The Top 5: The State of Global Air Pollution Isn’t That Great

02.16.17 | Blog | By:

Happy Thursday friends! Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in future fuels and vehicles trends over the last week.

  1. State of Global Air: While there have been improvements in some parts of the world, particularly in the U.S. and EU, the same is not the case in the rest of the world. HEI and IHME estimate that an estimated 92% of people live in areas where PM concentrations  exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines, and that trend is expected to continue and even worsen. Transport is a big part of the problem. If anyone wonders at this point why the calls to ban cars and/or diesel and/or mandate ZEVs and/or increase the capacity of public transport — this would be the reason.
  2. Consumer Attitudes about Autonomous Driving: Resources For the Future found this week in a revised/updated report it originally posted last year that the average household is willing to pay a significant amount for automation in driving: about $3,500 for partial automation and $4,900 for full automation.
  3. Biojet: This week the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a brief on biojet, noting that developing and promoting it will be essential to reduce carbon emissions from commercial aviation but wider adoption is constrained right now by cost. The sector’s transition to sustainable, renewable fuels is crucial to meet the international climate targets set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  4. London’s Diesel Car Scrappage Program: Bloomberg reported this week that a program to scrap diesel vehicles in London may cost as much as £515 million (US$643 million) over two years. Tellingly, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “The toxic state of our air leaves us with no choice but to rid our city of the most polluting vehicles.”
  5. The Lithium Story: Another great infographic from Visual Capitalist that provides insight into the lithium market.

1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the Health Effects Institute (HEI): State of Global Air 2017

This week IHME and HEI released the State of Global Air 2017 with a report and an interactive database at the link above where you can search for and compare ozone, PM and health effects data by country. The figure below shows how ozone and PM stack up against other global risk factors for deaths in 2015. Ambient PM ranked number five, while ozone ranked 33. PM was connected to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and lower and chronic respiratory diseases.

The organizations note that  most of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality is unhealthy, even in the West. An estimated 92% of people live in areas where PM concentrations exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3 shown in the figure below. Global population-weighted PM2.5 concentrations increased by 11.2% from 1990 (39.7 µg/m3) to 2015 (44.2 µg/m3). Since 2010, the increase was somewhat more rapid. The highest concentrations of population-weighted average PM2.5 in 2015 were in North Africa and the Middle East, due mainly to high levels of windblown mineral dust.

At the country level, population-weighted average concentrations in 2015 were highest in Qatar (107 μg/m3), Saudi Arabia (106 μg/m3), and Egypt (105 μg/m3). The next highest concentrations appear in South Asia (especially northern India and Bangladesh) and Southeast Asia, eastern China, and Central and Western sub-Saharan Africa, due to combustion emissions from multiple sources, including household solid fuel use, coal-fired power plants, agricultural and other open burning, and industrial and transportation-related sources.

Populous countries with the lowest population-weighted concentrations of PM2.5 include, in decreasing order, Russia, Indonesia, the European Union, Japan, Brazil, and the U.S. Concentrations in all these locations have declined slightly since 1990 and, with the possible exception of Japan, appear relatively stable over the last 10 years. The disparities among these large countries have grown substantially over time. Less-polluted locations have become cleaner, while PM2.5 concentrations have increased in the more polluted locations. As a result, the group says, what was a 7-fold range in average population-weighted concentrations among these countries in 1990 increased to a 10-fold range in 2015.

From 1990 to 2015, population-weighted ozone concentrations increased by about 7% globally, the group says. This trend reflects a combination of factors, including increased emissions of ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxides, coupled with warmer temperatures, especially at mid-latitudes in rapidly developing economies. Among the world’s 10 most populous countries and the European Union, the largest increases (14% to 25%) in seasonal average population-weighted concentrations of ozone over the last 25 years were experienced in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil. However, in the U.S., estimated population-weighted ozone concentrations have decreased by about 5% since 1990 and, in the EU, by about 2% since 2000, driven by air quality management programs. The figure below shows seasonal average population-weighted ozone concentrations in 2015.

Incidentally, The Guardian this week listed those cities and countries with the worst PM emissions, which is available here.

2. Resources for the Future: Are Consumers Willing to Pay to Let Cars Drive for Them?  Analyzing Response to Autonomous Vehicles

Apparently the answer is yes, according to a paper first published last summer and revised and re-released this week from Resources for the Future. The researchers used data from a nationwide online panel of 1,260 individuals who answered a vehicle-purchase discrete choice experiment focused on energy efficiency and autonomous features. The researchers found that the that the average household is willing to pay a significant amount for automation: about $3,500 for partial automation and $4,900 for full automation. Second, they found a significant share sample, those that were more knowledgeable about the benefits of automation, were willing to pay above $10,000 for full automation technology while many are not willing to pay any positive amount for the technology. Third, the demand for automation is split approximately evenly between high, modest and no demand.

3. IRENA: Biofuels For Aviation

This week the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a brief this week on biojet, noting that developing and promoting it will be essential to reduce carbon emissions from commercial aviation but wider adopt is constrained right now by cost. Read more about it here.

4. Bloomberg: Scrapping Diesel May Cost London $643 Million Over Two Years

Bloomberg reported this week that a program to scrap diesel vehicles in London may cost as much as £515 million (US$643 million) over two years. Drivers of 70,000 of the most polluting vans and minibuses in the city would each receive £3,500 to swap for cleaner vehicles, and 10,000 drivers of London’s oldest taxis would get £1,000 each with additional support from the Mayor’s office, according to plans published Sunday. As many as 130,000 poorer households would receive £2,000 “mobility credit” for scrapping their diesel-fueled cars.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement:

“The toxic state of our air leaves us with no choice but to rid our city of the most polluting vehicles. It is shocking that nearly half of new car sales in the UK are still diesel vehicles and the national system of vehicle excise duty still incentivises motorists to buy these polluting cars…For years government has incentivised and encouraged people to purchase diesel cars it is only fair that they now helps people to switch to cleaner alternatives. The government needs to help us clean up the dangerous air in London.”

While neither the recent BP nor ExxonMobil outlooks incorporated the impact of megacity car bans on future oil and fuel demand, in the future they should because this is going to continue.

5. Visual Capitalist: Lithium: The Fuel of the Green Revolution

Another great infographic from Visual Capitalist this week on Lithium. Read more about it and view the infographic here.