|Source: Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune|
The governor noted that "simple steps can add up." Yeah, they add up, but not to much. These steps will a put minimal dent into Salt Lake's air quality problems.
An article appearing the next day (More Pollution Cuts Needed for Utah to Meet Clean-Air Standards) illustrates just how big of a gorilla that we are dealing with. Quoting the article (also by Judy Fays),
"Updated number-crunching shows that the clean-air fixes regulators already have proposed won’t do as much as originally expected for the spikes of PM2.5, which sometime shrouds northern Utah in a brown fog for weeks at a time in winter. In fact, Utah County needs to cut its wintertime pollution by another 20 percent, and a five-county area around the Salt Lake Valley needs to reduce emissions by 10 percent more to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health-based standards. And that’s on top of tons and tons of pollution that’s already averted in the Utah Division of Air Quality’s six-year plan."When it comes to big challenges like this, we need to stop sweating the small stuff.
From a personal choice perspective, I see the following as perhaps most important for improving air quality: (1) considering proximity to your school or work when making a decision to rent or purchase a residence, (2) considering mpg and emissions when purchasing a new or used automobile, and (3) considering taking alternative transportation during the buildup and persistence of poor air quality events. Perhaps you could add consideration of energy efficiency and heating type in your choice of residence, but I'm trying to go after the 800 pound gorilla here: tailpipe emissions. Of these three, only one could have an immediate impact (#3).
Personal choices are based on many factors of course, so I'm not arguing that everyone should start shopping for a new home and hybrid. For many individuals, that's not even an option. What I am arguing for is analysis. We are bombarded with many environmental choices that have negligible impact. What I'm interested in seeing is a quantitative analysis of how personal choices impact our air quality and where we can make the biggest difference. An example is presented by Michael Brower and Warren Leon in their book The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.
Although that book bears some relevance for our air quality challenges, it would be very interesting to see a similar analysis for Salt Lake air pollution. Perhaps it has been done already. If not, conducting such an analysis might prove useful.