Environmentalism

Smoggy Reporting

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This sort of story is typical when it comes to covering pollution. The American Lung Association has released its latest pollution rankings. The AP reports:

Los Angeles can continue being the butt of smog jokes now that it has once again topped the American Lung Association's bad air list of most polluted cities in America.

The association found that the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metropolitan area had the worst air based on 2003 through 2005 figures.

The Pittsburgh area was ranked as the nation's second most polluted metropolitan area followed by Bakersfield, Calif., Birmingham, Ala., Detroit and Cleveland. Visalia, Calif., Cincinnati, Indianapolis and St. Louis rounded out the top 10.

That's useful news, at least when it comes to ranking cities (and ranking on cities). The brief article also includes these tidbits, which will surely never get played up in headlines or opening paragraphs:

The news wasn't all bad for Los Angeles. Despite the dubious distinction, the number of days residents breathed the nation's worst ozone levels was fewer than in previous years….

Nearly half of the U.S. population lives in counties that still have unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution, even though there appeared to be less ozone in many counties than previous years, the study found.

Hmmm, so air quality seems to be getting better, despite overall population and economic growth in these United States? Why doesn't that sort of thing ever get pushed to the top of such stories? Whole thing here.

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  1. It’s become quite the fad in Islam, too, especially in Turkey. They even use Institute for Creation Research (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) materials.

    So, if you believe in Intelligent Design, you’re helping terrorism. Or something.

  2. Remember, it is May Day. Waive your Mexican flag to spread out the smok from your American flag and reduce smog.

  3. Because, Nick, the air is still pretty crappy in a, cough, hack…lotta places.

  4. “Hmmm, so air quality seems to be getting better…”

    That’s quite a conclusion to make from one quote stating that other cities are catching up to LA’s smog on many days, and another saying that there is “less ozone in many counties.” It appears your mind was just as made up one way as theirs was the other before writing.

    In the end, though, I think you will be proven right. Just not by this study.

  5. Sandy took a wrong turn.

  6. Remember, smog is half of a spoonerism combined
    fog and smoke hence the spoonerism foke ‘n smog.
    Can’t have the weathermen/women broadcasting many
    times daily
    about the foke’n smog…probably a law against
    that.

  7. “That’s useful news, at least when it comes to ranking cities (and ranking on cities).”

    Not cities, Nick. Metropolitan areas. Where the hell is Visalia, California?

    Also, the big story as I see it – no Houston? Didn’t Houston used to be #1?

  8. Anybody who thinks the smog is worse today than it was thirty years ago wasn’t alive thirty years ago.

    LA may be bad, but anyone who has driven through the farm country of the Central Valley in summer has to wonder just how growing produce in ozone affects one’s ingestion of pollutants.

    Joe: Central Valley includes Visalia (ranked 9th worst) as well as Sacramento to Bakersfield. In fact, 9 of the top 20 worst smog pits are in Californicate. Like, the entire state.

  9. I believe NYC was ranked high on this list too (although it didn’t make that brief article), if I heard the squawking of the local media outlets correctly. I guess they only rank large metros? Cuz NYC air is sparkling clean compared to where I grew up, Rochester–where Kodak belches forth the most interesting shades of foul-smelling pink smoke ever.

  10. Why doesn’t that sort of thing ever get pushed to the top of such stories?

    Because we don’t know exactly why that would be? I’m not a major fan of speculative news stories (which happen all the time). I can just see the headline now:
    “Smog Levels in US Cities declining, study says”
    and then it would be an entire article about a few people who were interviewed and how they think that their agenda is what caused these smog levels to decline.

  11. Visalia and Bakersfield are both in the San Joaquin Valley, Central California’s agricultural region. Bakersfield is at the south end, closer to LA, and Visalia is farther north. I keep hearing that the San Joaquin valley is becoming more and more polluted. Perhaps it is because lots of people are moving in, since the housing is relatively affordable.

    Anecdotally, when I drive up the 99 through the valley, I often experience poor air quality caused by clouds of dust and fertilizer which sweep across the fields. I definitely keep my vents closed and my windows rolled up. My car is always covered with brown silt after a visit.

  12. Visalia and Bakersfield are both in the San Joaquin Valley, Central California’s agricultural region. Bakersfield is at the south end, closer to LA, and Visalia is farther north. I keep hearing that the San Joaquin valley is becoming more and more polluted. Perhaps it is because lots of people are moving in, since the housing is relatively affordable.

    How could a State full of grainola sucking hippies be polluted?

  13. How could a State full of grainola sucking hippies be polluted?

    Kinda answers itself, doesn’t it?

  14. They think Pittsburgh is still the smokey city? That hasn’t been true for about 30 years when big steel left the county. Even then the air was mostly clear, thanks to smoke control implemented in the late 40’s early 50’s. My dad remembers a time when trees wouldn’t grow on the hillsides because of the smoke from the mills and the trains in the valley. Today the mills and trains are all gone, the land where they stood is covered by shopping malls that produce more wealth, inflation adjusted, than their industrial forebearers

  15. I thought that Houston’s absence was glaring, too. There have been improvements to our refineries but that’s surely cancelled out by the gridlock on the 59, I-10, and all the sidestreets everyone takes to get out of those two.

  16. Ron–You’re confused. That wasn’t a news story, that was PR by proxy.

    AP just pulled a rip and read from the Lung people and dressed it up as news. For it to be news, they might have at least tried to find *one* other source confirming the conclusions of ALS, or one disputing them.

    Next up on the meat hook, “Florida continues to have highest number of Floridians in the nation.”

  17. Nice to see Detroit make the top five…anything. Hopefully nothing happens at the MayDay “rally” here today that puts us on the top five of the national news for violent protests.

    Maybe if they make smoking illegal in CA this will solve the problem. I’m sure it’s the second hand smoke!

  18. damn, guy montag, you and RC dean are just totally tag team whooping up on those strawmen.

  19. To what degree can we credit the Clean Air Act? Can anyone point me to an objective analysis of its effects?

  20. This is B.S. about St.Louis. Seems like everyone is always slamming the city. I’ve lived here for 37 years. Trust me, it’s not dirty or polluted.

  21. Yes, the best news here is that Houston is not even in the top ten this time. LA has been #1 for a long time, and Houston taking over seems to have been an anomaly. Guess liberals can say it’s because George W. isn’t governor anymore. 😀

  22. Bela’s Paternal Unit:

    Hitman and Brit Bulldog!

    Tag team and rivals!
    hier

    (dontcha get the impression they had to slow the teleprompter way, way down?)

  23. Lupito41:

    “less ozone in many counties” is a *good* thing.

    I have to agree with gms – if St. Louis is in the top ten, metro air quality must be in very good shape nationwide.

  24. There have been improvements to our refineries but that’s surely cancelled out by the gridlock on the 59, I-10, and all the sidestreets everyone takes to get out of those two.

    Nope. Modern, well maintained cars produce very little smog. Once the catalytic converters reach operating temp, they produce practically none.

    This just goes to show you what a sham the damn “environmental speed limits” are.

  25. Why all the ripping on CA in this thread?

    Granola sucking hippies? Jeebus.

  26. Funny how Houston took the title from LA when Bush was running for President as Texas Governor, but all the sudden it drops out of the top 5 without any change to emissions in Harris County??? If anything, our growth has exceeded the national average and the ship channel area (where most of the pollution arises) is busier than ever.

    Makes me wonder if the person(s) putting together that dirtiest city list might have a political agenda, or something…

  27. FYI, National (and local) statistics and trends for air quality can be found at the epa website. There’s also a summary for 2006 air quality trends. The graph at the bottom of the summary is especially enlightening.

  28. Makes me wonder if the person(s) putting together that dirtiest city list might have a political agenda, or something…

    Oh, that is impossible. They all have Humanities degrees, the most objective of them all!

  29. I thought the same thing too JWD. I seem to remember Texas and Houston in particular being portrayed as two steps below Mexico City during the 00 and 04 elections. Now, not one Texas city makes the top ten despite three of the nations ten largest metropolitian areas (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio) being in the state. Odd how that works.

  30. The AP article actually starts in the middle of the American Lung Association story. Go to the original link: http://www.lungusa.org/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=40404&ct=3834289
    Here is the first line from the report: NEW YORK NY, May 1, 2007-For the first time since the American Lung Association began issuing its annual air quality report card, data reveal a split picture along either side of the Mississippi River, as particle pollution (soot)-the most dangerous pollutant-increased in the East but decreased in the West, while ozone (smog) decreased nationwide from peaks reported in 2002.
    But the AP skipped to the middle which ripped LA! The meat of this story was the disturbing trend on the east of the country, but the AP writer spun it to emphasize pollution in California.

    Air quality is poorly reported by the press. European scientists who come here always tell me how impressed they are by our clean air; apparently Europe’s air is continuing to get worse while America’s is showing some improvement. Sadly, this kind of pseudoreporting is normal for how the AP reports on environmental issues.

  31. GG has the best link for AP bias reporting purposes. It’s worth noting that although the ALA exists in large part to support regulation of air quality (the most recent “advocacy” story is “Nation’s Air Quality Picture Split East-West, As Research Shows Life-and-Death Need for More Protective Federal Standards”), even the ALA gives a clear statement that everywhere is improving. Not a conclusion that they want to bring out, but if you compare the 2006 State of the Air report with the 2007, you get happy conclusions.

    My Californian girlfriend was convinced that air quality was getting worse in areas that are being built up, so we went through a dozen or so counties that she thought would be getting worse. All of them were improving. Giving reports that assess polution by internal ranking, rather than parts per million or whatever guarantees that the story will always be bad.

    The report from 2006 is available here:
    http://lungaction.org/reports/stateoftheair2006.html

  32. Anon STL:

    “‘less ozone in many counties’ is a *good* thing.”

    No shit. But it still doesn’t add up to the conclusion drawn in the piece. It’s another case of searching for facts to support your prejudice.

  33. Bush has a history of editing EPA reports to something more of his liking. The first EPA report issued after he took office was edited to remove man’s connection to global warming.

    I can understand him disagreeing with the report, everyone has an opinion, but to edit a EPA report to reflect YOUR opinion in lieu of the EPA’s opinion is dishonest.

  34. With all the anti-smoking laws being passed, soon the only pollution you will be allowed to breath is that sanctioned by the government. You can’t give you kids bad air but industry can. Go figure.

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