The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently conducted a study to examine the effects of a 2009 California law that requires ships to switch to low-sulfur fuel and slow down when approaching the coast. The results were remarkable. Using sophisticated equipment to “sniff” the emissions of a ship while flying overhead, the NOAA discovered an astonishing 90% reduction in some air pollutants. Sulfur dioxide in particular — the pollutant associated with acid rain — plummeted, dropping 91% with the switchover. Even black carbon, the particulate that warms and degrades the atmosphere, dropped an unexpected 41%.

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“These scientific findings clearly demonstrate that ships off our coast now emit significantly less sulfur pollution than in the past,” said California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “This is good news for California and for the nation. When the federal regulations kick in for ships to use low-sulfur fuel, communities throughout America that live near shipping lanes and next to ports will see clean air benefits.” In 2009, an EPA and Environment Canada study estimated that requiring ships to switch to low-sulfur fuels near coasts could save as many as 8,300 lives per year in the U.S. and Canada, as well as relieve acute respiratory symptoms battled by another 3 million. With this new data factored in, the impact could actually be much greater.


Via AutoBlog Green