Japan’s Polluters, Part II

by Benjamin Jones on June 15, 2009

Since complaining about the extreme pollution from diesel buses in Japan the other day, I have noticed something else: it’s not just the buses.

At first I thought it was just the little 50cc scooters because their engine size exempted them from many of the Japanese regulations. Then I thought it was just sub 400cc motorcycles because their regulations were less strict. Eventually I realized there were just as many gas-burners spewing black trails of hydrocarbons as there were diesel buses putting out clouds of particulates.

So, what’s the deal? I certainly did not notice this trend the last time I was up by Tokyo. Perhaps rural emissions standards tend to be lower, like in the U.S. Perhaps no one is paying attention.

Either way, it is taught me a valuable lesson about the strict emissions standards we adhere to in the United States. While some in the industry and elsewhere complain that our emissions standards are overly strict compared to more densely populated regions like Japan and Europe, I tend to disagree.

The general philosophy is that Americans have gone nuts trying to reduce emissions to the point that they are no longer a problem. A little but more and we would never even notice, right? Not quite. Sometimes we take out air quality for granted in the U.S. I can remember looking out over the Philadelphia skyline on any number of occasions and never once thinking about automobile pollution.

However, on any given day in Kumamoto, a small city by most standards, it is hard to see the mountains across the city because they are so obscured by the slight haze the always hangs in the air.

So, don’t be tempted to think U.S. regulations are too strict. They may be expensive and a pain for auto companies, but they keep our air clean and the health and human well-being from that is probably immeasurable.

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