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The Automobile: Social Benefits and Costs Air Pollution Trends


Have we been forced into driving by carmakers, roadbuilders, and planners? ... Wealth is the single greatest determinant of automobile ownership and driving ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Automobile: Social Benefits and Costs Air Pollution Trends

The AutomobileSocial Benefits and CostsAir
Pollution Trends
  • Joel Schwartz
  • Visiting Fellow
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • March 15, 2006

  • Have we been forced into driving by carmakers,
    roadbuilders, and planners?
  • Are Americans unique in their love affair with
    the automobile, and is it really a love
  • Does driving make us better or worse off?

A Worldwide Love Affair with the Automobile
  • In a wide range of economic, policy, and cultural
    contexts, people the world over choose suburban
    lifestyles and automobiles for travel as soon as
    they become wealthy enough to afford them
  • Wealth is the single greatest determinant of
    automobile ownership and driving
  • Driving is the overwhelming transportation mode
    even in countries that heavily tax cars and
    driving and provide widespread subsidized transit

Have Americans been Hoodwinked into Cars and
Suburbs? (1)
  • If Americans were forced into driving, then
    transportation in other countries would look
    quite different from the U.S. But it doesnt.
  • Americans use cars for 88 of motorized
    passenger-miles Europe, 78
  • Europeans do travel lessabout 2,000 miles/year
    less per capita after controlling for Europeans
    lower income. But per-capita driving is also
    increasing more rapidly than U.S.
  • Transits market share dropped 35 in Europe
    between 1970 and 2000.
  • Singapores car ownership quota increased cost of
    purchasing a car by 60, but caused only about a
    10 reduction in demand for automobiles

Have Americans been Hoodwinked into Cars and
Suburbs? (2)
  • Europe has suburbanized much as America
  • Population densities in European cities dropped
    more than 60 between 1960 and 1990
  • Amsterdams suburban share grew from 20 to 33
    from 1970-1994, while Pariss grew from 68 to
    77 from 1968-1990
  • Americans adopted the automobile before
    interstate highways and post-war suburbanization
  • By 1930, Americans owned 3 cars for every 4
    households and 0.22 cars per capita

Huge Net Benefits from Driving
  • What do people know that policymakers and
    activists dont?
  • The dominance of driving and suburbs in wealthy
    countries is the result of deep-seated human
    desires for opportunity, space, convenience,
    autonomy, and privacy
  • Driving increases choice and opportunity
  • Greater choice of jobs and housing.
  • More choice and lower prices for consumer goods.

  • Greater lifestyle competition among cities.
  • Greater recreational, social, family
  • More rapid response to emergencies.
  • Not only do wealthier people buy cars cars help
    people become wealthier.
  • Even after accounting for the harm from air
    pollution, accidents, congestion, and other ills,
    automobile travel delivers trillions of dollars
    per year in net benefits to Americans

More of the Good, Less of the Bad
  • Greater safety
  • Compared to today, the per-passenger-mile risk of
    dying in a car accident was four times greater in
    1960 for vehicle occupants and seven times
    greater for pedestrians
  • Pedestrian improvement is not due to suburbs
    discouraging walkingsuburbanites are the most
    physically active group.
  • Risk of injury dropped as well
  • Air pollution
  • Despite steadily increasing driving, air
    pollution has steadily declined. Almost all
    carbon monoxide pollution comes from cars. But
    peak CO levels have declined 75 since 1975,
    despite more than a doubling of driving.
  • Congestion
  • Getting worse, but this is largely the
    intentional result of public policies to restrict
    road building, discourage people from driving,
    and encourage people to use transit.
  • Although congestion has increased, cars are also
    much more comfortable and quiet than they used to

Auto Ownership Follows Income
  • Cars per capita vs. GDP per capita by country in

Trend in Automobile Ownership Follows Trend in
  • Trend in cars/person vs. GDP/person, 1970-1992
    (log scale)
  • By 1992, many European countries had reached
    Americas 1970 per-capita income level, and
    Americas 1970 per-capita car ownership level

European Travel Trends
  • Passenger miles by mode, 1970-2000
  • Air is fastest growing sector, likely due to
  • Auto miles increased by 2.4
  • Transit increased slightly, with bus increasing
    more than rail
  • A meaningful alternative to roads does not
    exist Ari Vatanen, EU MP, 3/14/06

  • Europeans drive less per capita when compared at
    the same income level
  • But per-capita driving has been growing faster in
    Europe than in the U.S.

Automobiles and Opportunity
  • Automobile travel is faster that transit,
    providing access to three times the land area in
    a given amount of travel time.
  • In U.S., transit commutes take about 70 longer
    than car commutes, even though they cover about
    the same distance
  • Many places arent and cant be served by
  • If only half of all households and employers are
    accessible by transit, then the autos speed and
    accessibility advantage would put 12 times as
    many employers within reach
  • Welfare-to-work studies show owning an automobile
    greatly increases the chance of landing and
    keeping a job

Automobile Benefits vs. Costs
  • Costs and Benefits (1995)
  • Costs roughly 2 to 4 trillion dollars
  • Includes all costs, such as estimated costs of
    air pollution, climate change, free parking at
    malls and work, etc. (Source DeLucchi 2005)
  • Benefits roughly 7 to 11 trillion dollars
  • Includes expenditures and consumers surplus
    (Source Hogarty 1998 Schwartz 2005)
  • Even after accounting for externalities and
    other subsidies and hidden costs, Americans
    derive trillions of dollars per year in net
    benefits from automobile travel
  • This explains why demand for driving and
    automobiles is so high, even in countries that
    levy large taxes on cars and driving

Automobiles Compared to Transit
  • Driving cost about 0.20 per passenger-mile in
    2002 (0.23 at current gasoline costs), but
    transit cost 0.82.
  • Adding in reasonable estimates of externalities
    would add a few cents per mile to the cost of
  • Adding in the most extreme and implausible
    automobile externalities proposed by anti-auto
    activists would add about 0.23 per
    passenger-mile, for a total of about 0.45 per
    passenger-milestill much lower than the real
    cost of transit
  • Full-cost pricing of all modes would decrease
    transit use, because transit is so much more
    heavily subsidized than autos
  • Transit receives nearly 60 times the direct
    subsidy per passenger-mile, when compared with
  • About 64 of transit costs are subsidized by

More Driving, Less Pollution
Automobiles Critics Have It Exactly Backwards
  • The automobile is a powerful enabling technology
    that has vastly increased human welfare
  • Policymakers and activists have spent decades
    working to override peoples preferences, and
    impose their own prescriptions for how people
    ought to live work and travel.
  • These policies have unnecessarily eroded the
    benefits of automobile travel by increasing
    congestion, diverted hundreds of billions of
    dollars to transportation modes that few people
    choose to use, and driven up the cost of housing
    by artificially restricting supply.
  • Instead, to maximize Americans welfare and
    prosperity, policies should be reoriented to work
    in concert with peoples choices and aspirations,
    rather than against them

What Is the Alternative?
  • There is no realistic alternative to the
    automobile that would not require large
    reductions in peoples autonomy, prosperity, and
    quality of life
  • Automobile travel provides a level of
    flexibility, convenience, opportunity, and
    autonomy unparalleled in human history
  • Policymakers should continue to reduce the
    negative side effects of automobile travel but
    they should also stop trying to erode the huge
    benefits of automobile travel

For More Information
  • The Social Benefits and Costs of the
  • In 21st Century Highways (Heritage, 2005), Utt,
    Pisarski, Cox, eds. https//

Addressing Air Quality (or not) through
Transportation Policy
  • 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and 1991 ISTEA
  • Require that transportation policy be constrained
    by air quality goals
  • Conformity Planned road projects must not cause
    future motor vehicle emissions to exceed levels
    permitted by air quality plans
  • Lose federal transportation funds if fail to
    demonstrate conformity
  • ISTEA and CAA arguably made air quality the
    premier objective of the nations surface
    transportation programs (Howitt and Altschuler,
  • NEPA provides a separate means to challenge road
    projects, potentially causing years of delay

Two Ways to Reduce Motor Vehicle Emissions
  • Improve Technology
  • Inherently cleaner cars
  • Improve on existing gasoline technology
  • Develop alternative fuel technologies
  • Change Behavior
  • Induce people to drive less
  • Make driving more expensive, less convenient
  • Provide alternative modes, such as transit
  • Change land use to support alternatives and
    discourage driving
  • Induce people to maintain their cars better

Only Improving Emission Technology Has Been both
Effective and Cost Effective
  • Federal and state policies include all methods,
    but only technology has been effective, and only
    gasoline- and diesel-based technologies have been
    cost effective for reducing motor vehicle
  • Technology has stayed and will continue to stay
    way ahead of increases in total driving
  • Behavioral methods have been and continue to be a
    costly failure, and a distraction from approaches
    that would genuinely bring cleaner air faster
  • Behavioral approaches are still popular, because
    they serve anti-suburb, anti-automobile, and
    energy-rationing goals of policymakers and

Air Quality/Transportation/Land Use Policy Link
Goes Back to 1970s
  • Clean Air Act linked transportation and air
  • 1970 Clean Air Act required transportation
    control plans
  • Conformity added in 1977 strengthened in 1990
  • States refused to implement TCPs in early 1970s.
    EPA was forced by court order to promulgate
    federal TCPs in 1973
  • SF Bay Area TCP A VMT reduction of 97 percent
    is necessary if the national standard for
    photochemical oxidants is to be attained by 1977
    (EPA, Federal Register, 11/12/1973)
  • Plan included limits on construction of parking
    lots, parking surcharges, carpool lanes, employer
    rideshare, transit, etc.
  • EPA reluctantly included a provision for gasoline
    rationing, but said such rationing would be
    needed to attain the standards in 1977
  • Also vehicle inspection and retrofit programs
  • States still refused to implement the plans and
    EPA lacked institutional capacity for federal
  • Congress took away EPAs authority to implement
    pricing or restrict parking
  • 1977 CAA amendments added weak conformity
    requirement, but did not require restrictions on
    personal travel
  • Highway funds could be withheld only if states
    failed to submit an acceptable air quality plan

More Driving, Less Pollution
Vehicle Emissions Improvements Continue to Stay
Well Ahead of Growth
Emission trend in California Car/SUV VOC
emission rate is dropping about 13/year
gasoline consumption is increasing about
2.7/year in fast-growing areas of California. So
total VOC still declining more than 10/year.
Sources Kirchstetter, Kean, Harley (UC
Berkeley), Caltrans.
Fleet Turnover Will Continue to Clean the Air
  • At any given age, more-recent vehicle models are
    cleaner than earlier models
  • Means fleet turnover will continue to clean the
    air as earlier models leave the fleet
  • SUVs and pickups started out worse, but improved
    more rapidly than cars
  • SUV/pickup emissions have been same as cars since
    1996 model year for VOC 2001 model year for NOx

Denver vehicle inspection data, 1996-2002
Motor vehicle air pollution has been solved as a
long-term problem
  • Improvements will continue
  • Automobile emissions are dropping about 10/year
    as fleet turns over to inherently cleaner cars,
    SUVs, pickups
  • Fleet meeting 2004 EPA standardsthe fleet that
    will be on the road in 15-20 yearswill be at
    least 90 cleaner per-mile than current average
  • Net reductions of more than 80, even after
    accounting for VMT growth
  • Diesel truck standards were tightened in 1998 and
    2003. Additional 90 reduction required in 2007
  • But anti-automobile activists arent aware of the
    real-world data
  • sprawl and higher-emitting SUVs are
    proliferating faster than technological fixes can
    keep up. David Goldberg, Smart Growth America
    in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 2003
  • More Highways, More Pollution, 2004 report by
    Public Interest Research Group

EPAs MOBILE6 Emissions Model also Predicts Large
  • But model understates future improvements
  • Model overestimates emissions of recent models
    and underestimates emissions of older models
  • On-road measurements demonstrate faster emissions
    decline during last several years than predicted
    by model
  • EPA Tier 2 standards require lower emissions than
    model predicts for a Tier 2 fleet

Can We Get there Faster? If So, How?
  • Worst 5 of automobiles produce 50 of tailpipe
    VOC emissions
  • Mainly middle-aged and older vehicles in poor
  • Identify these vehicles on the road with remote
    sensing and offer owners money to scrap
  • There are only so many 1982 Buick Regals left on
    the road. Once you scrap them, theyre gone for
  • There is no cheaper, faster way to achieve large
    air pollution reductions

What About Behavioral Measures? (1)
  • Ineffective and very expensive
  • Hundreds of billions in transit subsidies over
    the last few decades, but transits market share
    continues to decline
  • Even with proponents own cost and emissions
    numbers, light-rail costs more than 1
    million/ton of pollution eliminated heavy rail
    costs more than 100,000/ton
  • Regulators normally dont consider a measure cost
    effective unless is costs less than about
  • Density does little to reduce driving doubling
    density is associated with 10 decline in
    per-capita VMT
  • Increase in congestion offsets emission gains due
    to higher emissions of slow/stop-and-go traffic
  • EPAs MOBILE6 predicts increased road capacity
    reduces total emissions, despite increase in
    total VMT

What About Behavioral Measures? (2)
  • Indirect source fees miss the target people
    who can afford to buy new houses or shop at
    suburban malls dont drive high-polluting cars
  • Most other behavioral measures cost a few hundred
    thousand per ton e.g., bike/pedestrian paths,
    employer trip reduction.
  • Europes experience also shows limits of
    behavioral policies
  • Europe is experiencing rapid growth in per-capita
    driving and suburbanization and declining transit
    market share, despite 5/gal gasoline and better

Tying Transportation Policy to Behavioral Air
Quality Measures Imposes Huge Costs
  • Diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars to
    transportation modes that hardly anyone chooses
    to use
  • Increases in road congestion erode benefits of
    automobile travel
  • Unnecessary and undesirable constraints on
    peoples lifestyle choices and mobility

A Better Way
  • Acknowledge that technology has solved the
    long-term problem of motor vehicle air pollution
  • Fleet turnover will eliminate most remaining
    motor vehicle pollution, regardless of VMT
  • Deal with near-term conformity problems by
    addressing current high-polluting cars
  • This is the quickest and cheapest way to
    near-term emission reductions
  • Focus transportation infrastructure and policy
    decisions on peoples real transportation needs

Contact information
  • Joel Schwartz
  • 916.203.6309