Metro Detroit is one of 15 major metropolitan areas that a new health report concludes could greatly benefit from the complete transition to electric vehicles and transportation over the next 30 years, according to the American Lung Association.
The Chicago-based association’s The Road to Clean Air report concludes thousands of lives and billions of dollars could be saved if the nation transitioned away from fossil-fueled vehicles to cleaner modes of electric transportation.
“Much of the country gets failing grades when it comes to air pollution and we know the transportation sector is one of the biggest contributors to air quality. It’s not just about coal burning plants and factories,” said Ken Fletcher, director of advocacy in Michigan and Ohio with the American Lung Association’s Lansing office.
“If we make that transition from gas to clean energy, health and air quality will improve and the bad effects of climate change will be reduced. The impacts are pretty dramatic on the health of country, health care costs avoided, asthma attacks, lost work days and premature deaths.”
If electric vehicles replaced gas-powered cars, trucks and buses by 2050, benefits to metro Detroit include:
- avoiding approximately 145 premature deaths
- preventing more than 1,220 asthma attacks
- preventing 5,625 lost workdays per year
- $1.1 billion in public health benefits
Nationally, the impacts are even stronger. Benefits to moving toward zero-emission transportation technologies could add up to $72 billion in public health benefits, avoid $113 billion in climate impacts, save approximately 6,300 lives and avoid more than 93,000 asthma attacks and 416,000 lost work days.
The association also is collecting names for a petition to send to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to urge support of the transition to electric vehicles and the movement to such renewable energy as solar and wind power.
Fletcher said the association will be speaking out on state and federal legislation related to renewable energy, cleaner air, the movement to EVs, more charging stations and tax credits to help pay for cleaner air.
“We have made great progress since the Clean Air Act went into effect (1970), but we need to get to the next level,” Fletcher said. “Part of the issue is what is happening at the federal level. We are seeing a rollback of standards and the improvements we have made with the Clean Power Plan (rollback began in 2017).”
Fletcher said the debate has often become one between the higher costs to business in exchange for reduction in air pollution.
“Our report shows billions of dollars of health care costs to businesses and individual health due to air pollution. We want to move our discussion to health,” Fletcher said. “We will be coming out and aggressively in favor of electric vehicles to help with that transition.”
Each year, the ALA issues a State of the Air report that shows the relative air quality of the 50 states and many metro regions, including metro Detroit. Nearly half of all Americans are living with unhealthy air quality, and low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by bad air quality, the report concludes.
“Climate change threatens the health of all Americans, from wildfires and extreme storms to worsening air pollution,” the association said. “Poor air quality caused by transportation pollution contributes to a wide range of negative health impacts, including childhood asthma attacks, impaired lung function and development, lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes and premature deaths.”