The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Airing the Truth

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted August 4, 2009

There's no doubt about it--the air is much cleaner today than it was a few years ago. The City of Los Angeles is no longer engulfed in a brown haze; the air in the Ohio Valley now has a crisp, clean smell; and Milwaukee residents are breathing easier than ever before.

Yet, the perception lingers that the air is dirty and is becoming increasingly unhealthful. So, let's set the record straight using the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) own air quality monitoring numbers.

  • EPA chart.JPG
  • According to the EPA, emissions from six criteria air pollutants (CO, NO2, SO2, lead, ozone, particulate matter) dropped by 60 percent between 1970 and 2008, while vehicle miles traveled went up 163 percent.
  • Nitrogen oxide levels (NO2) fell by 46 percent between 1980 and 2008 and are expected to continue declining. The standard of 53 parts per billion hasn't been exceeded since 1991.
  • Emissions resulting from the combustion of diesel fuel are dropping as a result of the introduction of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel fuel and new vehicles with advanced pollution control equipment. Together they will reduce emissions associated with diesel fuel combustion by 90 percent.
  • Since 1988, releases and transfers of toxic chemicals from the petroleum industry have decreased by 65 percent and more progress is expected.

In his testimony at a public hearing yesterday, Howard Feldman, API's director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, said, "Looking forward, further improvements will come through current regulations designed to meet the existing standards."

Howard also testified that since 1990, the oil and natural gas industry has invested more than $175 billion towards improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities and operations. In 2007 alone, the industry spent $14 billion in environmental expenditures--57 percent of which was focused on meeting or surpassing the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The hearing was held to discuss the EPA's proposal to establish a short-term NO2 standard. API believes the standard is unnecessary due to the nation's continuing air quality improvements.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.