By: Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid
There’s something remarkable happening in the city of Los Angeles, you can feel it in the air – and it’s definitely not the country’s worst pollution or the record-breaking heat – it’s the winds of change. Los Angeles is in the process of reinventing itself from a dystopian vision of traffic jams and unbreathable air into an urban leader in sustainability.
Last week L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a bold new plan (pLAn) to revolutionize sustainability in Los Angeles, including taking a bite of the big enchilada responsible for the most air pollution that gets in our lungs and greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change – the transportation sector. Mobile sources (think diesel trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, and cars) account for 90 percent of Southern California’s harmful air pollution. Statewide, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of the state’s climate change pollution every year.
While some progress has been made – the number of non-attainment days (days when an area doesn’t meet the federal air quality standard) has decreased dramatically since the 1990s and the Port of Los Angeles has reduced diesel particulate matter by 80 percent since 2005 – there are still huge clean air disparities. We know the dirtiest zip codes in L.A. are also the ones with a disproportionately large amount of low-income communities and people of color. We cannot run a victory lap on this issue until EVERYONE in L.A. can safely get around the city and breathe healthy air at the same time. Read More
We love electric vehicles (EVs) here in California and we want that love to spread. Why? It isn’t because of the cool factor – though, believe me, EVs like the Tesla are undoubtedly cool. Instead, it’s because these cars can offer significant benefits to the environment, electric grid, and economy.
California policymakers feel the love: in March 2012, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order that put an ambitious – and important – goal in place to provide the infrastructure for up to 1 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which includes fuel cell powered vehicles along with plug-in hybrid and battery EVs, by 2020 and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.
Here are some of the potential benefits of electric vehicles:
- Reduce harmful pollution. Because EVs don’t produce any emissions from the tailpipe when they are drawing on energy from their battery – unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – they can greatly reduce the amount of harmful pollution from which California suffers. Targeting tailpipe emissions, the largest contributor to dangerous emissions, will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce harmful pollutants that are causing elevated levels of smog.
- Integrate more renewable energy. By charging at times when renewable energy is abundant (i.e., during the day to take advantage of solar and late at night to soak up wind power), EVs can enable the grid to handle more clean energy resources while still maintaining reliability.
- Avoid increasing use of fossil fuel resources. Because solar power becomes unavailable when the sun goes down, the grid sees a steep increase in the use of fossil fuel-powered energy before sunrise and after sunset. If EVs charge during the day and then draw upon that stored energy when renewable energy is unavailable it will reduce the need for fossil-fueled generators to provide energy during these times of the day.
- Avoid costs to utilities and residents. Capitalizing on the ability of EVs to integrate more renewables onto the grid can offset the need for additional, expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure as energy needs increase over time. In addition, EVs present an attractive financial proposition – by reducing or eliminating the amount that drivers spend at the gas pump, those who purchase an EV can recover the upfront cost of the car in a matter of years.
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.
Anna Doty contributed to this post.
A quick look back at California’s 2014 legislative agenda, which closed in the early morning hours of August 30th, shows it certainly was one for the record books. California took up major efforts to cut climate pollution and portion out billions in new investments, modernize the electric grid, and take on other not-so-small issues such as phasing out plastic bags. This activity happened while California led the nation in a remarkable economic rebound, continued to deal with an epic drought, and combatted the worst air quality in the U.S.
Among the many environmental issues in the spotlight this year, climate change, air quality, clean energy, water, and waste lead the pack.
Implementing a climate protection framework worthy of acclaim
On climate, lawmakers turned a corner by affirming the state’s commitment to AB 32 and green-lighting a new era of pollution reducing investments from the state’s world-class cap-and-trade regulation. Keeping transportation fuels within cap and trade starting January 2015 remained a main focus, with lawmakers facing and rebuffing numerous attempts by regulated industries and other legislators to undermine and delay the state’s landmark program. Throughout the session, lawmakers remained strong, demonstrating a commitment to the state’s growing clean economy and the need to capture the huge savings in health and fuel costs AB 32 will provide. Read More
For many people across the country, August is the last opportunity to enjoy the final bits of summer relaxation before fall sets in and the weather turns colder. While many people are away on vacation, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MDDELCC) of Quebec have been hard at work.
During the first week of this month, the two regulatory bodies held a practice joint auction for interested stakeholders to prepare for California and Quebec to officially join their quarterly auctions in November. A week and a half later, this past Monday, CARB held a California-only auction, the results of which were released today. Next week, MDDLECC will hold a Quebec-only auction, and finish out a very busy month for these linked cap-and-trade programs.
Amidst this flurry of activity, the results of California’s eighth quarterly auction, released today, show that the carbon market remains steady and strong. For the eighth time in a row, all current 2014 vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased. Current allowances sold at the same price as the last auction, $11.50, and 3.15 million more bids were placed than could be filled, reflecting healthy competition for credits. More 2014 vintage allowances were offered in this auction than in both of the previous auctions this year. This uptick in volume was due to the fact that a greater number of utility-owned allowances were turned over to CARB to be sold in this auction as compared to the previous two. 71 entities registered for this auction, which is similar to registration in previous auctions. This implies that there is sustained interest in the market and suggests that covered entities are actively planning how they will comply with the regulation. 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