Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nothing Like the Smell of Toxic Fumes in the Morning....

As I drove to work this morning for a while I was driving behind a pick up truck that I believe was diesel. Whatever the fuel used, the truck was leaving a huge stream of smoke as it drove down the highway. Even the picture above doesn't do it justice.

I passed the poison-belching behemoth as quickly as possible but started thinking, what did I really accomplish?  All these other cars that I'm following are spewing hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulphur oxides just like the truck was except I couldn't see it. That's one of the problems with tailpipe pollution, it's mostly invisible so people don't really realize how bad it is to breathe or just think it dissipates in the air. I think if all tailpipe exhaust were visible, like it was on the truck, then people would be more concerned with it and demand change. Just because we can't see the poison doesn't mean it's not killing us.

Electric cars like the MINI-E aren't necessarily emission free. Sure there are no tailpipes but the electricity that was used to charge the batteries was probably generated from burning coal so there is pollution created which will come out of the smokestack of the power plant instead of the tailpipe of the car. However, it is much less than the pollution that you get from burning gasoline. Plus, if you really want to factor in the entire cradle to the grave environmental impact from oil as compared to coal then the difference becomes even more pronounced in the favor of the coal generated electricity. Then there is the fact you CAN make your own electricity like I do with my home solar PV array. This combination makes an EV a true zero emission vehicle. Lets hope the EV + PV combination becomes common in the near future now that electric vehicles will finally be available for sale here in the US. I'm looking forward to seeing less and less tailpipes in front of me as the shift to battery electric vehicles begins.


  1. I really hate being behind a diesel car/truck, even biofueled ones smell really bad.
    When I came back from a month in Arizona my eyes burned from all the bad air here.

  2. Hey Tom,

    Here are two links that I think are relavent to what you posted about: and


  3. Should have added those links are from here: and the members of that forum talk about the articles

  4. Tom,
    I've been meaning to do a entry almost exactly like this for SolarChargedDriving.Com -- but I typically forget my camera (and I'm a bit reluctant to take pics while behind the wheel).

    I can't tell you how many times I've wished I've had a camera/video camera to shoot/videotape the giant, black plumes of exhaust that fire out of trucks, buses, pick-ups, etc.

    You've inspired me. I'm going to have my camera there at all times and (while being safe) try and put together a slide-show/gallery of pictures of dirty diesel fumes. If I could, I'd take pictures of the fumes coming out of traditional gas cars, but, of course, generally you can't see that. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, what you can't see CAN hurt you!

    P.S. -- Take a trip to Costa Rica sometime, where a huge percentage of cars are old diesels, and you'll be in filthy, polluted tailpipe emissions picture taking heaven (I was there in March, but didn't have the right camera for the job).