Some 2,200 people in Israel die each year as the result of air pollution, the Knesset Environment Committee was told by experts at a special meeting on environmental issues this week. Most of that air pollution is generated by buses, trucks, and other heavy vehicles. And while many people are concerned about the large number of deaths from road accidents, said Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin, nearly five times more people succumb to death by pollution.
The main culprits causing pollution are diesel-fueled large vehicles, Elkin told MKs; just 20 percent of the vehicles on Israeli roads are diesel-fueled, but they are responsible for 90 percent of the pollution. To battle pollution, Elkin said, his office has been actively encouraging owners of older, diesel-fueled vehicles to trade in for new vehicles that produce far less pollution.
Among the ideas being discussed to discourage use of such vehicles is the imposition of taxes to substantially increase the cost of diesel-fueled vehicles. According to MK Manuel Trachtenberg, a member of the Environment Committee, such a tax increase would lead to a drop in the number of people who would purchase them. Another idea is to encourage the use of liquified natural gas; MK Michal Cohen-Paran said that the lower cost of LNG to fuel vehicles, along with the fact that LNG burns cleanly, will encourage many people to participate in the program, she said.