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The cheapest way to cut climate pollution? Energy efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Lauren Navarro, California Senior Manager, Clean Energy and Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards.

That said, there are two clear winners on the EPA’s menu that offer low-cost options for states that seek to comply with the plan while maintaining their commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

Energy efficiency our lowest-hanging fruit

Simply saving energy is the most cost-effective way to reduce demand and carbon pollution from power plants. The cheapest, cleanest and most reliable electricity, after all, is the electricity we don’t use.

The benefits of energy efficiency are vast. It helps people and businesses save money, it boosts job creation (as many as 274,000, one source estimates), and it reduces harmful power plant pollution.

From a utility perspective, energy efficiency improves the reliability of our electric grid and lowers costs for infrastructure maintenance.

Plus, in states such as Texas and California, which face extreme drought, energy efficiency can save scarce water sources. Remember that coal-fired power plants are thirstyand less water is consumed when these plants are used less (or not at all).

Half of the states already have mandatory energy-efficiency targets, so we have the knowledge and experience across the country to advance this undeniably beneficial resource.

Same as taking all cars off road

McKinsey & Co. estimates that by 2020, the United States could reduce its annual energy consumption by 23 percent by adopting energy-efficiency measures. This could save us more than $1 trillion dollars and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than a gigaton—the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the road.

That’s why Environmental Defense Fund is working with policymakers, investors and utilities throughout the country to understand the full benefits of energy efficiency, and to explore paths for implementation, for when they’re crafting state plans under EPA’s new Clean Power Plan.

Demand response: everyone wins

Demand response is another way to introduce greater efficiency into the nation's electricity system and help reduce carbon emissions. It’s an invaluable tool that can help conserve electricity when supplies run thin, and to bring more clean energy onto the grid.

On a hot summer day, for example, when electricity demand is high, utilities can ask permission of select customers to lower their thermostats a couple of degrees. In exchange, these customers receive credit on their next electricity bill.

It also helps utility companies better manage stress on the electric grid and it can help them integrate wind, solar and other renewables to replace aging coal-fired power plants.

Demand response relies on people, not power plants, to meet energy demand and reduce carbon pollution from our electricity sector.

Proven strategies

In Southern California, for example, they’re about to replace a large chunk of electric capacity – at least 550 megawatts – from the recently closed San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station with renewable energy, energy storage – and demand response. This will help minimize a need for gas-fired plants and other polluting facilities that might replace the nuclear plant.

Best of all, demand response is more affordable than building new power plants. In fact, if just 50 percent of Southern California Edison’s customers participated in time-of-use rates – a type of demand response program – energy demand would plummet so much that 66 percent of San Onofre’s former generating capacity would no longer be needed.

As a bonus, customers across the territory would also collectively see cost savings of $357 million, a 15-percent decrease.

As a result of smart decisions such as the one involving the San Onofre plant, California’s utility sector’s greenhouse gas emissions have and will continue to decline. This proves that demand response can and should be a core tenet in the nation’s push to diversify its energy mix and cut pollution in order to usher in a clean, sustainable and healthy future.

As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted last week, these clean energy solutions are not new ideas. They’re based on proven technologies and approaches that "are already part of the ongoing story of energy progress in America."

"We're not doing cutting-edge work here, folks," she said. "We are just opening the door to cutting-edge.”

This post first appeared on EDF Voices

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Power plant rule a tipping point for clean energy economy

By Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy Program

For those of us (and all of you) who’ve been urging the government to implement meaningful climate policy, the release yesterday of a plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants has been a long time coming. But it finally came.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution rule for existing fossil-fueled power plants – also known as the Clean Power Plan – are a huge win for our climate.

We also think it could go down in history as the tipping point in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. Here’s why:

Old, dirty power plants will be retired

The nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Placing carbon regulations on this source of electricity for the first time in history will transform our energy system.

Utilities have acknowledged that it doesn’t make economic sense to pour money into retrofitting and retaining older, less-reliable coal-fired power plants when they need to focus investments on newer and more reliable plants.

This means that many of the most highly-polluting coal-fired power plants that provide electricity to our homes and businesses today will be retired. It presents a unique opportunity for clean energy solutions to fill the gap in generating capacity.

It may be one of the largest market opportunities in history to drive…clean energy on a national level.

Increasing our use of homegrown, renewable power sources and investing in proven tools such as energy efficiency, smart grids and demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy) will help fill this gap while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels that pollute the environment and contribute to climate change.

States will lead the way

EPA’s approach provides clear guidance for what limits and metrics must be met, but leaves states the flexibility to design solutions to meet those requirements as they see fit. This will encourage all states (even those which do not embrace the climate challenge) to look at clean energy technology as an attractive option when they seek to comply with the law.

Federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants are exactly the clarity states need to lead us to clean, reliable and affordable energy for all Americans – now and in the future.

Entrepreneurs, investors ready to jump in

What’s more, the new EPA plan – once it's final – will give entrepreneurs, corporations and venture capitalists the market signal they need to go full steam ahead with low-carbon innovations. It may be one of the largest market opportunities in history to drive the development and implementation of clean energy on a national level.

At Environmental Defense Fund, we’re right in the middle of many of these promising solutions, working with state legislators and regulators to clear outdated rules that mire us in the past and discourages innovators.

Paving the way for a cleaner, healthier future

We’re working with financial institutions to develop new funding opportunities for clean energy investments that will help raise the estimated $10.5 trillion needed over the next two decades to transition our world to a clean energy economy.

We’re working with energy research pioneer Pecan Street Inc.in Austin, TX to test customer energy management solutions such as rooftop solar, home energy storage, learning thermostats and time-of-use energy pricing (which incentivizes people to use electricity during periods of low, or “off-peak” energy demand).

And we’re pushing to make energy efficiency a cornerstone of America’s energy policy.

It may not be as sexy as fuel cells and solar panels, butbuilding a more efficient energy system — from power plants to transmission lines to homes and buildings — is the most affordable and cleanest path forward.

The United States is expected to spend about $2 trillion over the next two decades to replace our outdated electric infrastructure. These new regulations are a step in the right direction toward ensuring that these investments are spent on our future and not entrenching us in our past.

EPA's proposed rule means good jobs, economic development and a healthier planet.

And as a pioneer at the forefront of this movement, EDF is determined to make sure we stay on track.

This blog first appeared on EDF Voices

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | 1 Response, comments now closed

Why you only get 25% of the electricity you pay for

By Ronny Sandoval

What would you say if I told you that about three-quarters of what you spend on electricity every month is wasted? Considering that Americans spend about $350 billion on electricity annually, I hope you’ll find this as shocking as I do.

From generation to delivery to consumption, inefficiencies at every step of electricity’s journey add up to a lot of waste. Fortunately, these same conditions present us with opportunities to substantially reduce inefficiencies and their associated economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Generation: Energy is wasted at the source

Today, the majority of the electricity produced in the United States originates from fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these plants are only about 33 percent efficient, and “two-thirds of the energy in the fuel is lost — vented as heat — at most power plants in the United States.”

There are limits to what can be done to address this problem as this loss is largely due to the thermal process of large power plants, since heat is a by-product of this sort of generation and it has to be released somehow.

Some plants, however, achieve higher efficiencies by capturing wasted heat energy and putting it to meaningful work, raising the total efficiency to somewhere within the 60-80 percent (or greater) range.

One example of this kind of technology is combined heat and power, which burns a fossil-fuel like natural gas to make electricity, but reroutes the heat generated as a by-product (often vented out of the chimney stack) back to the customer’s premise and used to heat hot water or a space.

Today, this technology is mostly limited to large buildings or complexes, but it has proven to be very successful in places such as New York City, where these types of structures are prevalent.

Delivery: Energy is lost en route to homes and businesses

Adding to our energy loss, another seven percent of the electricity that’s ultimately generated is later lost in the delivery path to homes and businesses.

Available and emerging technologies show us it doesn’t have to be this way. “Voltage optimization’” technologies and strategies, for example, can lower the amount of energy lost in the delivery process while also reducing the associated environmental impacts.

Consumption: Old appliances, bad habits = a little more waste

Try to think of all the old and inefficient appliances and equipment that use more electricity than is necessary. For example, incandescent (traditional) light bulbs can use four times as much electricity as energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Most of the energy these traditional bulbs use generates heat, not light.

Similarly, inefficient refrigerators can use 15 percent more electricity (or much more depending on the age) than efficient alternatives.

Now, also think of all the things that are simply left on or running that don’t have to be (lights, computers, TVs, phone chargers, etc.) and you really start to get a picture of the amount of inefficiency based on our ingrained habits of consumption.

Smart solutions

But don’t be discouraged! Abundant and cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities mean we can reduce this waste – and ultimately pollution. By simply improving the way we use energy at home and at work we can realize big energy savings across the whole electricity supply chain.

When an unused appliance is powered off, the electric system doesn’t just save on the energy the appliance would have used, it also avoids all the extra energy (and greenhouse gas emissions) the system would have generated to compensate for its inefficiencies.

Fortunately, more and more solutions (such as “smart’ thermostats” and “smart” power strips) are providing consumers with the tools to automate and maximize energy savings at home.

Commercial buildings can also benefit from these intelligent energy control devices by implementing operating schedules, occupancy sensors, and other forms of building automation to ensure that lighting or heating and cooling systems aren’t running when not needed.

Abundant and cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities mean we can reduce this waste.

Collectively, we can improve this part of the supply chain through an increasing variety of actions – such as using more efficient appliances, energy conservation, and the automation of energy use.

A rare opportunity

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans would like to see more bang for their electricity buck, but the argument for efficiency is not just a financial one. Energy efficiency has the added benefit of protecting our finite natural resources and reducing harmful, greenhouse gas emissions that affect our health.

Much of the inefficiencies in the electric system are a product of decisions made along the supply chain and the policies and incentives that drive them.

The U.S. is expected to spend about $2 trillion over the next two decades to replace our aging, inefficient and polluting energy infrastructure. This presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionize how we make, move, manage, and use electricity.

It's an opportunity we cannot afford to waste, the way we've been wasting so much electricity.

This blog originally appeared on EDF Voices

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy | 4 Responses, comments now closed

'Feeding 9 billion' requires facing up to climate change

This post was co-authored by Kritee, Senior Scientist, International Climate; Richie Ahuja, Regional Director, Asia; and Tal Lee Anderman, Tom Graff Fellow – India Low-Carbon Rural Development

National Geographic's May cover story, “Feeding 9 billion,” offers valuable insights into how to feed a growing global population while reducing agriculture’s environmental impacts. But it omits some key connections with a critical issue: climate change.

Drought in the U.S. causes withering of corn. (Photo credit: Ben Fertig, IAN, UMCES)

As the Food and Agriculture Organization recently documented in great detail, climate change is likely to fundamentally alter the structure of food systems around the globe. With about 43% of the world’s population employed in agriculture, it’s vital that farmers have the knowledge and tools they need both to adapt to climate change and to help mitigate it.

Author Jonathan Foley, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, lays out several steps for “Feeding 9 billion.” Though he starts by acknowledging that agriculture emits “more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes combined,” he doesn’t explicitly mention how his plan relates to a changing climate.

The first of his steps – halting conversion of additional forests and grasslands to agriculture – is crucial to stopping climate change, given the vast quantities of greenhouse gases released in these conversions. As the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on mitigation noted, protecting forests and increasing carbon content of the soils can decrease global emissions by as much as 13 gigatons CO2eq/year by 2030 – more than a quarter of current annual global emissions.

Foley also highlights the need to reduce meat consumption, because only a very limited portion of calories consumed by animals yield edible food for humans, and to reduce food waste. According to the IPCC, these consumer-level steps have the potential to decease agricultural emissions by 60% below the current trajectory. While Foley didn’t acknowledge these mitigation potentials, we agree that these are important steps to feeding the world’s population and protecting our environment.

But it’s his steps calling for improving productivity – both by growing more food on existing farms, and by using fertilizer, water and energy more efficiently – where the interactions with climate are more complex and need special attention.

Climate adaptation and resilience in agriculture

Foley rightly points out that to feed the world’s future population, more food needs to grow on existing farms. However, he doesn’t note that some of the effects of climate change – droughts, floods and heat waves in many parts of the world – are already reducing crop yields, and these effects and their consequences are expected to worsen.

The IPCC’s recently published 5th Assessment Report on adaptation concludes that:

  • Climate change is already negatively affecting yields of crops and abundance of fish, and shifting the regions where crops grow and fish live
  • Future changes in climate will increase competitiveness of weeds, making it difficult and more expensive to control them
  • By 2050, changes in temperature and precipitation alone will raise global food prices by as much as 84% above food prices projected without these two climatic factors
  • Major grains like wheat, corn, and rice could see as much as a 40% decrease in yield from a 20C increase in local temperatures. That’s because of the changing rainfall frequency and intensity, unpredictability and irregularity of growing seasons, and higher ozone levels that often accompany high CO­2 levels

To deal with these consequences and ensure food security and livelihoods, adaptation to climate change is essential. Indeed, adopting carefully chosen adaptation and resilience measures could improve crop yields as much as 15-20%. The IPCC recommendations include:

  • Altering planting/harvesting dates to match the shifting growing seasons
  • Using seed varieties that might be more tolerant of changing climatic patterns
  • Better managing water and fertilizer use

A farmer training session, led by EDF’s partner NGO in India (Photo credit: Accion Fraterna)

Achieving high yields requires enabling farmers all over the world to adapt, build and restore the resilience of agricultural ecosystems in the face of continued climate change. Given that many farmers in developed countries have already reached what are currently maximum possible yields, it’s particularly urgent to work with farmers in the developing world.A vast majority of these farmers in developing countries own small-scale farms (less than two acres in size) and have limited resources, and as a result are on the frontline of experiencing the unfolding impacts of climate change. These farmers are already growing the majority of the world’s food – more than 90% of the world’s rice, over 65% of its wheat and 55% of its corn. Notably, as opposed to our recommendations for farmers in the developed countries, some of them might need to increase their fertilizer use to achieve better yields as opposed to decreasing it. Feeding a world of 9 billion thus requires facing the disproportionate effect that climate change has on the 2 billion people who depend on small-scale farms for their livelihood.

Barriers to climate adaptation & mitigation in agriculture

The latest IPCC report also noted that the “nature” of the agriculture sector means:

“There are many barriers to implementation of available mitigation options, including accessibility to … financing, … institutional, ecological, technological development, diffusion and transfer barriers.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Many farmers, especially small scale land-owners in developing parts of the world, lack access to reliable scientific information and technology. In some cases, relevant information has not even been generated.

An Indian peanut farm where EDF is monitoring yield and greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo credit: Richie Ahuja)

For example, small-scale rice farmers in Asia lack access to information enabling them to determine what amounts of water, organic and synthetic fertilizer will optimize yields while also minimizing release of the greenhouse gases methane (which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released), and nitrous oxide (which is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide). EDF is working with the Fair Climate Network in India and with Can Tho University and other partners in Vietnam to help generate that information and facilitate its use by farmers.

More generally, agricultural institutions at all levels – international, regional, national and local – need to work closely with farmers to learn and promote evidence-based, locally appropriate agricultural adaptation and mitigation technologies and practices. Farmer access to finance can further help improve the adoption rate of these technologies. Larger investments in farming infrastructure and science from government and private sector also need to be channeled to promote food security through low-carbon farming.

Our food system cannot achieve high yields without building and restoring the resilience of agricultural ecosystems, and the system won’t be sustainable if agriculture doesn’t do its part to mitigate climate change.

To feed 9 billion people, we must overcome barriers to reducing climate change’s effects on agriculture, and agriculture’s effect on climate.

This post first appeared on EDF Talks Global Climate blog

Posted in International, Plants & Animals, Policy, Science | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Personal Car Sharing: Save the Environment without Moving a Muscle

Personal car sharing, a better way to get to the mountains without buying a new car. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Arthaey.

Across the country, car sharing has taken off. Programs like Zipcar, PhillyCarShare, Car2Go in Austin, Texas, City CarShare in San Francisco, as well as big name rental companies like Hertz and Enterprise, are helping people get around without owning a car. For many people who don't want the hassle of car ownership—insurance, trips to the DMV, high gas prices, and parking—this is an easy option for the times they need a car to get to the beach or reach a far flung place not accessible via transit or bike.

By sharing rather than owning, car share participants cut their average vehicle use, which means a cut in gasoline consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollution. A UC Berkeley study done for San Francisco's City CarShare, found that 30% of City CarShare households sold one or more of their cars after joining the program and automobile travel among members dropped 47%. The study concluded that City CarShare members save 720 gallons of gas or 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions on a daily basis.

A new state bill, AB 1871, will be coming up for a vote on the Assembly floor next week. Introduced by California Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), AB 1871 would take car sharing one step further by removing some important barriers to car sharing. This has great potential for a range of arrangements that would ultimately lead to a reduction of vehicles in a given neighborhood.

Suppose, for instance, you'd  like to buy an SUV because you anticipate going skiing, or maybe you might want to buy a light-duty truck because every year you need it to haul your grandma's jams to the farmer’s market. If you knew you could easily share a neighbor's SUV or truck located just a block or two from your home, you might not feel compelled to buy the gas guzzler, and instead, opt for a smaller car for daily use.

In exchange for sharing his or her vehicle, under AB 1871, your neighbor with the truck would be reimbursed for the costs of operation by the car sharing company. This would help defray some of the truck's fixed expenses, such as parking costs, though AB 1871 caps the reimbursement so the vehicle doesn’t become a commercial enterprise for the owner.

While this makes sense on paper, what happens when someone scratches the handle or gets into a more serious accident while driving your car? The basic gist of AB 1871 is this insurance piece, which is a tricky one. Currently, if an individual opts to put his or her own car into a car sharing program, a typical insurance company would consider the vehicle to be a commercial vehicle and would invalidate the individual's personal insurance.

AB 1871 addresses this by clearly demarcating  liability. When a person's personal vehicle is in the car sharing program, the program assumes all liabilities, and when it is in the owner's possession, it goes back to being a personal vehicle covered by the owner’s own insurance.  This clear demarcation is helped through technology that records when the car is and isn’t under the car sharing program’s control.

These insurance fixes widen the scope of existing car sharing companies without putting more cars on the road. Carsharing programs are tough to get started in lower density areas as demand just isn't high enough, and the capital costs of purchasing new fleets often isn't worth it. With personal car sharing, these programs can begin to move out of urban areas, expanding transportation choices for more people.

The personal vehicle sharing company behind this legislation, Spride, is a Silicon Valley company started up by venture capitalist Sunil Paul. If AB 1871 is enacted, Spride aims to link up with San Francisco's CityCarshare to run a pilot program, using the web and social networking to pair people with cars, with pricing based on make and model.

Car share aficionados in other states—especially Massachusetts where RelayRides is working– are watching what happens with the California legislation. Personal car sharing presents an innovative transportation choice that is financially smart, reduces greenhouse gases, and improves air quality. People want a variety of mobility options, and personal car sharing is a really creative way to solve these needs.

Posted in Cars and Pollution | Comments closed

Mapping the Transit Funding Crisis

Transit cuts from coast to coast.

Today Transportation for America (T4) released an updated map of widespread transit cuts, layoffs, fare increases and service cuts across the U.S.

At Way2Go, we've written frequently about this transit funding crisis, as it is harming our mobility at a time when getting to work cleanly, reliably and inexpensively is very important. We've focused on how these cuts have affected communities throughout the country—rural, suburban, urban neighborhoods—and who it affects–students, less affluent citizens, and seniors.

And Americans do not want to see these cuts. T4's most recent poll numbers, which we blogged about a few weeks ago, show that Americans want improved and better public transportation, and those polled would be willing to almost double current federal spending for public transportation, which is now at 18 cents to every dollar, to 37 cents to every dollar.

T4's map is extensive, but needs your input. With public transportation ridership at record highs from coast to coast, these funding cuts are felt by many. Check out T4's map to see if your town or city has been properly accounted for, so that T4 can articulate the true extent of this funding crisis.

Posted in Cars and Pollution | Comments closed

Transit Funding Disaster: A Hard Look at What Happens When Money Is Tight

Chicago Transit Authority has laid off 1,067 workers and has drastically cut service. Photo courtesy of Flickr user: TheeErin

 

Over the last several months, we've written occasionally about the need to solve the impending transit funding crisis. For longer than that, we've worked around the country, but especially in California and New York, to find new and innovative ways to advance transit service. Lately, we've also implored Congress to provide emergency funding to keep drivers employed as legislators have considered jobs bills. 

So far, our efforts as well as the work of our allies, to keep drivers driving, mechanics working, the transit system available—and ultimately keep some of the worst tailpipe emissions in check—have been frustratingly unsuccessful.   

New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and countless other metropolitan regions are facing a transit disaster. Grappling with huge budget deficits as a result of public funding cuts, transit agencies are slashing service, laying off workers, and raising fares.  

  • In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, which operates the city's buses and subways, as well as suburban rail lines, bridges and tunnels, is facing an $800 million deficit as a result of cuts in state aid and low payroll tax revenues. They expect to layoff 1,130 employees (out of their 70,000 person staff), including 500 station agents. The MTA has ended free fares for students and has reduced salaries by 10%.
  • In Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority has laid off 1,067 employees in order to balance a $300 million deficit.
  • In San Francisco, the city expects to see a second fare increase in 4 months in order to balance a $12.1 million deficit, with additional service cuts. SFMTA plans to lay off 230 employees, 175 of which are bus and Muni metro drivers. 
  • In Washington, D.C., where trains are bursting during rush hour, WMATA plans to lay off 60 employees and eliminate another 90 positions that are not filled. They also expect service cuts and fare increases to fill their $40 million budget gap.
  • Just this weekend, in Sacramento, CA, the local newspaper reported that the regional transit agency is planning to put 300 workers on notice that they'll likely be laid off as the agency grapples with a two-year $25 million deficit. Service after 8pm and on weekends could be cut as well. This deficit has been made worse as a result of state policymakers’ decision last year to shift the state fuel tax, designated for transit operations, to other important state services, which have been jeopardized by the overall state budget crisis.

And here's an example of how these cuts add up, changing people’s commuting choices. Quoted from the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco resident MPR Howard, who has lived in San Francisco and ridden Muni for 28 years, will now be back behind the wheel:  

I will not be renewing my Muni disabled pass…. I will be putting my 45-year-old car (a 1965 Dodge Dart) back on the road. She may not be pretty or environmentally clean, but at least she gets me from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. I've given up on Muni. 

Confirmed U.S. Public Transportation Industry Layoffs, 2009-2010

City Transit System Layoffs
Alameda, CA Central Contra Costra 38
Lodi, CA Grapeline (MV) 10
Orange County, CA OCTA 93
Roseville, CA Roseville Transit (MV) 5
Riverside, CA Riverside Transit 26
San Jose, CA SCVTA 70
San Mateo, CA Sam Trans 45
Washington, DC WMATA 40
Chicago, IL CTA 1,067
Boston, MA MBTA 75
Detroit, MI DDOT 113
St. Cloud, MN * New Flyer Bus Plant 320
St. Louis, MO Metro **550
Charlotte, NC CATS 50
Manchester, NH MTA 4
Hornell, NY *Alstom Rail Car Plant 500
Binghamton, NY *Westcode (supplier of heating and cooling systems for New York City subway cars) 45
Cincinnati, OH SORTA 137
Memphis, TN MATA 20
Austin, TX Startran 21
TOTALS 20 3,219

* = Transit Manufacturer

** = Rescinded after passage of 10% provision in supplemental appropriations bill

 

Projected Upcoming Layoffs

City Transit System Upcoming Layoffs
Fresno, CA FAX ?
Orange County, CA OCTA 127
Sacramento, CA RT 240
San Francisco, CA BART 19
San Francisco, CA Muni 230
Colorado Springs, CO Springs Transit “Dozens”
Atlanta, GA MARTA 1,500
Jonesboro, GA C-Tran System to shut down Spring 2010
Norcross, GA Gwinett County Transit (Veolia) 22 (December 2009)
Des Moines, IA RTA 24
Louisville, KY TARC More than 50
Baton Rouge, LA CATS 12
New York, NY NY MTA 1,130
Cleveland, OH RTA 219
Tulsa, OK Tulsa Transit 15
Lynwood, WA Community Transit 10%
TOTALS 17 Over 3,600

 Prepared by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Legislative Department. Updated March 1, 2010.  For more information, contact Jeff Rosenberg at jeffr@atu.org, courtesty of Scott Bogren at the Community Transportation Association of America (bogren@ctaa.org).   

  

Posted in News | Comments closed

The Jobs Bill: Transit Operations Funding Will Save Green Jobs

Yesterday, President Obama became the latest among a growing number of D.C. policy leaders to promise a jobs bill that includes transportation funding. While the day-to-day details of when a bill will emerge, how it will be funded, and what it will include are all still developing, a jobs bill seems more certain than ever.

This brings us to one place where we think jobs funding should be targeted: transit operations. A jobs bill that directs a one-time slug of cash to fund transit drivers and mechanics could save some important jobs.

Service cuts affect riders and drivers.

Service cuts affect riders and transit operators.

These are jobs that ultimately help protect air quality and reduce greenhouse gases by providing people real choices in transportation.

Transit agencies across the U.S. are hurting. This past Saturday,dozens of San Francisco Muni riders were stranded at the station. In response to a $129 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2009-2010, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) cut more than half of Muni's bus routes and one rail line. And while San Francisco has been hit the worst of any American city in terms of fare increases, and is second behind Atlanta's MARTA in terms of projected deficit as a percentage of operating budget, transit cuts and lay offs are widespread and not confined to urban areas.

These transit service cuts and fare increases also impact transit employees. Transit operators and maintenance crews have lost their jobs. AC Transit, which serves California's Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, has cut almost 190 bus driver and maintenance positions. In Colorado Springs, CO., state and local budget cuts have eliminated an entire bus service–and more jobs.

Over the years, the federal government has helped pay for buses and rail, but not the drivers and mechanics to keep those services operating. That funding responsibility is left to states and local governments. With the economic crisis, state and local budget cuts have hit transit operations hard. Federal help for operations in a jobs bill is sorely needed.

Transit operating jobs are exactly the kinds of jobs that a stimulus ought to fund—good jobs that provide hardworking men and women with a living wage while providing a needed public service.  In San Francisco, Muni bus drivers earn between $36,000 and $58,000 per year, depending on seniority, and these drivers and their families rely on this income. A federal jobs bill that includes transit operations funding would immediately put drivers and maintenance staff back to work.

It's not just driver jobs that are at stake. Transit is critical for riders who use it to get to work. The number of employed workers who need it is growing as gas prices and general cost of living increases. Since 1995, public transportation trends have done nothing but increase. In 2008, Americans took 10.7 billion public transportation trips, the highest number since 1956. In the same year, as transit ridership increased nationally by 4 percent, vehicle miles traveled actually reduced by 3.6 percent.

A jobs bill with Federal funding for transit operations would help staunch the bleeding away of good transit jobs. It would buy time while states, counties and cities figure out other ways to close their budget gaps and develop sustainable funding for transit drivers and mechanics. It would keep the buses and trains rolling at a time when America needs them the most.

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FreedomWorks' Bogus 10

FreedomWorks, a conservative inside-the-Beltway grassroots organization run by former House Majority Leader Dick Army (R-TX), recently released its Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Cap and Trade.

Their unsound arguments are standard fare for the climate skeptic cognoscenti. They rely on studies from hyper-conservative organizations with a history of catering to industry, while omitting more widely accepted studies, such as those from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It's also clear from their list that they don't have a specific problem with a proposal to cap global warming pollution, but rather with climate action in general—suggesting that they believe nothing should be done to address this crisis.

We respond to each of their arguments after the jump.

Read More »

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Economic crisis to stall climate change

Claim:

"This [economic] crisis puts the nail in the coffin for climate change."

Bill Kovacs, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's division for environmental and regulatory affairs, October 17, 2008.

Truth:

Economic studies suggest not only that capping America's global warming pollution would result in negligible new economic costs, but also that not acting would result in a huge economic burden on our economy.

Solving global warming and reinventing America's energy infrastructure isn't going to be free. It is likely that under a cap, energy prices will go up for some Americans in the short term.

Depending on how the policy is designed, though, these increases are relatively modest and can be offset by changes in energy consumption and through subsidies generated through the cap program to reduce the impact of additional energy costs.

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