Using Economic Incentives to Reduce Auto Pollution

By Harrington, Winston; Walls, Margaret A. et al. | Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Using Economic Incentives to Reduce Auto Pollution


Harrington, Winston, Walls, Margaret A., McConnell, Virginia D., Issues in Science and Technology


When the serious health threat posed by breathing ozone was recognized, Congress took aggressive action by writing emissions standards for new cars into the 1970 Clean Air Act. Because automobile emissions are the major source that react to form ozone, it was hoped that this would be enough to lower ozone concentrations to safe levels throughout the country. But by the late 1980s there were still nearly 100 urban areas that did not meet the desired ozone limits.

Frustrated, and determined to "clean up" these cities, Congress wrote even tighter regulations into the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state air-quality agencies have begun to implement a series of new regulations, many of which may be very costly and cumbersome. For example, all cars may have to undergo expensive new testing when only a few cars are causing most of the problems. Tighter new car standards will increase the cost of new cars, straining customers' wallets and reducing new car sales. Employers in the worst of the cities - New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago Houston, and Los Angeles among them - will be forced to curtail the number of vehicles traveling to and from their facilities.

Not only are these requirements potentially disruptive, but they are being implemented in spite of significant scientific uncertainty about their effectiveness in reducing ambient ozone levels. Before incurring the costs of this effort, we should stop to re-examine its wisdom. Does it make sense to mandate reduced emission rates for new cars? Sticker prices will rise noticeably, but only marginal improvement in air quality can be expected because so much progress has already been made in reducing emissions from new cars. How much faith can we put in new approaches, such as EPA's Enhanced Inspection and Maintenance program, which may turn out to be useful in some areas but which has yet to prove its value? What is gained by establishing rigid deadlines when emerging new technologies have the potential to reduce ozone levels much more cost effectively?

Furthermore, recent scientific data indicate that there may not be an urgent need to meet those deadlines. The most recent ozone readings from EPA (for 1990 to 1992) indicate that 42 of the 94 problematic urban areas did not exceed ozone standards during this period. In some of these areas, improvements may have resulted from cooler weather during that period (ozone is highly sensitive to temperature); in others, however, it stemmed from progress resulting from the older emissions regulations, which are still driving improvements.

The requirements of the Clean Air Act may be pushing us to commit too quickly to programs that will have high costs or low payoff. We should instead slow down and identify policies that will have measurable cost-effective effects on ozone levels. This will require experimentation with different programs and flexibility in where and how these programs are applied. But above all, it will require a shift away from mandates toward new economic incentives as the basis for regulation. We believe that a number of incentive programs, described below, will encourage drivers to avoid cars that pollute and change their driving habits to reduce emissions. The incentives also will encourage states to design flexible solutions to their unique pollution problems.

One-dimensional policy

Reducing ozone concentrations has bedeviled scientists and policymakers for decades. The 1970 Clean Air Act required ambient air-quality standards for six "criteria" pollutants, which had to be met by 1975. Ozone was the only one of the six not directly emitted from vehicles, factories, and other sources. It is a "secondary pollutant" formed by a reaction between nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. A number of factors make it difficult to control ozone.

The process of ozone formation and transport is not fully understood, and airborne ozone is hard to measure.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Using Economic Incentives to Reduce Auto Pollution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.