OPINION: Zero Emissions in Spain: Why Not Here?

Photo courtesy of Michael Weymouth

October 11, 2022 By Michael Weymouth

Walking out of Terminal E at Logan Airport on a return trip from Spain the other day, my wife, Peggy, and I were greeted by the strong smell of diesel fumes from passing buses. It was a reminder of how far behind we are in this country when it comes to the quest for clean air. Not too long ago, the same could have been said about many cities across the pond. Anyone who walked the narrow streets in Europe in years past had to put up with choking diesel fumes. As a young traveler, I can recall Parisian streets so full of fumes you felt like you were taking your life in your hands just walking along them. Cars and trucks were the big contributors, but public transportation buses played their part as well.

That is changing in many European cities, as more and more countries are developing zero emission programs for their inner cities.

The Spanish capitol, Madrid, has developed a zero emissions plan that will replace 25 percent of its bus fleet by 2025 with electric buses, not the kind that requires a complicated and unattractive overhead electrification system, such as the Boston trolley system, but buses with rechargeable batteries.

Upon opening the mail on our return, we received a flyer from masspirgedfund.org promoting electric buses for Massachusetts, stating that “On a typical day in the United States, buses carry 25 million children to and from school. Their exhaust spews known carcinogens into the air we breathe, polluting our communities, endangering our health and putting our climate at greater risk.”

If we are to live up to the claim that we are the Greatest Nation, we should not be standing by while European countries are actually doing something about their inner city pollution.

If there is a problem with electric buses it’s the fact they are so quiet you have to be extra cautious when you step off the curb into the bus lanes. I should also point out that Madrid streets have dedicated bike lanes which also call for extra caution when crossing streets. Plus I have never seen so many battery-powered scooters zipping through a city. Back to the future!

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