Vehicle Emissions Tests Don't Clean Up The Air

Clean Air issue now totally nuts
"Residents likely will face mandatory auto emissions tests in Bexar County."

Express-News 6/28/2003
Vehicles Main Source of City's Polluted Air

Citizens Organized for Good Science
Response to the editorial




Mandatory Vehicle Emissions Tests proposed for S.A.
The Clean Air Plan
S.A. elected officials' phones and email

AACOG Board contact info

How "poor" you'll have to be
to get your car fixed free with other people's money (their silly LIRAP Program)

Ward's AutoWorld 6/2003
EPA questions value of emissions tests





San Antonio Exceeds Ozone Limit for 2003
but wait 'til you see these details!

For the second year in a row, San Antonio has exceeded the EPA 8 hr ozone limits of 85ppb for CAMs 58 and 23 in the northwest side of town.

Proponents of auto emissions testing are hoping that this year illustrates the need to spend millions of dollars per year to test our cars.

Since you probalably won't hear "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey likes to say, here are some important facts about this year's ozone events.

1. The highest 8hr ozone average occurred at CAM 23 (John Marshall HS), with a reading of 91ppb. This reading occurred on a Saturday. According to AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Governments)data, there is an average of 33% less vehicular emissions on Saturdays. Of the 4 highest days recorded at CAM 23 this year, two were on Saturday.

2. The highest 8hr ozone average for CAM 58 (Camp Bullis), with a reading of 89ppb, occurred on a Saturday. Three out of the 4 highest ozone days for CAM 58 have been during the weekend. Even more amazing, is the 3rd highest reading for CAM 58 was 88ppb and that occurred this past Sunday. According to AACOG data, vehicle emissions are 48% less on Sundays.

3. High ozone levels were recorded in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Victoria and Corpus, this past weekend. In fact, Victoria on Sunday had higher levels of ozone (95ppb) than San Antonio.

4. During this weekend's event, the difference in ozone reading between San Antonio and a rural site in Seguin, was 16ppb on Sunday and 21ppb on Saturday. Using Seguin's readings as "background data" then 82% of the ozone that was recorded in San Antonio on Sunday was transported into our area and 77% recorded on Saturday.

Cars were not the problem this weekend. Transported pollution from other parts of the country and naturally occurring volatile organic compounds from trees were.

Just thought you might want to know....


See for yourself:

Citizens Organized for Good Science
Mark Langford-President




Folks, as our local-area Clean Air Plan is being formulated, we keep being told that tailpipe emission tests should become part of the regular, annual vehicle inspection.
The goal would be to get polluting cars and trucks either fixed, or off the streets. Tailpipe tests are required in many cities.
I contend they do virtually nothing to improve air quality and exist merely for one or more of three reasons: To make it look like something is being done, To raise money for a new bureaucracy, or Because air-quality planners don't know what they are doing.
Proponents of $40 vehicle inspections say they work. I submit this as evidence they do not:

Lung Ass'n issues air pollution report
"...said that since the mid-1990s the nation has made little progress in reducing ozone. "We can point to no significant ozone improvements other than a few lucky changes in the weather," he said.

So where are the tailpipe tests making a bit of difference?...



  5/17/03 No. Carolina counties get emissions testing  


I was doing some research this morning, comparing Houston's ozone season from last year and this year.
>From March thru May 25th, 2003, Houston ozone monitors have gone over the 85ppb daily average 57 times. This compares with 7 times last year at this time. From my understanding, all of the cars in the Houston area should have now been tested, since they started their emissions testing program last year.
I'm really impressed with these numbers.... it makes me feel real confident that we might have 8 times as many high ozone days after testing our cars!
Citizens Organized for Good Science
Mark Langford-President
PS: Depending on the month, there are an additional 1-2 monitors this year in the Houston area, but with a total of over 20 monitoring stations, the difference is minimal.
PS2: As I have been saying so many times before, high ozone events are linked to uncontrollable meteorological events that transport outside ozone, smoke and pollution into our areas.

Dear Brad:
Mark Langford is on target about Houston's ozone problem. Thus far emission testing seems to have had no noticeable effect.
It is vital that San Antonians know that emissions from the CPS plants at Calaveras Lake have pushed San Antonio over the ozone limits on several occasions. This happened on June 18, 2002, and is documented on the TCEQ web site. The same thing almost happened again last week.
Shutting down CPS coal burning for 6-8 hours a day when the wind is from the southeast on potentially bad ozone days just might keep San Antonio in compliance. It will certainly cause far lower readings at the Marshall High School and Camp Bullis monitors than testing every car in your city. This strategy will cost much less than testing cars.
Best regards,
Forrest M. Mims III
Vice-Chairman, Environmental Science Section
Texas Academy of Science


EPA questions value of emissions tests
Ward’s AutoWorld
June 2003, page 24
by Bob Brooks

Growing concern at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the value and “fairness” of state-run inspection/maintenance (I/M) vehicle emissions testing programs has kicked off an internal EPA review, with new directions to be announced by late summer.

The EPA acknowledged in 1999 that the focus should be taken off the emissions testing process and instead put on “cleaning the air by whatever method makes the most sense.”

Greg Green, director of the EPA’s Certification and Compliance Section in Ann Arbor, MI tells Ward’s the emissions-reduction gains attributed to I/M programs are small - and declining annually because of the annual turnover to new vehicles with more effective emissions-control systems.

He says the EPA also is increasingly concerned about the cost to repair older, complex-technology vehicles. State-run I/M programs, whether using tailpipe testing or data generated by the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic (OBD) systems, require owners to have the vehicle repaired - often at considerable cost - in order to be driven legally.

Green acknowledges emissions tests that rely on OBD systems magnify motorist repair liability by signaling more “problems,” some of which are temporary. And older owners, who drive infrequently and seldom at speeds and loads adequate to clear catalysts from sulfur effects, are another group disproportionately impacted by emissions testing.

A spokesman for the Missouri AAA Motor Club says the impact of I/M on lower-income drivers must be viewed in context with the unfortunate fact that 30 percent to 50 percent of urban motorists don’t carry legally required vehicle insurance, and there is a growing problem of stolen license plates and registration tags. The spokesman says expensive repair consequences of I/M programs effectively adds to the number of vehicles driven illegally.

While the EPA is now reacting to the situation and shows concern for the social consequences of expensive emissions-related repairs, states with emissions-test programs are finding it difficult to adjust.

One example is Illinois. Its EPA office recently issued a forecast (state implementation plan) for vehicle pollution reduction. But in a document obtained by Ward’s, Illinois’ SIP does not outline its I/M programs’ actual contribution to pollution reduction.

Meanwhile, the EPA’s latest computer-model estimates (M6) indicate that in a typical urban area, about 95 percent of vehicle hydrocarbon reduction can be attributed to ongoing vehicle technology improvements - and just 5 percent to I/M programs. The data has led one researcher to label emissions-testing programs as “irrelevant.”


( Reply to this editorial appears immediately below it )

Editorial: Vehicles main source of city's polluted air
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 06/28/2003 12:00 AM
When it comes to air quality, San Antonians are like the cartoon character Pogo. We have met the enemy and he is us.
No matter what decision is made about City Public Service's proposed coal plant, CPS contributes 3 percent or less to the city's ozone problem. A staggering 60 percent of this area's air quality problems come from vehicle emissions.
What can be done to reduce the amount of belching black smoke from automobiles?
Bexar County has signed an agreement with Comal, Guadalupe and Wilson counties to reduce ozone pollution.
As of now, vehicle emissions testing is not required in any of those counties.
But unless drivers in the region voluntarily have their vehicles tested for emissions and repair their cars, the day will soon arrive when the state's tests will be required. Under the state's plan, the emissions test adds $10 to $15 to car inspections that now cost $25.
Such measures will be necessary because of the health risks associated with air pollution. In addition,if the area violates federal anti-pollution mandates, we face catastrophic losses in federal highway dollars and restrictions on economic development.
The choice is whether we voluntarily take action to clean our air or wait for costly mandated solutions from the federal government.
In addition to getting clunkers off the road, other voluntary actions that can be taken are waiting until after dark to refuel cars; using cleaner, more expensive fuels; limiting the use of gas-powered lawnmowers or switching to electric-powered lawnmowers; and encouraging car-pooling.
The problem is the public's love affair with the automobile. The solution is to make driving cleaner and more efficient.


Response to the above editorial

Mark Langford
Citizens Organized for Good Science

I find it highly disturbing that a newspaper with as large of readership as the Express-News would publish an editorial called "Vehicles main source of city's polluted air" without balancing your viewpoint with additional ozone information.
Your editors paint a very inaccurate description of San Antonio's air quality and it is unfair for people who trust this newspaper to read such editorials.

Here are a few noteworthy facts on San Antonio's air quality that you should have addressed in your editorial:

1. San Antonio's air quality rarely goes over the 85ppb. 8 hr. limit as recently established by the EPA. On a typical year, 97% of the time, our ozone levels are lower than 85ppb..

2. When our ozone levels go beyond 85ppb., it is due to unusual meteorological events that are beyond our control. On a typical summer day our ozone levels are usually below 50ppb. and are only 5-6ppb. higher than rural ozone monitoring sights to the south and east of San Antonio. High ozone events always occur when our typical SE winds are modified due to tropical low pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico or unusual late spring or summer cool fronts that switch our winds to the NE, blowing in tree volatile organic compounds (VOC'S), smoke from distant forest fires and pollution from outdated, large coal fire plants in the Eastern part of Texas and the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. When these rare ozone events occur, ozone coming into our area can already be as high as 85ppb. In fact, during our high ozone event of September 12-14, in 2002, everyone in San Antonio could have turned off their cars and all forms of electricity, and we would have still gone over 85ppb.

3. Your percentages of who causes ozone in San Antonio are very misleading. You make it sound as if automobiles are causing 60% of the measured ozone in San Antonio. First, when San Antonio does have high ozone, as much as 80-90% of the ozone being monitored is coming into our area from outside our region. That is why our high ozone events are very seldom limited to just our area. Secondly, you are citing a report from AACOG and CPS which describes ozone precursors, not actual ozone production. Yes, based on the 1999 report, when you factor in VOC's and NOx (nitrogen oxides) production, automobiles contribute 60% and CPS contributes 6%. However, when you figure only the NOx production (which combines with natural and unnatural VOC's and UV's from the sun to form ozone), the percentages are very different. Motor vehicle production of NOx in 1999 was about 46% and point source production (mainly CPS) was 32%. Computer modeling done in 1997 showed that on a high ozone day, only 18% of the ozone produced that day was attributed to motor vehicles. Motor vehicle contribution to ozone is also very difficult to factor. It is impossible to know on any given day how many vehicles are on the road. Most of our high ozone days this year have been on weekends, when most people don't commute to work. During the weekdays, most vehicles are parked from 9am until 5pm while people are working.

In regards to your eagerness to see San Antonians pay an additional $27 per vehicle for emissions testing, here are some additional facts that you also forgot to include in your editorial.

1. An estimated 80% of vehicles that will be tested in the San Antonio area will pass the test. Of the 20% that won't, most of the lower income people who drive those vehicles will not have the money to fix the problems. The best case modeling numbers show that based on 1990's auto emissions rates, there may be only a 2-3ppb reduction in ozone on high ozone days. Is it economically viable for San Antonio to spend 20-40 million dollars a year for such a slight reduction that is only validated with computer modeling?

2. Houston has had auto emissions testing for two years now and their results have been seemingly outrageous when compared with last year, when very few cars had been tested. In 2002, when only a small percentage of Houston cars had been tested, their combined ozone violation days for their regional monitors was 10 readings over 85ppb as of June 11th. This year, when all of their cars have supposedly been tested, they have had 107 readings where their monitors came in over 85ppb! That means they have had 10 time more high ozone days with testing, than without!

3. In an article, published in a June 2003 Ward's AutoWorld magazine, Greg Green, director of the EPA's Vehicle Certification and Compliance Section, told Ward's that the emissions-reduction gains attributed to emissions testing programs are small, and declining annually because of the gradual turnover to new vehicles with more effective emissions control systems. He also said that the EPA is concerned about the cost to repair older, complex-technology vehicles. The last paragraph in the article sites an EPA computer modeling estimate that reveals that 95% of the vehicle hydrocarbon reduction can be attributed to ongoing technology improvements and just 5% to I/M programs!

Clean air is very important to San Antonio, but so are "clean facts".

Mark Langford

Citizens Organized for Good Science
Mark Langford-President
COGS website




Brad, if you didn't read Saturday's Express-News editorial, you sure need to soon. Some idiot on the editorial staff is quoting "60% of this area's air quality problems come from vehicle emissions". Does no one there listen to radio?
To show you how out of touch this person is, he (she) is reporting that our current charge for Inspections is $25.00. If he had ever really done this himself, I mean had their car inspected, he would know that the cost is now $12.50. The extra cost of vehicle emission testing would add about $28.00 (wow, what a slush fund) to that $12.50, if not more.
They go on to say that "the problem (with our air) is the public's love affair with the automobile". The PROBLEM is with the EPA and AACOG bureaucracy creating a problem where there is none, and then suggesting a "cure" that will do nothing more than "line someone's pockets".
With the demise of the San Antonio Light the only way this idiocy can be challenged is by courageous people like you Brad.

A grateful listener,

Joe H