You get a glimpse of what air-born pollutants are causing you to lose out on in Los Angeles every once in a while. Driving east through Beverly Hills -- the pacific ocean just 8 miles west, chic chic shops, marble and landscaping all around -- you can literally see white-capped peaks 90 miles away in the northeast. And on a clear night in the Hollywood Hills, you may look out over a stunning 15 mile field of urban lights and you can see planes taking off at LAX and begin their ascent over the dark Pacific. But most of the time, SMOG -- air pollution -- obscures that beauty day and night.
LA has apparently battled SMOG for the last 60 years. Some life-long residents, however, suggest that air pollution was considerably worse in the late 50s, 60s and 70s in LA than it is today. And statistics on ozone levels over time seem to support their assertion: levels in 1955 were almost 3x higher than in 1995 and those of 1980 were 2x higher. So, it appears that there is a downward trend in ozone levels and the SMOG these levels aid in forming.
Yet, despite ozone level declines, SMOG still often fills the air here. It dirties clothes, it makes outdoor exercise challenging, and its just plain backwards and embarrassing for a city to have, especially one as lovely as Los Angeles. Studies have demonstrated that SMOG impairs human immune function, increase one's risk of lung cancer, exacerbates respiratory illness and even reduce sperm count! Furthermore, they've suggested that breathing the air outside for one average day in Los Angeles apparently has the same effect on the lungs as smoking anywhere from 2-4+ cigarettes a day, depending on ozone levels (one could move to Montana and develop a chain-smoking habit and have the same respiratory health as if he were a non-smoker living in Los Angeles)!!
Ironically, Los Angeles is only mid-pack in US cities in terms of auto emissions. But its fight versus is sabotaged by other conditions that help turn Ozone to SMOG: 1) the amount of sunlight it receives, 2) the temperature, 3) the winds and 4) the "basin" effect. LA is obviously on the high end for all four of the aforementioned.
If the LA government were some how able to figure a way to reduce sunlight hitting LA (which would probably also reduce area temperature, too), manipulate the earths rotation and air pressure to stop the winds and then bulldoze the San Bernadino Mountains to eliminate the Basin Effect, LA would have SMOG problem about as bad Madison, Wisconsin -- not really noticeable. Since that isn't going to happen any time soon, Los Angeles will stand as environmentally-handicapped in any battle with SMOG.
However, we have seen that when government at all levels faces an environmental issue that could damage public health -- forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, floods, earthquakes -- what does it do? It gets serious and it gets the issue and the public under control. That's why Usedcarsalesman thinks that the LA County government is fully justified in taking steps to battle SMOG that might seem Draconian including the following:
- You drive using a low or zero emissions vehicle in Los Angeles or you pay $1000+ annually in penalties that go towards environmental upkeep or alternative SMOG reduction programs. This provides a serious incentive for people living in LA to buy clean vehicles. The rich types who don't will be extremely few and far between.
- All new automobiles registered in Los Angeles must possess on-board emissions monitoring equipment that is factory installed and unalterable. The automobile will inform the manufacturer if emissions levels are exceeded for any reasons such as state of tune, modification, etc. The owner will have 55 miles -- similar to run flat tires -- to obtain service to address this issue.
- All vehicles incoming to Los Angeles, whether 18 wheelers, commuters or out of state visitors will be advised that tail-pipe emissions are monitored and if your vehicle is found by mobile monitoring equipment to be out of line with Los Angeles regulations, your car or truck will be pulled over and impounded at your expense. Its not: "please get your emissions checked, its not a 30 day warning, its you walk." You may retrieve you vehicle after paying a substantial fine. If LA gets the word out, then these drivers won't face any surprises when they arrive at the outskirts of metropolitan Los Angeles. They'll know in advance that it is serious business that they have a vehicle that is within LA's emissions guidelines.
Usedcarsalesman is skeptical that the reduced emissions brought by mass use of alternative fuel vehicles, electric cars and public transportation are going to be enough to offset the additional emissions -- born of population growth -- projected for Los Angeles (and Orange County) over the next 40 years. SMOG in 2007 will likely look very much like SMOG in 2047, in light of a 50% population increase. Usedcarsalesman believes that the additional measures he stated are needed to control the problem in the interest of public health.