Climate 411

Offshore wind benefits are within North Carolina’s reach if we act with urgency

This post was authored by Michelle Allen, Project Manager for the North Carolina Political Affairs team.

Offshore wind is taking off in the U.S., and the opportunity to be a key player is within North Carolina’s reach. A recent report commissioned by the NC Department of Commerce demonstrates North Carolina’s unique position to serve the industry’s needs and reap the economic benefits that new manufacturing and other necessary infrastructure will bring. Properly sited offshore wind is easy to get behind. It is reliable, pollution-free power from an established technology that’s already transformed energy economies in Europe and across the globe. The environmental benefits are significant, too. As a lifelong North Carolinian, I’ve seen first hand the impacts of climate change already taking its toll from the mountains to the coast. To make sure we’re doing our part to combat climate change, North Carolina leaders need to swiftly replace polluting power sources with clean energy. With strong winds blowing day and night off the North Carolina coast, adding offshore wind to the state’s generation mix would boost the resilience of our power system, create jobs and help make real progress toward North Carolina’s climate goals.

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DOE’s SuperTruck 3 Can Help Us Reach a Zero-Emission Future – If We Have the Right Clean Truck Standards Too

Cleaning up pollution from the U.S. trucking industry is an urgent need for the U.S. For the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SuperTruck Program has helped showcase solutions for a cleaner future. Now Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced a new generation of the DOE SuperTruck program – SuperTruck 3 – that will focus on higher efficiency and zero-emission solutions.

Through the SuperTruck 3 program, DOE will provide $162 million in funding to “pioneer electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight system concepts that achieve even higher efficiency and lower emissions.” The funding focuses on a range of approaches, including all-electric systems, plug-in hybrid systems using renewable biofuels, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Previous generations of the SuperTruck have delivered much needed advancements. For example, major manufacturers including Navistar, Freightliner, Peterbilt and Cummins developed trucks that achieved between 10.7 and 13 miles per gallon – significantly better than the previous average of about five miles per gallon. These trucks were critical to developing and demonstrating technical solutions that fleets across the country are using in new trucks today to burn less fuel. SuperTruck 3 could have a major impact on the market too – if it is paired with a new round of Clean Truck multipollutant standards that further drive us to the zero-emission future that is both possible and desperately needed.

There is a lot of work between a successful demonstration project and truck fleets saving billions of dollars annually from fuel-saving technologies. Well-designed federal Clean Truck standards are a key element to making this leap. The required improvement and market certainty that these standards provide fosters the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market.

The results of the first generation of the DOE SuperTruck program came out between 2014 and 2016, while the Obama administration was considering a second round of emission standards for heavy-duty trucks. Those standards have pushed manufacturers to bring more efficient trucks to market. For example, the International LT Series improved efficiency by over 8% between 2020 and 2021.

Zero-emission truck technology has also made enormous strides since 2016, when that last generation of the EPA’s heavy-duty emission standards were finalized. Back then, there were a total of seven zero-emission truck models that were either commercially available or in advanced demonstration, and most of the available models were post-production retrofits.  Today there are over 125 models that are either available, in production or at an advanced stage of demonstration, most with established manufacturers. We are also seeing very large fleet deployments and major fleets, such as FedEx, stepping forward with clear timeframes for transitioning to 100% zero-emission fleets.

It is time to embrace this rush of innovation and further accelerate it through more protective standards – 100% zero pollution new trucks and buses by 2040, with key vehicle segments moving even faster. With the current generation of zero-emission technology, we can achieve wide spread electrification for most heavy-duty vehicles, including school buses, package delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and regional haul trucks. These vehicles typically travel 200 miles or less each day and return to a centralized depot where they can be recharged. New research investments in areas like more rapid charging can further enhance the  case for electrification of these vehicles. These investments can also expand zero-emission solutions into more challenging uses, such as long-haul trucking. These advancements can support the ability of manufacturers to accelerate fleet-wide deployment even sooner than 2040.

Clean Truck standards should be paired with ambitious societal investments that ensure zero-emission vehicles are deployed first and foremost to reduce pollution in communities that have long borne the brunt of vehicle pollution. President Biden’s infrastructure package is a good first step in this direction. Congress needs to move forward to enact this plan.

States also have a critical role to play in this transition. They need to develop the charging infrastructure for electric trucks while leveraging lowest-cost solutions, such as managed charging and battery storage,and adopting the Advanced Clean Truck Rule and Heavy-Duty Omnibus Regulation.

If we pair together these critical steps – technology development, federal emission standards, state-leadership, and societal investments – the impact would be massive. Moving to 100% zero pollution new trucks and buses by 2040 would:

  • Prevent as many as 57,000 premature deaths in total through 2050
  • Eliminate more than 4.7 billion tons of climate pollution cumulatively by 2050
  • Provide America with up to $485 billion in health and environmental benefits alone as a result of pollution reductions

As the new SuperTruck 3 program makes clear, there are a lot of gains we can still make in cleaning up trucking. Now is the time for a bold, achievable vision of a zero-emission future for our truck and bus fleet.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / 2 Responses

The U.S. Department of Energy can marshal its innovation efforts toward beating the climate crisis. Here’s how.

This post was co-authored by Steve Capanna, Director for U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis

In a new policy blueprint, EDF offers recommendations for how the Department of Energy can align its innovation budget with the climate challenge across its technology programs.

President Biden has pledged to deliver the largest ever federal investment in clean energy innovation — $400 billion over 10 years — to combat the climate crisis. And last Friday, the administration reasserted this commitment in its discretionary budget request, which aims to put us on “a path to quadruple clean energy research government-wide in four years, emphasizing U.S. preeminence in developing innovative technologies needed to tackle the climate crisis.”

This shows a recognition that, while technological innovation alone will not solve climate change, it plays a critical role in improving the costs and performance of essential climate technologies like wind turbines and electric vehicles, allowing the United States to more rapidly reduce greenhouse gases, eliminate health-harming pollution and create jobs in emerging energy sectors. Innovation is also essential for developing and commercializing the next generation of clean energy tools such as clean hydrogen and carbon removal that we need to reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. no later than 2050.

While the Department of Energy funding has helped reduce the costs and improve the performance of several key climate technologies, resulting in huge economic and environmental benefits, the agency’s innovation priorities and budgets have, to some extent, failed to keep pace with the extraordinary challenges and opportunities in front of us.

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The Climate Commitment Act could be game-changing for Washington state and the country: Here’s what you should know

Washington has an opportunity in the Climate Commitment Act to adopt transformative climate policy. It would enable the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale necessary to fight the climate crisis, help address the disproportionate and historic pollution burden in many low-income communities and communities of color, and provide a policy model for other states on how to achieve their emission reduction goals.

There are many reasons the Legislature should act swiftly to ensure this landmark policy becomes law. Here is a rundown of the key features, how they work and why they matter.

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The Wall Street Journal says electric vehicles are better – but underestimates how much

A recent Wall Street Journal article answers definitively YES to the question of whether electric vehicles are really better for the environment. But even this strong endorsement of electric vehicles underestimates just how good these cars, trucks and buses will be for our climate and air.

The article reports findings from researchers at the University of Toronto. The researchers compared vehicle emissions for a 2021 Toyota RAV4 and a Tesla Model 3. The study is clear that operations are cleaner for electric vehicles.  With each mile driven, the electric vehicles’ environmental performance outpaced gasoline-powered cars, quickly wiping out the slightly higher production emissions for electric vehicles.

Even with a relatively dirty fossil-fuel-based electricity generation mix and metal-intensive battery materials, this study – which looked only at a snapshot of technology as it is today – found that electric vehicles break even with gasoline-powered cars at about 20,000 miles of lifetime usage. And that break-even point is getting lower quickly, as electric vehicle technology accelerates faster than a Polestar with a tailwind.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News / Comments are closed

These key policies in Biden’s infrastructure plan can deliver big wins on jobs and climate

This blog was co-authored with Danielle Arostegui, Senior Analyst, U.S. Climate.

This week, President Biden unveiled a far-reaching infrastructure package to build back the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, while protecting existing and future generations from the most severe consequences of climate change and addressing historic inequities in access to clean air and water.

This is the kind of strong leadership we need on the economy and on climate.

The American Jobs Plan is packed full of promising investments that can generate millions of new, good-paying union jobs, revitalize our nation’s aging infrastructure, lessen economic and environmental inequalities and drive progress on our urgent climate goals. In fact, the plan declares “every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”

While Biden’s plan has no shortage of important policies with massive potential to lift up communities from coast to coast—including policies that deliver clean drinking water, quality housing, broadband internet, and more—the proposals aimed at transforming America’s power and transportation sectors are particularly critical for their ability to simultaneously combat climate change while creating a stronger, more equitable clean economy.

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Posted in Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs / Comments are closed