Breathe

Isn’t there the potential that there could be systems created for particulate and NOx reduction that would be affordable, usable, and once installed, nearly forgettable?

We’ve all seen pictures of the levels of air pollution that can be the way of life in Beijing.  Some of you know someone who has been there and was unable to see across the street because the air was so filthy.

Some of you have lived it.  Some of you are living it.

When you see something like that—or experience it—you’ve got to think that there really ought to be something done in terms of reducing those emissions.

While the emissions from automobiles are a factor, they are but one in a place where there are a whole lot of other factors.  One might think that this is a place where zero-emissions electric cars might make a tremendous amount of sense and have a tremendous benefit to all concerned, but then as critics of EVs are wont to point out, there may be zero emissions coming out of the vehicles, but the electricity for those vehicles are coming from somewhere.  And if that somewhere is a place where they’re burning coal for generating the electricity, then maybe that’s not necessarily a good way to go.

A story that I read in a copy of The Economist last month really shocked me.

It turns out that Beijing is bad, but comparatively speaking, it is not the worst.  Not by a long-shot.

The Economist reports: “New data suggest that, on this score, Delhi’s air has been 45% more polluted than that of the Chinese capital for the past couple years.”

The “score” they are referring to are particulate matter.  The smog in Beijing, apparently, is largely predicated on particulates 10 microns or smaller.  This is called “PM10.”

Delhi has more PM10 than Beijing.  In addition to which, there are PM2.5 particulates, which are smaller and, according to the story, “more likely to kill because they go deeper into the lungs.”

The story says, “Levels of PM2.5 in Delhi are routinely 15 times above levels considered safe by the World Health Organization.”

It’s that score.

According to the story, one of the key reasons why Delhi’s air has so much pollution is because of diesel trucks that roll into the country’s capital on a regular basis, trucks that are “belching sulphurous diesel smoke.”

Given that the city itself has some 11-million people, you need a lot of trucks to keep the place going.

Here in the United States, there are a raft of regulations for diesel engines, requirements that demand that the engines be fitted with diesel particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction systems to reduce NOx.  These are not inexpensive systems.  Yet they have been proven to phenomenally reduce the amount of particulates and NOx.  And similar regulations exist in other parts of the world.

There was a lot of concern expressed when the California Air Resources Board and the EPA put the regulations in place due to the costs associated with the systems.  But they’re in place and compliance is a must.

Systems like those required by the trucks hauling goods throughout the U.S. are unlikely to be installed in those trucks which are plying their trade in Delhi.

But one wonders: Isn’t there the potential that through a combination of economies of scale (i.e., the more systems you build, the less the overall cost per unit) and through some considerable attention being paid by the global engineering community, that there could be systems created for particulate and NOx reduction that would be affordable, usable, and, once installed, nearly forgettable (maintenance probably isn’t something high on the list of someone who is making daily deliveries)?

Let’s hope so.

Because even though the concentration of PM2.5 may be in Delhi, this is something of concern for all of us.  After all, we all breathe the same air.