Those of us who live in Bakersfield, Kern County, and elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley may not agree on everything, but, one thing we all seem to agree on is that the quality of the air that we breathe everyday is bad – real bad.
What many people may not know or appreciate, however, is where most of that air pollution originates. The average person probably believes that most of the smog we see nearly all year long comes from factories, refineries, oil field equipment, or other industrial sources. Others believe that most of the pollution drifts over into the Valley from the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles.
However, when the experts in air pollution analyze the data, they come up with a much different picture. That picture shows that industrial sources are a much smaller proportion of the total than most people realize. Additionally, although approximately 27 percent of the total air pollution in the northern portion of the District comes from the San Francisco Bay Area, the percentage drops to eleven percent in the central portion, and nine percent in the southern portion.
So what are the largest sources of air pollution? According to the San Joaquin Valley APCD, the emission inventory can be broken down into the following five categories of air pollution sources, with the percentage each contributes to overall totals shown as well.
Off-road vehicles such as this, popular with lots of people in Kern County and elsewhere, along with lawn & garden equipment, and other consumer products are part of a category that comprises about 20% of the Valley’s total air pollution inventory.
The San Joaquin Valley is one of the major agricultural centers of the United States. Farmers sometimes deal with post harvest waste by burning what is left. The process is now regulated by the SJVAPCD and is only allowed when certain atmospheric conditions exist. All sources of open burning represent about 9% of the total emission inventory in the Valley.
Fireplaces and wood stoves
Fireplaces and wood stoves are a significant portion of the air pollution problem in the San Joaquin Valley. Although the category is the smallest of the five discussed here (3% of the total), particulate pollution from such sources is a problem during the winter months and their use is restricted by the SJVAPCD. Many people have switched to natural gas fired fireplaces, such as the one shown here, to avoid such restrictions.
Many people think that industrial sources such as factories, power plants, and refineries like this one are the major sources of air pollution in the Valley. However, such sources only contribute 11% of the total emission inventory.
Here is the main reason the San Joaquin Valley, and other areas of the country such as Los Angeles, have such poor air quality – motor vehicles. More than half (57%) of all the pollution in the San Joaquin Valley comes from this category.
San Joaquin Valley Emissions Summary
Here is a general summary of sources that contribute to air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the air pollution comes from motor vehicles, a fact that not everyone appreciates.