Natural Gas A Solution for Israel’s Transport Pollution
Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) has issued new instructions to owners of heavy vehicle fleets, in order to reduce air pollution. As a result of the new rules, older and more polluting heavy vehicles will be retired, in part replaced by vehicles powered by electricity or natural gas. The MoEP has found that one-third of vehicular emissions are from buses and trucks, even though they make up only about 5% of the vehicles on the road.
The MoEP issued the new rules through the authority given to it from the Clean Air Act (2008). In the first stage, the new rules will apply only to the 28 largest heavy vehicle fleets, which include at least 100 vehicles that weigh more than 10 tons. These include transportation companies such as Egged and Dan, companies that run shuttle buses and tour buses, municipality garbage trucks, and vehicles belonging to transportation and distribution companies – such as the Central Bottling Company.
Altogether, the new rules will affect some 12,000 vehicles, about a quarter of all heavy vehicles in Israel. The rules deal mainly with reducing the amount of pollution emitted from heavy vehicles that run on diesel. Exposure to the exhaust from diesel engines is is known to cause cancer and have other health effects.
- Set an average emissions target for a fleet of vehicles, so that by 2018, it will meet the Euro 4 and Euro 5 emission standards;
- Prohibit the use of particularly polluting vehicles;
- Require that engines be turned off when vehicles are idle;
- Require gradual use in alternative fuel vehicles (electric, hybrid, natural gas, or biodiesel), so that by 2020, 3% of the fleet will be powered by alternative fuels;
- Set rules to prevent visible smoke emission from vehicles;
- Require drivers to be trained in cost-effective and “green” driving;
- Require fleet owners to register, submit reports, and publicize those reports, so that the public will be able to monitor the compliance of these companies to the pollution targets.
Compliance will be possible, among other things, through the installation of filters, removal of old and polluting vehicles from use, equipping fleets with new vehicles, and use of alternative fuel technologies. Companies that are not compliant with the provisions could face fines of up to NIS 850,000 (USD 216,000), as well as criminal punishment. It should be noted that many companies already use newer vehicles, and so the costs for those companies will be minimal in order to comply with the provisions. Those companies whose fleets are still composed of old and polluting vehicles will incur larger costs.
Beyond substantially reducing the emission of pollutants as a result of the provisions, the requirement to use alternative fuels is designed to promote such technology in Israel. Until now, despite the fact that use of these technologies would result in financial savings, there are barriers to their entry into the Israeli market. Many companies, for example, are prepared to use natural gas-powered vehicles, but won’t make the move until there are enough stations where they can fill up. Meantime, gas companies won’t install natural gas stations until there are enough fleets running on natural gas. Because the provisions require companies to own alternative fuel vehicles by mid-2016, the barriers that are preventing a significant penetration of these technologies into the Israeli market will be broken. As a result, buses and garbage trucks will be be quieter and more pleasant for everyone, including drivers, passengers, and those on the road.
Tools that the MoEP uses to measure air pollution in population centers indicate high concentrations of pollutants that are not in accordance with accepted standards, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. A report recently published by the OECD showed that air pollution in Israel leads to 2,500 premature deaths each year. Most of the pollution in urban areas come from vehicular emissions.
An analysis conducted by the MoEP found that one-third of vehicular emissions are from buses and diesel trucks, even though they make up only about 5% of the vehicles on the road. The main problem stems from old and polluting trucks and buses. To illustrate this point, 35% of the buses are responsible for 75% of all bus emissions. The urgency to put these provisions in place in order to reduce air pollution in Israel is clear.
Tel Aviv is the second most pullted city in Israel, after Haifa, largely due to vehicular emissions. Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, takes fourth place, a dubious distinction that, like Tel Aviv, is the result of vehicular emissions.