What is the human cost of air pollution in Utah? More than you might think

The American Lung Association just released a report about the human cost of air pollution, and the need for electrifying our vehicles instead of continued reliance on oil as the main energy source for transportation.

For example, “the heavy-duty truck fleet makes up just 6% of the overall fleet but generates 59% of ozone and nitrogen oxides and 55% of fine particle pollution on an annual basis.”  By getting rid of combustion based vehicles, Utah could see “$5.7 billion in public health benefits, avoid 506 deaths directly linked to air pollution, eliminate 26,700 asthma attacks and reduce lost work days by 94,300.”  These reports almost always underestimate the benefits because they don’t usually factor in all the ways that air pollution harms public health. But suffice it to say that this is enough of a benefit every year, that we should feel compelled to rid ourselves of oil dependency, especially in the transportation sector.

The results of this study have us reflecting on our state’s decisions and ongoing projects, like the Utah Inland Port, which is due to drastically increase truck and car emissions contributing to hazardous air quality. We’ve heard lofty promises from proponents of the Port that it will be the greenest and cleanest Port around, but have yet to see any concrete plan, timeline or steps to do so. If we were going to have a “green” port, why would we build it and begin operations in a way that promotes fossil fuels? Where are the electric trucks and public transportation system? 

We urge the state of Utah to listen to the science, read the research, and take action towards not only improving our future, but making sure we have one. The consequences of digging our heels in when it comes to fossil fuels are quite literally deadly. 

Read the Tribune coverage here.

Oil rail cars outside of Salt Lake City. Photo by E P Kosmicki