Last week, Jay Leno appeared on the Bill Maher's Real Time. I've never been much of a Jay Leno watcher and don't know much about him, but apparently he's very knowledgeable about cars. The segment got under way with a discussion of our surprisingly low fuel prices over the last month. Leno predicted the reason for the price drop was that we are driving smarter, more fuel efficient cars. There are probably 20 million more cars on the road than there were ten years ago but we are using less fuel.
He gave an interesting comparison about how our cars have changed over the years. A 1977 Ford Galaxy parked on the road with the engine off pollutes the air more than a new car driving down the road at 65 mph. The paint used on the Galaxy alone pollutes the air. Our cars are being built better and therefore our pollution has actually been greatly reduced over the last 20-30 years. And in a city like Los Angeles, where we are addicted to our cars and have very limited public transportation, that reduction in pollution does say something about those pesky regulations that have been placed on cars over the last several years.
Leno referenced not being able to see the mountains when he first moved out here in the mid 70s due to the smog we had here. Having been born in the 70s, I have actually witnessed the reversed pollution that has taken place over the last several years. I vividly remember looking out towards the mountains, any of them, and have them be just covered in a haze of brown smog. Our air was BROWN. It would sock itself in The Valley (the mountains corralling it in), and you could literally see the air.
There were many days when, as a kid who played outside for hours, it would hurt to breathe. A deep breath would seize up your lungs. When telling our parents about how our chests hurt after running and playing, they would say things like, "It's the smog. Try taking smaller breaths," or, "Don't breathe too deeply when you're outside." We had been the most polluted city for so many years, it was just the norm.
But now, it is a rare day to see the brown haze hanging over our heads, and I can't tell you the last time my chest hurst. We are still a heavily polluted city in other types of pollutants, but so much less of it comes from our cars. But it does always make me chuckle when, once-in-a-blue moon, poor air quality is calculated and we have to keep our school kids inside the buildings. The announcement is given via the PA system. It makes me roll more eyes. Air quality? You have got to be kidding me. If your chest ain't hurting when you breathe, it's fine!
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