Reader Question: How Much Do Today’s Cars “Pollute”?

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

Brian asks: I heard you mention this on Bill Meyer’s radio show recently, but I don’t recall your comment on this: How much do current gasoline powered cars pollute compared to cars of yesteryear?

Also: When I got my drivers license, gas cost about 27 to 30 cents a gallon. There was such a thing as Gas Wars. If you check online, the inflation factor since the late ’60s is about nine times, so I’m trying to understand why everybody gets so worked up about the cost of gas.

My reply: In terms of the genuinely harmful to humans stuff – as opposed to the harmless stuff – the emissions of the typical new car are almost nil. The output of the compounds which lead to smog and which cause respiratory issues in humans have been decreased by more than 95 percent  and many new cars are 97-plus percent “clean” at the tailpipe in terms of these things (i.e., unburned hydrocarbons).

But the public has been deliberately lied to about this fact. First, by deliberately dishonest presentation of the reduction in exhaust emissions to date – then by deliberately dishonest prattle about future reductions. You will hear talk about “EPA urges emissions to be cut by 50 percent” or some such. Which sounds like a lot. But what they mean is 50 percent of half a percent (of the remaining 3-5 percent). It’s despicable.

Even more despicable is the recent confabulation of carbon dioxide with “emissions.” Carbon dioxide was never considered an “emission” until a few years ago, when it suddenly became one – because C02 isn’t one. At least, not in terms of things harmful to human health, such as smog.

It is characterized (lately) as an “emission” in terms of “climate change” – but this is political science, not science.

On gas prices: Yes, you’re right. Gas today is actually cheaper in real terms than it was 50 years ago – in spite of all the cost-adding/taxes that’s been piled on. But people have short memories – and only see the price today. Which, for the record, would be about $1.50 or less if taxes were taken out and under $1 if regulatory costs were taken out.

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

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  1. The government websites have all the standards and limits out there but they tend to be difficult to follow. Some sites make it easier to follow. The best I’ve found so far is dieselnet. Here’s their page on tier 3:

    If you compare these to even 1982 standards, it’s very small. Keep in mind they are combining and renaming exhaust compound classes to make them even smaller. For instance tier 3 NMOG+NOx is Non Methane Organic gases and nitrogen oxides combined. This used to be HC (hydrocarbons) and NOx separately. Also NMOG includes more than the unburnt fuel that HC was.

    Compared to say 1972 or earlier it’s downright trivial.

    The issue that you’ll see in the government documents are totals for the entire population. More people, more driving, thus each car must be less to have a gain overall. Even so this only becomes a problem where concentration, geography, the way the city is set up, weather, and long automobile service life make it an issue. For instance LA. But even with LA it’s no where near the issue it was in the 1980s.

    The remaining bang for the buck isn’t in even more difficult to meet emissions standards but rather solutions for where the problems remain. LA may benefit from remote emissions vehicles for instance but other places wouldn’t see much change if any.

    The problem with government is it likes one size fits all solutions and using its only tool to make people use them.

  2. Gas wars!

    What ever happened to those?

    I filled up my sister’s Pinto after running out of gas at the station.

    Full serve, the attendant helped push the car to the pump, and I got 3 cents back from a dollar.

    Eric, have you read this from the freep?

    It seems that keyless killer cars have been on a rampage lately.

    Apparently leaving your keyless car running in your garage overnight can be harmful. (Who would have imagined?)

    And leaving your keyless car running in gear when you’re not in it can also produce unwanted effects. (Again, who could have even imagined?)

    But thankfully Godvernmint is Johnny on the spot! And within a couple of years these activities will be totally acceptable and SAFE!

    Can I get an Amen.


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