Category Archives: Transportation

Fueling the Future: How California Businesses are Advancing Earth Day’s Vision

By Emily Reyna and Larissa Koehler

To mark the 44th Earth Day, EDF has released a new Green Roads map celebrating clean transportation, an economic sector that is helping the Earth by producing groundbreaking and sustainable technologies.

We Californians like to drive, but unfortunately our dependence on petroleum is harming our state, giving us the nation’s most polluted cities and the state’s biggest contributor to climate pollution (see the graph).

California greenhouse gas emissions by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board - May 2013 Investment Plan

California greenhouse gas emissions by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board – May 2013 Investment Plan

Fortunately, state policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the AB 32 cap-and-trade program are helping to reduce damaging greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, while bolstering California’s economy and allowing green companies to grow and thrive.  In fact the number of clean transportation jobs in California tripled from 2001-2011. Read More »

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California Climate and Energy: Top 10 Blogs of 2012

2012 was an exciting year for California’s climate change and energy leadership. Our “Top 10 Blogs of 2012” recap some of the year’s highlights and illustrate how EDF is engaged in groundbreaking work in the Golden State every day. Whether it was helping to pave the way for the opening of North America’s largest carbon market in California, or helping design the first commercial On-Bill Repayment program, EDF was at the center of the most important environmental issues facing California in 2012.

In 2013, we will continue to tout both the economic and environmental benefits of California’s landmark environmental programs. California is our nation’s most important laboratory for meaningful action on climate change and clean energy. We must ensure that California serves as a model for the nation proving that good environmental policy can create jobs, spur our economy, and improve our overall quality of life.  We look forward to a productive and prosperous 2013 and will continue to share with you the stories that impact California and shape our nation.

       1. On-Bill Repayment Bill Introduced In California (Published: December 7, 2012)

California Senator Kevin de León introduced a bill, SB 37, which would create the first On-Bill Repayment (OBR) program entirely financed by private capital. OBR allows property owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable generation upgrades and repay the obligations through their utility bills. Read more…

       2. California Cap-and-Trade Auction Success (Published: November 19, 2012)

The results of California’s first ever auction for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances are public, marking the start of a new era for stimulating innovative solutions to combat climate change. Coincidentally, earlier today new atmospheric data was released by NOAA showing that 2012 is on pace to be the warmest year, eclipsing the mark set only two years ago. Read more…

       3. California’s record gas prices shows AB 32 will help both your wallet and your health (Published: October 10, 2012)

Fuel prices in California hit historic highs this week, an unexpected price spike that has put the state’s dependence on oil and natural gas into sharp focus. Like many of the state’s former fuel price shocks caused by demonstrable events (i.e. foreign and domestic supply disruptions), oil companies are once again saying that refinery problems and pipeline issues were the root cause. However, most reports on the current price swing aren’t pinpointing the true reason – drivers en masse are too reliant on the current mix of gas and diesel, an energy source that pollutes our environment every time it is used. Read more…

       4. Latino Support Surges for the Environment (Published: October 4, 2012)

California lawmakers take notice: Latino voters want a strong economy AND a clean environment, two things they believe are not mutually exclusive. Read more…

       5. What does history say about the costs and benefits of environmental policies? (Published: September 20, 2012)

With just three months to go before California launches North America's first economy- wide cap on global warming pollution, many businesses large and small all over the state are quietly and effectively creating a clean economy that will get a further shot in the arm when California puts a price on carbon in January. Unfortunately, albeit predictably, opponents of this landmark effort choose to overlook the likely benefits and instead spread questionable information about the assumed costs. Read more…

       6. Californians see global warming as a threat, and support action to abate (Published: August 2, 2012)

Decision makers at every level across California should take notice of today’s affirmation that the public supports California’s efforts to respond to the causes of climate change. Read more…

       7. Invest to Grow: EDF’s newest report highlights the opportunities created by the strategic investments behind California’s landmark emissions reduction program (Published: July 13, 2012)

Over the past 20 years, the unprecedented growth and resiliency of California’s clean and efficient economy has continued throughout economic recessions and budget crises – even while many other sectors of the economy have shrunk. This growth has created a statewide infrastructure of companies providing the products and services that are at the heart of the transition towards a lower carbon economy envisioned by California’s landmark climate law. Read more…

       8. A Dynamic Approach To California Energy Use (Published: July 5, 2012)

Californians are poised for a more functional, data-driven model for setting the prices people pay for electricity. The new model will make the massive differences in costs of providing electricity during the course of a typical day more evident to us as energy users, thereby inspiring more efficient use of electricity resources. Read more…

       9. Outpouring of Support for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (Published: June 25, 2012)

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) has received an impressive outpouring of support from a diverse range of “friend of the court” briefs as the case challenging the regulation makes its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Back in April, the LCFS won a preliminary victory when the 9th Circuit held that California could continue to enforce the regulation while the court considers the case. On June 8, the state and other appellants, including EDF, submitted the first full brief arguing the merits of the case. A week later, groups filed seven different briefs in support of the LCFS, asserting a wide range of interests in the case. Read more…

       10. Getting ‘Smart’ About Your Energy Use Just Got Easier (Published: January 20, 2012)

On Wednesday, I attended a presentation of the Green Button at EMC2, hosted by Silicon Valley Leadership Group, OSIsoft and SolarCity, and moderated by Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Tech Officer and Advisor to the President. Read more…


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California’s record gas prices shows AB 32 will help both your wallet and your health

Fuel prices in California hit historic highs this week, an unexpected price spike that has put the state’s dependence on oil and natural gas into sharp focus.  Like many of the state’s former fuel price shocks caused by demonstrable events (i.e. foreign and domestic supply disruptions), oil companies are once again saying that refinery problems and pipeline issues were the root cause.  However, most reports on the current price swing aren’t pinpointing the true reason – drivers en masse are too reliant on the current mix of gas and diesel, an energy source that pollutes our environment every time it is used.

The true cause of California’s fuel price spikes must be seen for what it is –an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuel (primarily imported), and lack of diversity in our transportation system.  Furthermore, since over 50 percent of the oil used in the state is obtained from foreign sources, California consumers aren’t exactly benefitting the state’s economy as we send billions of dollars out-of-state but release combustion byproducts here – polluting our air and water.  Over time, the impact of buying and burning all of that gas is going to get even worse: an increasing population and declining in-state oil production means we are going to import, and burn, more.

Growing fuel use and declining in-state production puts California on a path to spend between $112 and $182 billion per year by 2020 on imported energy, which translates to roughly $8,000 to $13,000 per household.   Even worse, the American Lung Association, using EPA data, has included 9 cities and 16 counties in California on their list of most polluted areas in the country; more fuel burning will only exacerbate these problems, worsening air pollution and sickening people – leading to poorer public health, higher healthcare costs, and more missed work and school days.

California’s fuel and energy policies , if implemented as planned, have the ability to protect the economy and help lessen air pollution and human health impacts.  By setting a cap on emissions and requiring a diversification of energy sources away from an over-reliance on fossil fuels, AB 32 will result in decreased dependence on foreign imports and will make California consumers less vulnerable to price shocks.  Low carbon solutions such as advanced biofuels, ultra-efficient vehicles, and improved community planning are all part of the AB 32 solutions package, and all are aimed at breaking the grip that traditional fossil fuel companies have on our economy. Add to that the obvious environmental and health benefits from reducing fossil fuel use, and it is clear that the California Air Resources Board’s vision for AB 32 policies is the right choice for California.

For more information on how AB 32 saves California’s money during fuel price swings, see two articles co-authored by EDF economist Jamie Fine — Shockproofing Society: How California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) Reduces the Economic Pain of Energy Price Shocks and The Upside Hedge Value of California’s Global Warming Policy Given Uncertain Future Oil Prices.

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Clearer Roads, Clearer Skies and a Brighter Future for Los Angeles

June 16, 2011 | Posted by Kathryn Phillips in Congestion pricing, Parking Pricing, Sensible Cycling, Smart Pricing, Transit That Works, Transportation, Transportation and Behavior, Transportation and Climate Change, Transportation and the Climate, Travel Choice, Vision Los Angeles

(This blog is co-authored by EDF's Kathryn Phillips and guest blogger Bill Allen of LAEDC and is being cross-posted from EDF's Way2Go transportation blog.)

Ben Franklin once said nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. People in Los Angeles County might offer two other certainties: traffic gridlock and air pollution. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. By engaging 15 specific but sensible strategies, the region can rid itself of routine gridlock and reduce its air pollution. Solving these problems will help improve the region’s economic outlook, and increase Angelenos’ quality of life. 

The strategies are laid out in Vision Los Angeles, a 30-year action plan—jointly  developed by Environmental Defense Fund and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation—to achieve clearer roads and clearer skies in the county sooner than convention seems to offer. Its solutions were developed after much discussion and research by a team of top-notch consultants. The plan has been supported by a broad volunteer advisory group representing business, local government and the non-profit community. 

The response to Vision Los Angeles’ strategies have been positive, and good news exists in the details. We learned, for instance, it is easy to identify common ground when you bring up transportation in Los Angeles County. Nobody likes sitting in traffic and everybody wants clean air.

A lot of good work has already been done by a number of entities to lay a foundation for reducing traffic’s gridlock in the county. The proposal to leverage Measure R sales tax in a way that allows 12 mass transit projects to be built in 10 years instead of 30 is one example. The Southern California Association of Government’s COMPASS plan and Los Angeles Metro’s Long-Range Plan for the region contain a lot of good ideas that Vision Los Angeles strategies complement. 

The missing ingredients up until now have been ways to identify and prioritize the best ideas and foster their incorporation into everyday travel throughout the county. If you think of the transportation system as a computer, Los Angeles County has plenty of hardware but an insufficient operating system.  Most of the strategies we identified in Vision Los Angeles, taken as a whole, provide a more efficient operating system.  

A few examples of Vision Los Angeles’ strategies that will improve the region’s economic outlook and quality of life include:

  • Developing an application that provides real-time information about transit and traffic countywide that anyone with a cell phone can use;
  • Accelerating and expanding business and large institution use of transportation management associations (TMAs) to improve employee options for getting to and from work and reduce dependence on automobiles;
  • Employing smarter parking pricing and practices in major corridors; and
  • Creating a local access-efficient mortgage system that provides a variation on a revolving loan that allows employees to live closer to work.  

Most of our 15 strategies have been applied at some scale in Los Angeles County and in other parts of the world, eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel.  Significant transformation will depend on how fully these strategies can be implemented throughout the County. Their success also requires engagement from all sectors of the community. No one sector—and especially not government—can effectively tackle traffic issues alone. We are all in this together. 

Some Vision Los Angeles participants are developing pilot programs to demonstrate the strategies. Two early programs will focus on setting up TMAs in the healthcare, education and entertainment industries and facilitating mobility between networked work centers and housing programs.

 Air pollution costs the Los Angeles Air Basin at least $22 billion a year in lost days at work, lost days at school, healthcare and premature death, according to a studyconducted by California State University, Fullerton. Analysis by consultants Fehr & Peers indicates that if the Vision Los Angeles strategies are fully implemented, air pollution from transportation will be cut by more than 10 percent and greenhouse gas pollution will be cut by more than 9 percent. The solutions will also cut the number of vehicle hours of delay by 9 percent, a level that would make a significant difference in daily commutes.

With hundreds of millions of dollars already spent by the private and public sectors on transportation infrastructure each year, we need to get smart about how to achieve the greatest return on that investment.  A focus on fostering a more effective and efficient system will deliver the quality of life Angelenos expect and the boost to our economy Los Angeles County needs. 

Kathryn Phillips is director of the California Transportation and Air Initiative for Environmental Defense Fund, a national environmental organization and partner in Vision Los Angeles. 

Bill Allen is president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

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California Victory: Court of Appeals Backs Improved Pollution Standards for Cars

Earlier today, a federal court rejected a legal attack on new clean car standards that will help protect our air quality and our pocketbooks.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) green light for clean car standards adopted by California and 13 other states and the District of Columbia.

Environmental Defense Fund intervened in defense of EPA's action, supporting California's pioneering leadership.

“This is a major victory not only for California but for the millions of Americans who are working together to unleash smart policies that will save families money at the gas pump, reduce dangerous pollution and break our dependence on imported oil,” said EDF president Fred Krupp.

California adopted the new standards in 2004. They were later adopted by Arizona, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The federal government, the involved states, the U.S. auto industry and the United Auto Workers Union reached an agreement on the standards last year. The EPA finalized a national clean car program on April 1, 2010 that built on the foundation forged by the state clean car standards, creating integrated national standards to provide benefits across the country.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association sued to to block EPA's green light for the California clean car standards but the court ruled that neither have legal standing to challenge EPA’s action.

According to the Court’s decision, "[b]ecause the Chamber has not identified a single member who was or would be injured by EPA's waiver decision, it lacks standing to raise this challenge.”

The Court also relied on the overarching national standards, writing, “[e]ven if EPA's decision to grant California a waiver for its emission standards once posed an imminent threat of injury to the petitioners — which is far from clear — the agency's subsequent adoption of federal standards has eliminated any independent threat that may have existed."

“It is time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to stop obstructing made in America clean air solutions that are a trifecta for saving money, energy security, and a safer environment,” Krupp added.

“This is a major victory for Americans who are tired of pouring out their hard-earned money at the gas pump,” said Vickie Patton, EDF’s General Counsel. “Cleaner cars will save their owners money – as much as $3000 over the life of their vehicles. Cleaner cars also reduce dangerous air pollution, and help break our nation's dependence on imported oil.”

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9 Juicy Public Transit Numbers

Courtesy of Flickr user Carla216

As we’ve reported, California is considering a bill (AB 650, Blumenfield) which would convene a task force to determine how to find reliable funding for public transportation.  Conversations about where to find funds can seem daunting though, especially in today’s economic climate.  That’s why these nice, big, juicy numbers appear in the bill to keep us motivated and remind all of us why public transportation is such an important asset in California and throughout the U.S.:


  1. 47,500: The number of jobs created by each $1 billion invested in public transportation infrastructure.
  2. 1:6: The favorable ratio between dollars spent on public transportation and the local economic activity that those dollars generate.
  3. 17%: The increase in real estate value that San Diego residential properties experience when they are served by public transportation. (This is consistent with premiums for housing near transit documented around the country.)
  4. $29.5 billion: The amount of money that California currently saves because public transportation reduces our need to import oil into the state.
  5. 90%: The reduction in VOCs – a contributor to air pollution that harms public health– caused by using public transportation verses driving alone.
  6. 6500: The number of premature deaths cause by air pollution in California every year.
  7. 4800 pounds: The amount of CO2 reductions that a single person can make annually by taking public transportation instead of driving alone.   
  8. 540.8 million: The number of hours of traffic delay avoided because of public transportation use throughout the country.  The economic value of those time savings is $10.2 billion.
  9. 1:28: The steep difference between how safe you are riding a bus (measured in numbers of fatalities annually) or driving a personal vehicle.

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Brown Brings Life and Hope to Transit Funding

This piece was originally posted in EDF's Way2Go blog and was written by Kathryn Phillips.

The last two years have been grim ones around the country for transit agencies.  The economy’s slide has meant cuts in funding for drivers, managers and mechanics, and that’s generally meant cuts in service.

California’s transit agencies have been especially hard hit. As the state’s deficit grew bigger and bigger (it’s higher than $27 billion today), the legislature and then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger began digging into state funds designated for transit to fund other essential services. The battles that erupted and the maneuvers to protect transit that evolved as a result were complex enough that only a 19th-Century Russian novelist could do the tale justice.

This week California’s newly inaugurated governor, Jerry Brown, began restoring life to transit and California’s transit users. He unveiled his 2011-2012 budget proposal and it includes a boost in transit funding. As one transit official suggested, it will help stop the bleeding.

The word on the street has been that this governor gets it about transit. He gets that good transit is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health-threatening air pollution, to get people to work and school, to reduce traffic congestion and make daily travel more reliable.

There were many reasons to believe this might be true. Throughout his career—two other terms as governor, two terms as mayor of Oakland, a term as attorney general—Brown has demonstrated that he thinks Californians need to be creative and smart about how we deal with transportation demand. Still, until that first budget came out, there was only hope.

The governor’s budget proposal now has some hurdles to clear. It now goes to the legislature where there will be hearings and debate and more debate,  leadership meetings, and finally a series of legislative votes.

If it clears these hurdles, the proposal won’t totally solve the transit funding crisis in this state. However, it will help restore and maintain some service, and it settles the Capitol feuding over whether the state should even contribute to transit operations funding. With that settled, Californians can start the real conversation about how to pay for the level of transit Californians need.

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The Dirty Air Act: An Attack on California's Environmental Legacy

Any day now, the Senate will vote on Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s “Resolution of Disapproval.” During an interview this week with Betsy Rosenberg, host of Progressive Radio Network's “On the Green Front,” I explained that environmental groups are deeply opposed to the bill, which would strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of all of its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon pollution. 

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. Amidst the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf and a national economic recession, the transition to a clean energy economy—and the jobs it will create—has never been more necessary or urgent.  

Passage of what's come to be called the "Dirty Air Act" would be a disaster for our country, plain and simple. The bill takes a giant leap backward:  it would wipe out EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases cause global warming and are a danger to public health–a finding that forms the legal basis for any further steps the EPA can take to address carbon pollution. 

It is also a slap in the face to California and an attack on our environmental legacy. Here's why: it would dismantle one of President Obama's major environmental accomplishments thus far—national vehicle efficiency and emissions standards that were spurred by California's unparalleled leadership.

The national standards are based on California's clean cars standard passed in 2002. Called the 'Pavley Standard' for its author and fearless champion State Senator Fran Pavley, it was the first law in the country to set limits on greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes. 

California's standards were adopted by 13 states but faced fierce resistance—and lawsuits—from automakers and the previous administration, which argued that states couldn't adopt such standards and denied waivers that would allow them to do so. At the same time, the EPA denied its responsibility to reduce global warming pollution. A landmark Supreme Court ruling affirmed EPA’s power to address global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act and helped paved the way for putting the standards into effect. 

One of the Obama administration's first environmental actions was to grant California's long-standing request for a Clean Air Act waiver so they could implement the standards. Then the President went one step further. He helped forge an unprecedented agreement—with the EPA, Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. automakers, United Auto Workers, EDF and other environmental organizations, plus California and other states—to set a national fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012-2016. These passenger vehicles account for 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption and 20 percent of our greenhouse gases. In exchange, California and other states agreed to drop their state standards. 

Those standards were strengthened last month and today President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in the Rose Garden directing the EPA and DOT to continue fuel economy improvements for those vehicles for model years 2017 and beyond and to create a first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-2018. These measures will further reduce our dependence on oil, help cut fuel costs and create jobs.  

These historic achievements would be erased with passage of Murkowski's bill by prohibiting the EPA from enforcing the standards. 

It's a horrible attack on progress toward cleaner air and energy at a time when such progress is needed most. It's a bailout for polluters and takes the EPA off the job for years. It would make us more dependent on foreign oil, do nothing to help American manufacturing compete with China or other nations in clean energy technologies, and cripple efforts to address global warming.  

It’s truly ironic that even as we watch what may end up being the most serious environmental and ecological disasters in our nation's history – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – there are senators who are actively trying to block pollution regulations and hamstring the EPA's ability to protect the public. 

(To tell your Senators that you want them to vote against this bill, hold polluters accountable and reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels, please send them an email today.)

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Victory Lap on California Clean Cars Standards

Last June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted California's long-standing request to carry out its Clean Car standards—adopted by 13 other states—giving it the green light to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.

That move followed President Obama's announcement in May of a landmark agreement among major automakers, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the United Auto Workers' Union and environmental groups, including EDF, calling for a national clean cars program based on California's standards.

Today, that agreement reached fruition with the EPA announcing the first national greenhouse gas pollution standards in U.S. history.

EDF president Fred Krupp lauded the achievement as a "trifecta of benefits to Americans: less dependence on Middle Eastern oil, less pollution and more savings at the gas pump."

The program calls for achieving a five percent annual improvement in fuel economy for cars with model years 2012-2016 to get 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 2016 from today's fleet average of 25.1 mpg. This improvement is expected to reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gases 21 percent by 2030.

These standards will put our country on a path to more efficient fuel use and significant reductions from cars and light trucks over the next two decades. This is significant since passenger vehicles account for approximately 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption and nearly 20 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, recently found to endanger human health and welfare.

Consumers are likely to save approximately $3,000 in fuel costs over the life of a new clean car vehicle. This will help break our addiction to foreign oil by cutting 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

It's a great day to be an American, especially one from California. Our environmental leadership continues to be the model that other states and our country are following to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, create a healthier environment and help consumers save money. A triple win, for sure.

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