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JayMac: Finding an air pollution solution in Utah

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2018 photo, smokestacks near an oil refinery are seen in front of the Utah State Capitol as an inversion settles over Salt Lake City. A new study released Monday, March 11, 2019, says African-Americans and Hispanics breathe in far more deadly air pollution than they are responsible for making. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Salt Lake City, Provo and Orem ranked No. 8 in the country for the worst short-term air pollution, according to the American Lung Association. Logan came in at No. 11. Salt Lake City, Provo and Orem also ranked 14th-worst for summer ozone pollution.

Randy Martin, an associate research professor at Utah State University, says the northern Wasatch Front is plagued in the wintertime by fine particulate matter pollution, or PM 2.5, due to low-level inversions that trap pollutants along the ground, which build up to unacceptable levels during cold weather.

Our dense population centers, topography, and inversions are a “perfect storm” for creating polluted air in northern Utah during the summer and winter. But Martin says the biggest source of pollution in the Cache Valley and along the Wasatch Front is vehicles: your car or truck. He says the pollution problem in the Beehive State is “not insurmountable,” but all Utahns “need to chip in” and limit their driving, carpool, drive better cars and fill up with Tier 3 fuels when they come out. For most refineries, the Tier 3 fuel requirements took effect on Jan.1, 2017, but the fuel standard grants Utah’s five refineries an extra three years to comply, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“We are all part of the problem, so we all need to be part of the solution,” says Martin.

So, there you go. It is We the Consumers who are primarily responsible for the pollution that fouls the air.

I’m guilty of this as well. I’d like to take public transportation when I can, but this year I’ve had so many things going on outside work that I ended driving a lot. Many of you would also like to take public transportation, but it’s such an inconvenience that you don’t. Why? Listeners say: 1) They don’t like standing in the cold, waiting for the bus. 2)  There are not enough buses running in my neighborhood or at my work. 3) It takes longer to get to my destination using public transit rather than just driving there.

I finally started using the FrontRunner train; not because I’m a big fan of the Earth and wanted to stop air pollution, but because UTA put in a stop near my home in Lehi. Public transit then became something that I preferred to driving.  I could now beat the traffic. I wasn’t stressed out due to road rage. I could get work done on the train or watch a movie or just rest. Somebody else was at the wheel.

If you can get a lot of the upside and ditch some of the downsides, then you have an equation that works for commuters.

Political distractions

I touched on this earlier in the week on Earth Day. The big, global arguments can stop us from acting on a pollution solution. We get caught up in academic questions: Is climate change caused by mankind or not? It becomes a political distraction, a partisan divide, and stops us. We let ourselves off the hook when we turn it into an abstraction. We take the focus off finding a local solution to something that has nothing to do with politics: air pollution. Let’s get to the business of solving problems that are real and forget about politics.

Here’s a real solution for air pollution: Telecommuting.

I would love to do “The JayMac Show” at home in my PJs and have my feet up in the Jay-Z-boy recliner. That would be incredible.

Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Don’t forget to review and subscribe to the JayMac News Show podcast on Apple Podcasts. Or follow Jay on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.