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Summary:

With large sums of cash rolling out of federal coffers to help reduce vehicle emissions, and major policy decisions coming down the pike for how those emissions will be regulated, you’d hope that the government has a tool for assessing how new policies and changes in […]

With large sums of cash rolling out of federal coffers to help reduce vehicle emissions, and major policy decisions coming down the pike for how those emissions will be regulated, you’d hope that the government has a tool for assessing how new policies and changes in the U.S. fleet are likely to affect emission levels. Well, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released the official updated version of its modeling system for estimating emissions from cars, trucks and other mobile sources of emissions on U.S. roads.

It’s the tenth update since the original model came out in 1978, and the first update in five years. The new modeling system is meant to provide more accurate picture of how much pollution will be produced or prevented as a result of different initiatives and emission control strategies.

This latest update — called MOVES2010 (for Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator) — represents a few “firsts” for the EPA modeling system. It’s written in Java and based on MySQL‘s open-source database software, which is commonly used by web companies (Om has called it “the real broadband brain“), and it includes a graphical user interface. MOVES2010 enables analysis of emission impacts across multiple scales, according to the EPA, from the national level down to county transportation projects.

As the EPA explains in its user guide, MOVES2010 will help answer “what if” questions, such as, “How would particulate matter emissions decrease in my state on a typical weekday if truck travel was reduced during rush hour?” or “How does the total hydrocarbon emission rate change if my fleet switches to gasoline from diesel fuel?”

With the new system, the agency says it will be able to incorporate large amounts of data about vehicle emissions from a variety of sources. Meanwhile, the states and local governments that use the modeling system to inventory their emissions (as part of requirements under federal air quality regulations) will be able to view emissions in several output formats. For example, the system can provide an estimate for the total mass of pollutants (e.g. tons or grams of CO2), or emissions for specific areas and time periods. That contrasts with previous versions, which only offered a grams-per-mile output.

Overall, the upgrades in this latest version — in particular the new database approach — are meant to make the system much more flexible than previous models. The 2004 version, called Mobile6.2 was written in the programming language Fortran and ran on DOS, while many of the data elements were hardcoded and difficult to modify. Systems like MOVES2010 (released in draft form earlier this year) help inform “decisions about air pollution policy and programs at the local, state and national level,” according to the EPA.

In a time when the agency and Congress are considering regulations for greenhouse gas emissions — and years after databases first became, as Om put it back in 2004, the most crucial piece of software in “a broadband enabled life” — improvements in accuracy, capacity for deep data analysis, aggregation and disaggregation, and speedy updates can’t come too soon.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dr. Keats

  1. Guenther Eigentler Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    Dear Madam
    Dear Sir

    I am Austrian by birth and have been quite an active environmentalist at home and abroad for over 35 years. (Results → poor).

    The ideas you will be given hereafter have – as far as I know – not been expressed by any other person yet. Now please do not think that I am someone that wants to make himself listened to or someone that is – as the English would say – a Jack of all trades. I rather consider myself quite a normal person, who at times is confronted with an idea that sounds fascinating. The topic of the case I would ask you to take into consideration is Global Warming. I assume you will be sighing now, whispering: “Not again!” …. You may even look out of the window – which exactly is the instance my flux of ideas sets in.

    What can you see out there? I assume a number of people, houses, vehicles. Right? Many vehicles? The better. – Now let´s hang on to that last-mentioned image a bit. Most of those cars out there need petrol to run or some other form of energy. If you multiply their number, its total will conjure up all the vehicles you find on Earth. Quite an inconceivable number! They all need gas produced from the material within our planet. It may, therefore, be logical to conclude that big holes result in there over a long period of time. Right? What can be assumed happens to those holes? Are they filled by some other material, most likely, water? If this assumption of mine is correct, it will explain why so few places on earth are not flooded nowadays despite fears concerning the melting of the polar ice. (If it was incorrect, a number of cities would presently experience a fate similar to the one New Orleans had to cope with some time ago.)

    Now, let´s go on to the next point in question.

    Water is not of the same consistency as the material extracted from within the Earth to run cars and other vehicles, or heat houses, make plastic, etc.. Does this fact influence the Earth´s rotation? Change its course? Speed? Gradient of axis? Cause earthquakes by implosion of materials bordering the holes? (Have there lately been any scientific findings regarding these possibilities, findings that could not be explained sufficiently?)

    I guess you will sigh again because of the great number of questions that may result in a lot of hard work given rise by an overtly curious Austrian teacher.

    Yours sincerely

    Günther Eigentler

    6410 Telfs

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  2. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.
    Wil

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    1. Guenther Eigentler Thursday, January 7, 2010

      Dear Mr Hermans

      I apologise for having not replied sooner to you awarding comment and your wishes. Thank you so much.

      Yours faithfully
      Guenther Eigentler

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  3. [...] The EPA’s Answer to Vehicle Emissions Modeling: MySQL:The Environmental Protection Agency has just updated its modeling system for estimating emissions from cars, trucks. It’s written in Java and based on MySQL’s open-source database software (commonly used by web companies), and it could provide a more accurate picture of how much pollution will be produced or prevented as a result of different initiatives and emission control strategies. [...]

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