“We are experiencing unusually low levels of gas-phase and particulate air pollutants compared with last year, same day. The good air quality across the United States results from the current public stay-at-home behavior and shutdown of nonessential businesses. However, as people get better and return to work and as businesses and industries resume normal operations, we can expect air pollutant levels to return to usual levels,” said Mazurek, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering and air quality expert at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation.
“The question is can we still hold on to the better air quality levels we have enjoyed during this COVID-19 period by bringing back cleaner energy sourcing to the transportation, industrial, commercial and residential sectors?” she asked.
The transportation sector is one of the largest sources of fine particle pollution. Every year, according to federal data, vehicles travel slightly more than 3 trillion miles in the United States and about 76 percent of the total petroleum supply goes into fueling those vehicle miles. In addition to the regulated pollutants emitted per mile traveled, carbon dioxide gas is another important global pollutant, with 19.60 pounds emitted for every gallon of gasoline consumed. This makes higher fuel economy for on-road vehicles a critical objective, according to Mazurek.
“This is a great time to reset how our transportation miles are fueled,” Mazurek said. “Maintaining the 2012 fuel efficiency goal of 52 miles per gallon overall by 2025 is an important national standard. Also, vehicle manufacturers should continue producing 100 percent electric and plug-in hybrids. Going forward with new stimulus funding, installation of recharging stations in urban residential areas with high density populations will help transition us to better air quality and better health.”
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