NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 14, 2005

In an effort to curb air pollution, Italy has restricted or banned private cars in several of its major cities. But this band-aid approach does not solve anything, says columnist Carlo Stagnaro.

In fact evidence shows that air pollution is on the decline and little of it is actually attributed to private vehicles.

  • In Western countries, concentrations of small particles are declining on average.
  • In Milan, sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped by 86 percent, nitrous oxide 45 percent, carbon by 65 percent, and benzene by 90 percent.
  • Private cars emit less than 10 percent of global particles; the remainder comes from commercial vehicles and public transportation.

Furthermore, cars become cleaner as people attain more wealth and trade in older cars for newer, more efficient models.

Besides the prohibition on cars, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi raised the tax on diesel fuel and gas by .5 and 1 eurocent per liter, respectively. Italy's environmental minister is confident the tax will be absorbed by consumers without extra cost, but both consumers and industry will surely pay a price, says Stagnaro.

Source: Carlo Stagnaro, "Exhausting the Options," Tech Central Station, March 4, 2005.

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