A Greener Future For The Garden State? The Role of Natural Gas Vehicles (continued)

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In 2008, the same researchers studied 31,135 truckers’ records. They found that those who did short-haul pickups and deliveries were at the highest risk for lung disease. Of those in the study, there were 779 cases of lung cancer, and 734 deaths found that stemmed from lung cancer[x].

A 2008 Netherlands study has found that diesel fumes can actually change brain activity. Ten subjects, exposed to diesel fumes for just an hour, showed a clear stress response. Their change in brain function occurred only thirty minutes into the study. The researchers attribute this impact to the amount of soot particles in diesel fumes[xi].

NEW JERSEY’S AIR QUALITY RECORD

In NJ overall, The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 13 of its 21 counties in violation of the soot standard in 2004 and found every county in violation of the ground-level ozone standard[xii]. The American Lung Association’s 2009 State of the Air report, covering data from 2005-2007, found some decline in these levels.

STATE OF THE AIR REPORT 2009

Five of 18 Counties Monitored* For Particle Air Pollution Rated "F" and 12 of 17 Counties Monitored** For High Ozone Days Rated "F"

Particle Air PollutionHigh Ozone Days
CountyPoputationCountyPoputation
Bergen894,840Atlantic270.681
Camden517,234Camden517,234
Essex770.675Cumberland156,830
Hudson595.419Gloucester287,860
Union523.249Hudson595,419
Hunterdon129,031
Mercer364,883
Middlesex789,102
Monmouth642,448
Morris487,548
Ocean569,111
Passaic490,948[xiii]
Total Risk: 3,301,417 (38%)Total Risk: 5,301,095 (61%)

*Counties not included: Cumberland, Hunterdon, and Monmouth.

**Counties not included: Bergen, Essex, Union, and Warren[xiv]

Camden has the worst record with "F" for particle and ozone pollution plus one of the highest hospital discharge rates for asthma in the State in 2006[xv].

DIESEL FLEETS: MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND OIL DEPENDENCY

Diesel fleets contribute significantly to New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions. Total vehicle emissions accounted for 38% of the Carbon Dioxide emitted in NJ in 2007[xvi]. Diesel emissions contain 2,778 grams of carbon content per gallon of fuel burned- much higher than the 2,421 grams in gasoline emissions per gallon according to the EPA’s fuel economy measurements[xvii].

Reliance by NJ as by other states on petroleum-based fuels for essential fleet operations is increasingly risky. Nationwide, in 2008 the US relied on imported oil to meet 57% of its needs. A third comes from undependable sources: 21% from Saudi Arabia and other AOPEC countries, 7.1% Venezuela and 9.9% Nigeria. The US consumed 19,498,000 barrels of oil per day while only producing 4,950,000 barrels per day[xviii]. The bombing of a Middle Eastern pipeline or oil embargo could paralyze the US economy. But, short of such crises, the volatile price shifts of fuel, controlled by foreign suppliers, shake municipal budgets. NJ, with just 2.8% of the US population, had the 8th highest levels of expenditures for petroleum ($23 billion) in 2007[xix]. In addition, global competition for access to the world’s most rapidly dwindling fossil fuel is growing, especially from China, India and other parts of industrializing Asia.

HEALTHIER AIR & ENERGY SECURITY: THE PROMISE OF SHIFTING BUS AND TRUCK FLEETS TO NATURAL GAS

Government officials, industry leaders and citizens in NJ increasingly recognize the multiple problems caused by the diesel vehicle sector. But what are the solutions?

Because of the strict 2007 and 2010 standards for particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy duty fleets set by the US EPA, new diesel trucks and buses are much cleaner than ever before. And older (legacy) diesel fleets can get funding through the NJ DEP for equipment reducing their emissions and may use biodiesel fuel, cutting down their petroleum use.

However, for municipalities wanting the healthiest air, freedom from foreign oil, and the best economic investment going forward, the best option is a shift to natural gas fuel.

More than 10 million natural gas vehicles travel the roads worldwide, but only about 130,000 are in the US. The move to natural gas trucks and buses began on the West Coast eight years ago and has spread steadily eastward to New York in 2007. New Jersey got on board in 2009 for many good reasons: