One of the hazards of being a 15-20 hour per week cyclist is high exposure to traffic exhaust fumes. The emissions coming from “classic” cars–and pre-particulate filter diesels–are amongst the worst. We are about as advanced in our public attitudes with car exhaust today as we were with cigarette smoke fifty years ago. We just have not made the connection that this car exhaust is killing people, and dramatically reducing the quality of life for everybody. There is no amount that is good for you. The classic cars are putting out a disproportionate share and making Southwest cities like Phoenix, Albuquerque and Las Vegas reputed for their health benefits and lifestyles failures in meeting clean air quality standards for metrics such as ozone.
That’s why I was excited to hear rock star Neil Young telling about his 1959 Lincoln which he converted to battery and ethanol power and went from 9 miles per gallon to 80. This a great statement in the classic car area. Cars are an important part of our heritage and Young has ingeniously transformed a beloved vehicle and made it less toxic to the atmosphere and the human lung. Reconciling my love with motor vehicles, human health and environment has all of a sudden become less challenging. Better choices with better outcomes for applying ingenuity. If we could incorporate some job creation in this nascent custom car building and refurbishing industry by say implementing a classic car green conversion program at our local community colleges, such as Santa Fe’s Sustainable Technologies Center, that would be a great pathway to harness the creative talents of young people by coupling them with an extant passion infused with a new techno twist that’s better for everyone. Infusing the car industry with sustainability focused tech shops could also do things like retrofit dirty diesels with particulate filters. Funds might be well applied here in creating industry that’s good for the environment and rolls right along with our classic traditions, giving this country a sweet lift.