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Sunday, November 19 2017 @ 07:48 PM UTC

Car users pollute but do not foot the bill

Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: Note this is in Europe where they pay a higher gas tax then what we do.]
Every car in Europe produces external costs of an equivalent of 1,600 Euro (on average) annually in noise, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and accidents, not covered by liability insurance. This is the key figure of a new study called “The true costs of automobility: External costs of cars” that was put together and presented in the European Parliament by Prof Becker, Chair of Transport Ecology from University of Dresden. Becker deplores that the basic principle of a market economy – the polluter pays the full costs him- or herself – is not applied: “These costs are charged to the whole society, to other regions and to future generations”, he says.

Becker’s other main findings include:

* For the EU-27, the overall sum of uncovered costs related to car use amounts to € 373 billion per year, the equivalent of roughly 3.0 % of the EU’s GDP or the GDP of Belgium. The report also gives detailed national figures for each of the EU-27 Member States.
* On average, every EU citizen pays € 750 of subsidies per year.
* Per vehicle km (vkm), external costs equal 13 Euro-cents on EU-average.
* 41 % of these external costs are due to accidents and 37 % to climate change. The remaining 22 % divide up on air pollution, noise and other effects.

The study did neither take congestion nor the full health costs – due to physical inactivity – into account. The main economic benefit of cycling is on the health side, due to physical exercise. Using WHO’s Health Economic Assessment Tool for Cycling, ECF calculated a health benefit of € 108 – 118 bn in reduced mortality at current levels of cycling in the EU-27.[i] Reversing this argument, door to door car journeys are a major reason for sedentary lifestyles – 35 % of the population in the WHO European region is insufficiently physically active. The WHO warns that child obesity will become one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.[ii]

“That is what the fair deal [for cars] is about”: In efficient societies and market economies, “prices have to provide the right signals in order to increase efficiency and avoid irrational mobility choices,” Becker’s executive summary concludes.

About 50 % of all car trips in Europe are shorter than 5 km, a distance that could be easily cycled in many cases. ECF therefore fully supports the opinion of the author that external costs of motorized transport should be as completely and as quickly internalized as possible.

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