  “tiers” and “bins” to describe allowable limits now (and recently) but it’s ukase as its finest and all but impenetrable.

The major improvements – reductions –  in harmful exhaust emissions came with the phasing out of leaded gas, the adoption (in 1975) of catalytic converters and transistorized ignition systems (i.e., no points) by almost all manufacturers and the advent of computer-controlled electronic fuel injection in the mid-1980s.

These relatively simple, relatively inexpensive changes cut harmful emissions by more than two-thirds. By the mid-late 1990s, engine management had been refined to the point that harmful emissions from new cars had become negligible, with the majority of the exhaust consisting of carbon dioxide and water vapor. Since then, the “gains” have been fractional – and at ever-higher cost. It is very arguable that further reductions – even if technically feasible – are simply not worth it, in terms of any effect on genuinely harmful exhaust byproducts.

This brings up the (to me) very interesting, relatively sudden characterization of C02 as an “emission.”

I have been a working car journalist for more than 25 years and as recently as five years ago, I never heard of C02 characterized as an “emission” – lumped into the same regulatory category as historically regulated emissions such as unburned hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, particulates, etc.

It just . . . happened.

Very much of a piece with the way – just like that – every network news show suddenly, as if on cue, began talking about Iraq rather than Afghanistan in the weeks after the “terrorist” attacks back in September of 2011.

At any rate, it seems to me conveniently coincidental that C02 suddenly became an “emission” at just about the same time that actually harmful emissions had become a non-issue.

Put another way, the justification for further regulatory rigmarole based on the problem of harmful to human health and the environment emissions had gone away. Very much as the old Soviet Union’s disappearance eliminated the main justification for all that “defense” spending.

A new bogeyman – in both cases – was needed.

Voila – “enemies of freedom.”

Voila – carbon dioxide and “climate change.”

Carbon dioxide – and the “climate change” shibboleth – are the unbeatable hand, from the standpoint of the people whose real agenda has always been to get the average person out of his personal car and into public (i.e., government-controlled) transportation. So as to control him.

There is no feasible way to “clean up” the C02 “emissions” of an IC car. The only way to reduce C02 emissions is to burn less gas – or burn none at all. Enter the electric car. It is presented as the answer to the problem, but it creates more problems (well, for us) while simultaneously solving the problem of controlling transportation.

The fact that C02 is also “emitted” by electric cars, just not directly, is simply not discussed.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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