New York Times: Vehicle Emissions In Jacksonville Up 53% Since 1990

Oct 16, 2019

Despite the advances made in lowering vehicle emissions since 1990, the amount of pollution generated by vehicles in Jacksonville has gone up 53% over roughly the past three decades.

That’s according to an analysis done by The New York Times that looked at data from Boston University’s Database of Road Transportation Emissions. The period examined was 1990 to 2017.

Jacksonville’s population steadily grew over that time.  Using U.S. Census data, World Population Review found Jacksonville’s population rose from 635,230 in 1990, to 891,736 in 2017. That’s an increase of just over 40%.

Related: Florida To Use Big Chunk Of VW Settlement Money For Cleaner Buses

The emission increases were even larger in some other Florida cities, rising 126% in Naples and 98% in Orlando.

A typical passenger vehicle, which gets about 22 miles per gallon and is driven approximately 11,500 miles per year, emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the EPA.

However, the amount of pollution generated by vehicles can vary, even among two cars that get the same gas mileage. 

Older vehicles, especially those made before catalytic converters became common in 1975, pollute more per gallon.  Vehicles with emission-control components in need of repair or purposely defeated by their owners (See “rolling coal”) also pollute more.

Florida used to have a vehicle emission inspection program. As The Tampa Bay Times reported, inspectors spotted thousands of vehicles every year that didn't pass. The newspaper reported that inspectors ordered 25,941 drivers to repair their vehicles or scrap them in 1999 alone.

But former Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature eliminated the program in 2000. The Tampa Bay Times reported Florida’s emissions inspection program cost $52 million a year.

Florida is among the states most vulnerable to climate change, in which vehicle emissions play a significant role.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated $351 billion worth of Florida homes will be at risk from tidal flooding by the end of the century, including a significant portion on the First Coast.

Tidal flooding is increasing due to rising seas, which in turn are being triggered by the greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and other sources of pollution.

The Times analysis gives a mixed picture for Jacksonville, though. Although overall vehicle emissions are up, the amount of pollution generated per driver decreased by 5% over the same time period.  

More information about how the First Coast is responding to sea level rise is at adaptflorida.org.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.