SAN DIEGO -- Motorized off-road vehicle use in California releases as much greenhouse gas as burning 500,000 barrels of oil each year — equivalent to more than 1.5 million car trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles — according to an important report released this week.
Fuel to Burn: The Climate and Public Health Implications of Off-Road Vehicle Pollution in California is the first report to assess the impacts of off-road vehicle use on human health and global climate change. The report shows that if left unchecked, emissions from off-road vehicles will continue to skyrocket. It recommends that the state of California ensure that emissions from this source are reduced at the same pace as other sources.
“Off-road vehicles release the same greenhouse gases as your car and emit significantly more pollution. Their impact cannot continue to be ignored,” said biologist Chris Kassar, a co-author of the report. “To meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health, the state of California must address this growing source of pollution.”
The report found: Recreational off-road vehicles — including dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles — consume 26 million gallons of gasoline each year in California. This is equivalent to the amount of gasoline used for 1.5 million car trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
-- Pollution from off-road vehicles in California has doubled in the past 15 years. Some off-road vehicles emit as much pollution in a single hour as more than 30 automobiles operating for the same period.
-- The state of California is facilitating the increasing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from off-road recreation by providing financial support and permits to federal land-management agencies that encourage off-road recreation on their lands.
California has among the poorest air quality in the nation and is home to 13 of 20 counties nationwide most at risk of adverse health impacts from smog. Off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles produce 118 times as much smog-forming pollution as modern cars on a per-mile basis.
In Imperial County, which has among the state’s highest childhood asthma rates, off-road vehicles are a leading contributor to the region’s poor air quality. Much of southern California's bad air blows in to Yuma and western Arizona, harming citizens there. Still, California continues to exempt the most polluting off-road vehicles from state air-quality laws.
“Because of the significant pollution caused by off-road vehicles, a reduction in emissions will have important health benefits for Californians,” said Monique Lopez of the Clean Air Initiative.
The report urges the state to address the twin goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health by immediately addressing the pollution and emissions from off-road vehicles.
Recommendations include: Consistent with the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) and a gubernatorial executive order, reducing emissions from off-road vehicles to at least 1990 levels by 2020 with further reductions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
-- Requiring that federal agencies applying for state funding and permits are adequately addressing the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution associated with off-road vehicle use.
-- Eliminating loopholes that allow continued use of polluting off-road vehicles that fail to meet state emission standards; and Rejecting federal permit applications for continued or expanded off-road vehicle use on public lands in areas that do not meet air-quality standards.