Few things are more frustrating than an electorate that says they want something but won’t do a thing to accomplish it. Lately, that thing is now air quality. At various meetings of the Department of Air Quality, opponents of a burn ban on bad air quality days vastly outnumbered supporters. Vehicle miles traveled continues to increase as Utahns drive more than ever. And yet, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, every winter brings in fresh complaints about how much the air sucks.
Yes, it’s really easy to just blindly blame Kennecott. They are, after all, responsible for a pretty significant amount of the pollutants in Utah. It’s still dwarfed by the amount from wood-burning stoves and cars. What makes Kennecott a very attractive target isn’t that it’s a significant amount of the total overall pollution, but rather than any one of us driving around and heating our homes with pine isn’t producing the same volume of pollution. It’s very easy to accept that automobiles and fireplaces in aggregate are a big cause of the problem, but it’s a lot harder to accept your own personal culpability. It seems like Utahns would rather be given mandates on their behavior to clean up the air rather than take steps to improve it on their own.
I’d run through what you can do to improve the air, but everyone already knows it. We know about telecommuting, combining trips, carpooling, and all that jazz. The question is why, when confronted with the choice, more people don’t choose those options, especially when they loudly and frequently profess to want better air. And really, it boils down to laziness. Making changes that sacrifice your convenience for a very small effect that’s only seen in aggregate is a hard sell. Mandating that someone else do something feels much easier. As long as that’s the case, air on the Wasatch Front will stay a putrid mess. And we’ll keep blaming someone else for it.