Fuel-efficient vehicles could save $7.2 billion annually in California health costs

(May 11, 2011)

la-times

May 11, 2011

California could save $7.2 billion in healthcare costs -- and prevent more than 400 premature deaths -- annually if the state adopts a 64 miles- per-gallon equivalent fuel economy standard, according to a report released Tuesday by the American Lung Assn. in California.

The Road to Clean Air study estimates a 70% reduction in asthma attacks, respiratory emergency room visits and lost work and school days if the current fleet of vehicles on California roads is replaced with zero- and near-zero-emission vehicles, such as battery electrics, plug-in electrics and fuel-cell vehicles by 2025.

The study is released as consumers wrestle with escalating gas prices, the federal government debates healthcare and California's Air Resources Board and the Obama administration consider advanced clean-car standards to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Draft regulations of the standards for 2017-2025 year models are under negotiation between California and federal officials and are scheduled to be formally proposed in September.

However, automobile companies are lobbying against a preliminary proposal by the Obama administration to toughen fuel efficiency standards from 35.5 mpg in 2016 to 47 mpg to 62 mpg by 2025, saying it would cost too much to implement.

Almost half of California air pollution comes from cars and trucks, and 90% of Californians live in areas with unhealthful air, according to California air officials.

The Road to Clean Air healthcare costs were calculated by comparing cars that meet today's fuel economy standards to a future vehicle mix incorporating higher fuel economy technologies. The study converted the reduction in tons of air pollution and carbon emissions to avoided health outcomes and costs using an Environmental Protection Agency methodology, said ALA spokeswoman Bonnie Holmes-Gen.