Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA)

Building the National Emissions Inventory: Challenges and Plans for Improvement


Next time you drive past a petroleum refinery, an automobile manufacturing plant, or any large industrial facility, take a look at all the stacks, pipes, and vents. Imagine how difficult it must be to quantify all of the air pollutants released by that facility. Each facility typically contains a diverse set of processes that emit different pollutants at different rates that must each be accounted for separately. Now imagine taking on the task of compiling emissions for all industrial facilities, large and small, across the United States. And what about highway emissions? Consider all of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles driving on a busy street or highway— how would you go about quantifying the emissions from the different models being driven at various speeds?

Now imagine having to account for emissions from all motor vehicles on every stretch of road in the United States, from the busiest interstate to the tiniest local road. Next, think about the hundreds of thousands of other sources of air pollution across the nation. There are off-road mobile sources, ranging from large engines used in construction and agriculture to small engines used for yard maintenance and recreation. There are nonindustrial stationary sources, including emissions from heating homes and commercial buildings. There are forest fires, waste disposal facilities, and gasoline stations. The list goes on and on.

From EM Magazine, December 2006

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