Category Archives: Transportation

Does Big Oil Really Care About Vulnerable Communities?

Jorge-MadridThere they go again… with the same lament we always seem to hear from Big Oil lobbyists when it's time to protect public health:

Don't put environmental protections on fuels, because that "will hit low-income and middle-income families the hardest." In other words, if you make us clean up our act, then we'll be forced to raise gas prices, which hurts vulnerable people… You don't want to hurt them, do you?

Hmmm. Do oil companies really care about vulnerable populations like low income people and communities of color? Could it be that they are using these families as a smokescreen for killing environmental protections and protecting their profits? Let's look at the facts and see if we can cut through some of this smoke.

Oil companies are among the most profitable enterprises in the world — last year the "big five" made $93 billion in profits, or $177,000 per minute. Even in my home state of California, which is at the forefront of environmental protections, Chevron is still the largest company by revenue (take that Apple and Facebook!). Many polluters have been claiming for decades that clean air standards will "cause entire industries to collapse," but those dire predictions have never come true. The idea that we have to choose between environmental protection and economic growth has always been a false choice.

Who is really to blame for high gas prices — and who stands to profit from that sick feeling you get when you're fueling your car and the price shoots past $40… $50… $60? Turns out an average vehicle uses $22,000 in gas over its lifetime, $15,000 of which (68 percent) goes right to oil companies. Further, an additional 25 cents in the price per gallon of gas at the pump every three months equals an additional $5 billionin profits for the big five oil companies.

Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA

Wouldn't it be nice to have some say in the matter? Some consumer choice? Unfortunately, most of us drive gas-powered vehicles and don't have any choice when we fill up. Big Oil has us in its grip: we pay what they say. The only way to lower prices in the long run, and reduce our vulnerability to price spikes, is to diversify our fuels and vehicle mix — exactly what new clean fuels policies will do in California.

Low income people and communities of color spend a much higher than averageportion of their monthly income on fuel, and are indeed the most over-burdened by high gas prices and vulnerable to unexpected price spikes. "Cheap gas" however, will not reduce their vulnerability in the long run.

Then there are the social costs of dirty fuels — the ones Big Oil isn't paying but everyone else is. The public health costs of air pollution and climate change. The poor and communities of color are especially prone to these costs, including high rates of lung and heart disease. In California, Latinos and African Americans account for nearly 75 percent of residents in the most polluted ZIP Codes — despite comprising only 44 percent of the state's population. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

"African American children in California are four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma compared to white children… African American and Latino children living in urban areas are two to six times more likely to die from asthma than whites."

Case In Point: California's Fight for Clean Fuels

So let's lift the mask off the latest masquerade of compassion: a last-ditch effort now underway by some oil companies and their political allies in Sacramento to derail the most comprehensive clean fuel policies in the country. Ironically, the policies they're attacking — the state's cap-and-trade program (C&T), which will include transportation fuels starting next year, and California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) — are already in place and working. And guess which constituency they are using to cover their political tracks? Spoiler alert: it's vulnerable communities.

The dirty fuels in California's transportation sector are the leading cause of pollution in the state — responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of climate change pollution.

By transitioning the state's transportation system to cleaner fuels, the C&T and LCFS will result in a cumulative public benefit of $23.1 billion by 2025. The C&T and LCFS together are projected to prevent 600 heart attacks, 880 premature deaths, 38,000 asthma attacks, and almost 75,000 lost work days as well as reduce consumption of 21.4 billion gallons of gasoline and 11.8 billion gallons of diesel fuel by 2025, according to a new report by EDF and the American Lung Association.

California is making waves (again) by leading the country with the most comprehensive climate, clean air, and clean fuels policies. By transitioning to cleaner fuels and vehicles, everyone will be less vulnerable to spiking oil prices and dirty air.

By attempting to rain on California's clean parade, Big Oil is using the same dirty tricks they've used for decades, and spinning a false story to try and derail these policies.

It's time these companies stop pretending to be champions for vulnerable communities; their oil-soaked billions and clouds of pollution spewing into low-income communities of color tell the real story.

Instead, maybe they should actually join the race toward a clean, healthy economy. We could use their technological prowess to help us get where we need to go. If they ever did that, then they could claim to be standing up for vulnerable communities — and really mean it.

This post first appeared on Huffington Post 

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Engaging Latinos, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Leave a comment

Mapping the California Companies Fueling a Cleaner Future

green roads mapClean energy and clean tech sound exciting, but most people don’t see these businesses as a major part of our economy, especially when traditional fossil fuels rule at the pump.

But thanks to policies like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and cap and trade, more and more businesses are giving us options when we need to get from point A to point B, and they form an increasingly important source of economic growth in the state.  From cars running on used vegetable oil (biodiesel) to cars you can plug into your house, new and exciting innovations are fast coming to market.

The new interactive Green Roads Map that EDF created in partnership with CALSTART, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and the Natural Resources Defense Council, shows that we have many emerging options for our cars and transportation fleets, and that clean transportation is a flourishing industry in California.

The Green Roads Map is more than just a collection of dots- the map presents an important picture of the investors, researchers, producers, and salespeople who are transforming our economy and transportation system today.

The companies listed on this map span four key sectors: energy efficiency & vehicles, fuels & infrastructure, education & consulting, and investment, showing just how diverse and expansive this industry is in the Golden State. From Electric Vehicles International based in Stockton to A-1 Alternative Fuels Systems based in Fresno, innovation in clean transportation is right in your backyard.

The interactive map allows any state legislator, business person, or interested California citizen to zoom in on their district or neighborhood and identify the clean energy businesses growing in their own communities.

For example, Californians living in the city of Stockton can use this tool to get information about green technology companies that are located right in their backyard, all of which are providing jobs and benefiting the local community. One of these companies is Community Fuels, a company working to make biodiesel a viable and scalable alternative to dirty fossil fuels through rigorous research and quality production. Alternatively, the residents of Foster City can discover that Motiv Power Systems is working to place clean and affordable electric school and shuttle buses on the roads.

Transportation is California’s biggest contributor to climate change and air pollution – the latter of which is a critical health problem for many of our communities. The good news is that this growing green transportation industry is incentivizing cleaner, more efficient transportation and helping to clear the air- a triple win for business, people, and our climate.

While opponents seeking to derail these policies ignore a thriving clean transportation sector built in-part on the expectation that these policies will continue, the Green Roads Map shows Californians why efforts to delay or revise cap and trade and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard undermine the burgeoning economic growth and compromise the health benefits that come along with these policies.

The 300 plus companies on the Green Roads Map are innovating and moving us forward to a clean and more independent energy future.

Check out our new interactive map and if you see a clean transportation company in your neighborhood missing, let us know.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs, Low Carbon Fuel Standard | Leave a comment

The United States Supreme Court Hears the Other Side of the Story on California’s Cleaner Fuels Policy

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgYesterday, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a brief in opposition to March 2014 petitions for Supreme Court review in American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association v. Corey and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, cases in which oil and ethanol companies attack the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

The LCFS, adopted under California’s trail blazing Global Warming Solutions Act, is a central contributor in the effort to move the transportation system away from the current paradigm of unsustainable global warming pollution, foreign energy dependence, and community-choking air pollution. The LCFS works by putting market incentives in place that encourage the production and use of low carbon fuels that were not prevalent when the program went into effect.  It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s use of transportation fuels by 16 million metric tons per year by 2020.

As we have explained in prior posts here and here about this important case, the challengers in the litigation have argued that the LCFS discriminates against ethanol and oil coming from outside of California and that it attempts to regulate actions occurring outside the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Dormant Commerce Clause. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected these arguments in September 2013. In their March 2014 petitions, the industry challengers seek Supreme Court review of the appeals court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take the case could come as early as late June. Read More »

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Litigation, Low Carbon Fuel Standard | Comments closed

New Study: California Climate Law Cuts Billions in Health, Pollution Costs

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgCalifornia drivers don’t have much choice when it comes to what fuel they fill their cars with, or how dirty it is. As recently as five years ago, nearly 97 percent of the energy used for transportation in the Golden State came from gas and diesel – over half of which was made from imported oil.

This basic lack of consumer choice means that California drivers like myself are stuck with a high-priced product that is made from dirty crude and controlled by a few major multinational oil companies.

What’s more, our transportation system has a direct effect on our health – in addition to contributing to climate change and energy insecurity.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

A study just out from the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association, with modeling by Tetra Tech, finds that the negative impacts of California’s transportation system cost us a staggering $25 billion per year. It also shows that the benefits of policies aimed at supporting the use of cleaner fuels can significantly reduce such costs.

25 million drivers, worst air pollution in the U.S.

I’m probably similar to many other drivers around here. Last year I drove some 15,000 miles, paying about $2,400 for gas – a sizeable portion of my disposable income. This gas is always more expensive in the summer than in winter, and it won’t matter if I fill up my car at the Shell station on the corner or from Chevron at the freeway on-ramp.

My 15,000 miles of driving last year released about 5 tons of greenhouse gas pollution and other air contaminants. When combined with the pollution released from California’s other 25 million drivers, I have, unfortunately, helped give California the nation’s worst air pollution.

Not only is our state home to the top five most polluted cities in the United States, but countless Californians suffer from lung and heart problems, and even risk early death, from pollution-related health impacts cause by transportation. Read More »

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Five Reasons California Latinos Should Care About Clean Fuels

Jorge-MadridFor the first time since becoming a state in 1850, Latinos are the “new majority” in California, representing the largest ethnic demographic in the country’s most populous state.  While Latinos account for 39 percent of California’s population, they are disproportionately exposed to dangerous air quality, health impacts, and adverse economic risk from dirty fuels.

In fact, the five most polluted cities in America are all in California – and all have majority Latino populations living in them.  The main source of the pollution is the transportation sector, more specifically, the dirty fuels that power California’s transportation sector, responsible for nearly 70 percent of smog-forming gases and 40 percent of the state’s climate change pollution every year.

A new report by EDF and the America Lung Association gives us a stark look at the impact of dirty fuels and offers a path forward to build healthier and stronger communities with cleaner fuels via the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and cap-and-trade (C&T) program.  California Latinos, the population with the highest risk and exposure, should be paying close attention.

Here are five reasons why:

1. We Breathe the Dirtiest Air – Latinos account for nearly two-thirds of California residents in the top 10 percent most polluted ZIP Codes.  This pollution can have serious health impacts on communities; roadway pollution alone causes 9,200 premature deaths per year in the state.  However, the report outlines how the LCFS and C&T will prevent 600 heart attacks and 880 premature deaths by 2025, and provide savings of $8.3 billion in pollution-related health costs.

Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Engaging Latinos, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | Comments closed

Transportation fuel policies continue to benefit drivers and communities across California

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgCalifornia is implementing a suite of innovative transportation policies and there is ample evidence illustrating how drivers and communities across the state will benefit.

One critical piece of research is the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday. The Board will vote on whether to approve the updated Plan next week. We've blogged here, here, and here about how the Plan recommends smart 2030 targets, positions California as a continuing leader on climate action, provides enhanced economic opportunity, and recommends new efforts to reduce short lived climate pollutants.

One of the most significant elements is the amount of money drivers will save because of the policies that CARB has so carefully planned for and implemented.  CARB's own analysis shows that existing policies will reduce fuel costs for drivers by over $400 per year by 2020 (from 2012 levels) and by just over $600 by 2030.

 

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

There is a growing body of work that supports and enhances CARB's finding that Californians will see overall benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Powering Up: How Three Companies Are Energizing the Electric Bus Industry in California

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDFs 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.

Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley have bad air pollution.  Sure, it’s not the 1970’s style pollution that doctors say was like smoking two packs a day, but California is still home to the top five most polluted cities nationwide.

Who: BYD America, Green Automotive, and Motiv Power Systems, three companies that each employ between 25 and 75 employees in California, and work to facilitate the use of electric buses in the state.

What: BYD America and Green Automotive manufacture heavy-duty electric vehicles, and Motiv Power Systems builds electric power systems to electrify buses.

Where: BYD America is based in Lancaster, Green Automotive is in Riverside, and Motiv is located in Foster City.

Why: All three companies are dedicated to expanding the use of clean, cost-effective transit buses, shuttle buses, and school buses in order to benefit the economy, environment, and public health.

The most significant offender is the state’s transportation sector, responsible for significant ground level ozone and nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Indeed, in too many California cities, the city buses and school buses are still powered on diesel fuel and spew harmful pollution into the air – further degrading the already compromised air.

Enter AB 32, a program that has created an entirely new way of thinking about transportation pollution and is resulting in powerful alternatives and new companies that offer a different approach to mobility.

BYD Ltd., Green Automotive, and Motiv Power Systems – are three companies working to accelerate the growth of electric buses and cost-effectively reduce pollution.

BYD Ltd., originally founded in 1995 to build batteries for small electronics, has significantly expanded their portfolio in recent years to include electric buses. They’ve opened an American factory in Lancaster and have already made inroads in that market by selling transit buses to Antelope Valley Transit and Los Angeles Metro, and recently showcased a new bus that runs up to 24 hours on a single charge. Read More »

Also posted in California Innovators Series, Clean Energy, Jobs | 5 Responses, comments now closed

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Comments closed

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…

 

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics, Smart Grid | Comments closed

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.

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics | Comments closed