Category Archives: Transportation

Transportation Diversification is Key to Fixing California’s Gas Price and Pollution Woes

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

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.

The status quo is unsustainable and will yield even higher prices and greater harm to consumers in the long term

California cannot afford to maintain the status quo – a system where practically everyone drives either a car or truck powered by gas or diesel. In this scenario, Californians continue to buy 15 to 17 billion gallons of fuel a year, over half of which comes from imported oil.

Since the largest impact on the price at the pump is the international price of oil, keeping the status quo means California consumers will continue to be affected by decisions and unrest occurring in places like the Middle East, South America, and Canada. What’s more, due to increasing international demand for gasoline and diesel, and a shift toward dirtier crude oil to produce fuel, all signs point to higher long-term prices and more pollution. Put simply: according to almost every expert analysis from state, federal, and international agencies, the trend on gas prices is upwards – meaning more pain at the pump for California residents if steps aren’t taken to build in needed solutions.

Transportation diversification will yield lower prices and improve the health of California communities

As described in a July 2014 letter signed by 74 economic and energy economists, transportation diversification will likely cause fuel prices – including prices for gasoline and diesel – to decrease in the long term helping Californians break out of the status quo spiral that is both expensive and unhealthy. More transportation options mean consumers will be less affected if the price of any one type of fuel unexpectedly goes up, protecting the larger economy from price spikes that can undermine economic growth and devastate poor communities. As more fuel efficient vehicles, lower carbon fuels, and better transit options are deployed in communities across the state, all Californians, and in particular low-income communities, will gain more control over their finances and mobility.

Diversifying transportation will also lead to decreased toxins in the air, a subject Californians know all too much about and which severely harms the health of our children and elderly. Through the introduction of clean alternatives, such as vehicles that don’t require combustion, California can get relief from the status quo where nearly every vehicle has a tailpipe responsible for thousands of pounds of pollution every year.

California’s roadmap to transportation diversification has been written, and the wheels are starting to turn

Thanks to the efforts of leaders in California government, the state has already taken the first steps toward transportation diversification though the passage and implementation of clean cars standards, the AB 32 Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and a comprehensive cap-and-trade regulation.

These programs deliver on transportation diversification by creating incentives to bring new choices to consumers. For example, clean cars standards require auto-makers to provide more efficient and alternative fuel vehicles to the market. The LCFS, on the other hand, brings alternative fuels to consumers through a flexible regulatory mechanism that rewards clean fuel providers based on how much they sell. Cap and trade, by placing a price on carbon pollution across the entire economy, creates an incentive for both fuel providers and fuel users to find the cheapest and most effective ways to cut carbon pollution. This includes options that diversify the fuel mix with biogas, electricity, hydrogen, or renewable diesel. Cap and trade also provides investment money to develop alternatives like mass transit and reduce the cost of higher efficiency vehicles.

California is making real progress towards transportation diversification every day. Over the last five years, California’s policies have helped move the state from three percent diversification to eight percent (as measured by the share of alternative fuels in the overall market). By 2020, projections are for this number to double.

In my time driving around with some of the state’s most influential officials, it was clear that their top priority is delivering real benefits to their constituents. By supporting policies that are building a diversified transportation system, all Californians will have more choices – saving both money and lives. This is a framework that any public official should be able to support.

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

New Report Doesn’t CARE about Getting the Facts Right

With billions of dollars in profits, oil companies can pay a lot of consultants to write a lot of really impressive-looking reports.  But look past the fancy cover page and you will often find these documents are nothing more than spin. Case in point: the recent report from Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).

For those looking for the real facts about California’s world-leading climate change law, let us correct the record:

1.       Californians spend LESS on energy than people in 45 states.

 The CARE report uses the usual scare tactics about the price of energy. But the truth is that on average, Californians spend less on their energy bills than residents of 45 other states (see graph below) and almost $60 less than the national average per month. This is due to in-large-part to California’s energy efficiency measures, which have led Californians to use almost 45% less electricity per capita than the U.S. average.

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

 2.       California’s climate law will yield significant environmental AND economic benefits for its citizens.

Not only are the costs of AB 32 policies much smaller than the VICA/CARE report would lead you to believe, California’s climate policies actually yield significant economic and health benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs| 1 Response, comments now closed

A Major Step to Protect Californians from Gasoline Price Manipulation

Tim O'Connor, EDFYou can’t turn on a TV or radio in California these days without hearing the oil companies and their industry associations complaining that the state can’t afford to move to cleaner fuels and predicting that cutting pollution from the transportation sector will drive up gasoline prices.

What the oil industry’s $56 million political campaign, and even wider reaching ad campaign,  doesn’t say is that if gas prices do go up this year, it is likely to be the oil industry—not clean energy—that’s to blame.

Since 2005, the price of gas in California has fluctuated by an average of $1.16 per gallon, while diesel has fluctuated by $1.01. Year after year, prices at the pump shoot up – yielding significant additional profits for fuel suppliers – then casually drift down back to a point higher than where they started. The phenomenon is so well known, industry insiders call it rockets and feathers.

The oil companies say they don’t cause these fluctuations, but the problem is so severe that Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature just gave the California Energy Commission $342,000 to investigate and prevent gas price fixing and market manipulation by the industry.

Market domination can lead to price manipulation

Transportation fuel is a concentrated market where a handful of suppliers control a product everyone has to have. Small and large businesses, commuters, soccer moms, motorcycle clubs—pretty much everyone needs the gas and diesel supplied in California by just 22 companies, six of which (Chevron, Tesoro, BP, Phillips 66, Valero and Shell) control 90 percent of the total supply. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Comments closed

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. Read More »

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

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. Read More »

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

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 »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Comments closed

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