Cutting gas and diesel use in California has been a focus of Sacramento policy makers for years. After all, fuel combustion chokes our state with exhaust, releases a massive amount of global warming pollution, and undermines our economic security. And, at nearly 20 billion gallons of total use per year costing drivers over $50 billion a year – with much of the money flowing directly out of the state – it is no small challenge.
Despite many in-state efforts to cut gas and diesel use over the past decade, population and economic growth have erased many of the fuel use reductions achieved. This year, through dedication by Governor Brown and the legislature to fight climate change and make California stronger, there are promising solutions on the horizon. The solution making the biggest splash is SB 350 (De León) – a bill currently before the legislature – proposing (among other things) a statewide goal of 50 percent petroleum use reduction by the year 2030. With this ambitious goal, California can and will make real progress towards meeting its transportation needs using less oil for the years to come.
Understanding how California can meet a 50 percent petroleum use reduction goal by 2030, and why this goal is good for the state, hinges on four key concepts (explained in more detail here). Read More
Earlier this year in Oregon, as they did in California several years ago, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), together with American Trucking Alliance (ATA) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), filed a federal lawsuit to try and derail a cutting-edge, scientifically-based, and legally sound clean fuel standard. Not discouraged by their recent losses challenging California’s clean fuels program (the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have proceeded with nearly identical constitutional law arguments – simply recycling issues and claims that were rejected many months ago.
Like the California LCFS, the Oregon Clean Fuels Program reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by requiring fuel sold in state to have reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Compliance is based on the schedule developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection and designed to spur innovation in the fuel sector, as the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard has already done. The fuels program itself does not choose a formula for carbon reduction, but allows the market to find the best path forward.
A significant portion of Oregon’s climate pollution comes from the use of gasoline and diesel in transportation, as it does in many other U.S. states, and it’s high time for Oregonians to have access to cleaner burning, lower carbon alternative fuels. Once in use, these alternatives not only cut climate pollution, they also deliver reduced emissions of multiple air contaminants that damage the health of the public while also improving energy security. In light of these substantial benefits to the people and economy of Oregon, on March 12, 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill passed by the state legislature that removes the sunset date established in the 2009 law, allowing the Oregon Clean Fuels Program to move forward unimpeded. Read More
As the old saying goes, comparisons are odious, and when it comes to policies to combat climate change, we want every state in this country—and every country in the world—to take action. But sometimes a comparison between two states can help illuminate the benefits of taking one course of action over another, especially as it relates to the all-important issue of creating a strong economy.
Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised job growth numbers for all states. Previously, the numbers released in December 2014 showed Texas ahead of California on job growth for the year—458,000 to 320,000—but the revised estimates indicate that California added 498,000 jobs in 2014, with Texas coming in at 393,000. In other words, California added almost half a million jobs in 2014, showing that Texas is not the only state that can do things on a big scale.
So what do these job growth numbers have to do with the fight against climate change? California is seeing their job numbers tick up as the state takes the lead on tackling harmful greenhouse gas emissions through an astonishingly ambitious array of policies. The state’s policies cover everything from squeezing as much carbon from the state’s economy as possible to ensuring that we find clean energy solutions to keep the lights on, so to speak. Although environmental leadership seems to be an integral part of the state’s DNA, the game really changed with California’s 2006 law limiting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The state’s law ushered in a succession of effective measures, including the state’s cap-and-trade program and Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which are cutting pollution and helping the economy. Read More
Make no mistake, California is a leader when it comes to improving air quality and deploying unprecedented amounts of cleaner, low-carbon fuels. However, despite years of efforts to cut vehicle emissions and reduce fossil fuel consumption, California remains in the top spot nationally for gasoline use, and is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country.
In addition, as the state and surrounding region continues to cut petroleum usage and clean up the environment – yielding major climate benefits – economic growth in emerging markets across the world means that our efforts are being undercut by increases in use elsewhere.
For California to truly deliver in in the fight against climate change, we must not only cut fossil fuel use and deploy cleaner alternatives at home, but also create solutions that deliver benefits abroad. In other words, we should aim to export our best transportation policies abroad – the ones that have helped California reduce fossil fuel use yet still help foster economic opportunities and growth.
A range of current policies are helping drive new technologies that yield low carbon vehicles and fuels
Over the past 15 years, California has given birth to the some of the most ambitious and successful climate change related transportation policies imaginable. For example, in 2002 the legislature adopted the Pavley Clean Cars law (AB 1493) which set greenhouse gas standards for automobiles. This law eventually led to new national vehicle efficiency standards and the production of a new wave of more efficient and cleaner cars and trucks.
EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.
The vast majority of Californians put ethanol in their car – it makes up about ten percent of every gallon we buy at the local filling station (not including diesel). This means that every year, drivers in the Golden State use about 1.5 billion gallons of this alternative fuel. Such widespread use of this fuel begs the question: What is ethanol’s environmental profile, and is everything being done to produce it as efficiently as possible?
Over the years, a great deal of effort has gone into answering the first part of the question, and the answer is: it depends on many factors. Water use, land use, and fertilizer use are all factors associated with growing ethanol feedstocks (typically corn) that can influence whether the fuel is an environmental winner. Aquifer depletion, unsustainable land clearing, and fertilizer run-off are just a few of the potential problems that can emerge when ethanol production is performed in a short-sighted manner. Similarly, feedstock type, biorefinery efficiency, and ethanol yield per ton also matter and can impact whether ethanol helps from a climate change standpoint. Cumulatively, each of these factors can influence the environmental profile of California’s third-most widely used fuel. Read More
This summer I had the unique opportunity to drive with members of the California state legislature through their districts in Los Angeles and the Central Valley. In addition to brown lawns, hazy air, and intense heat, we were reminded of California’s persistently high gas prices on filling station signs at nearly every major intersection.
Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh
As we drove through many neighborhoods struggling to pull themselves up economically, the need for solutions was clear. Since lower-income households pay the same amount per gallon as people in more affluent neighborhoods, low-income households tend to devote a greater percentage of their monthly income toward fuel purchases. Furthermore, since new and more efficient cars are usually more expensive, low-income households tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles that use more gas and release more pollution. So, while families across California are cutting back on things like watering their lawns, they are forced to spend a lot of these savings filling up their cars, while also breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation.
Fortunately, there is a solution at California’s fingertips that will tackle the issues of gas prices and pollution at the same time: transportation diversification. This simply means providing all Californians with choices on how to get where they need to go. These choices can take the form of alternatives to gas and diesel, alternatives to inefficient vehicles, and alternatives to cars all together. By providing these choices, consumers can pick what works for them – allowing the entire transportation system to better meet people’s unique needs and budgets. Read More