California’s Transportation Policies Must Create Solutions to Deliver Benefits Both at Home and Outside Our Borders

rp_Tim-Oconnor-picture-228x300.jpgMake no mistake, California is a leader when it comes to improving air quality and deploying unprecedented amounts of cleaner, low-carbon fuels. However, despite years of efforts to cut vehicle emissions and reduce fossil fuel consumption, California remains in the top spot nationally for gasoline use, and is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country.

In addition, as the state and surrounding region continues to cut petroleum usage and clean up the environment – yielding major climate benefits – economic growth in emerging markets across the world means that our efforts are being undercut by increases in use elsewhere.

For California to truly deliver in in the fight against climate change, we must not only cut fossil fuel use and deploy cleaner alternatives at home, but also create solutions that deliver benefits abroad. In other words, we should aim to export our best transportation policies abroad – the ones that have helped California reduce fossil fuel use yet still help foster economic opportunities and growth.

A range of current policies are helping drive new technologies that yield low carbon vehicles and fuels

Over the past 15 years, California has given birth to the some of the most ambitious and successful climate change related transportation policies imaginable. For example, in 2002 the legislature adopted the Pavley Clean Cars law (AB 1493) which set greenhouse gas standards for automobiles. This law eventually led to new national vehicle efficiency standards and the production of a new wave of more efficient and cleaner cars and trucks.

In 2007 the state adopted AB 118 (later reauthorized under AB 8 in 2013). This policy helped create major economic incentives for low-carbon fuel production, with both public and private dollars.

Similarly, the state has in place a nation-leading cap-and-trade program and a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, both of which place a price on carbon to stimulate private investment in low-carbon vehicles and fuel technology. Like the Pavley car standards, the LCFS program is ripe for replication – with similar programs adopted or considered in both Oregon and Washington.

Moving forward, California’s dedication to cleaning up transportation is expected to continue as evidenced by a recent commitment by Governor Brown to cut petroleum use by 50% over the next 15 years.

Putting California in context

California, working in concert with states like Oregon and Washington, is making headway to develop and deploy transportation solutions. But home-grown solutions can only go so far toward battling climate change if they remain local. To make a real dent in climate change, our state policies must help

move people away from fossil fuels and inject new technologies into the global multi-trillion-dollar transportation fuels market.

Case in point: The world’s four largest countries not including the U.S. (China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil) are home to about three billion of the world’s seven billion people. With a couple of exceptions due to fluctuations in Brazil’s fuels market, petroleum use in these countries has been increasing steadily: both in total volume and in the amount used per person. Furthermore, accordingly to documents like Exxon’s Energy Outlook report – world oil consumption is expected to rise 19% over the next 25 years.

As countries see their populations and spending power increase, this will likely be manifested through more cars, more traffic jams, and more pollution. In other words, the world’s climate and public health is being further pushed to the brink because more people are spending more money to buy and burn more liquid fossil fuels every single year.

California policy is spawning companies that are well-positioned to export low-carbon transportation solutions

Based on world petroleum use statistics, major investments across the world are going to be needed to cut world oil use and address climate change. And, as shown by California policy projections, the state and region has learned how to do it.

For example, according to modeling we performed in 2014, by 2025, under existing policies California will cut fuel use by 4.5 billion gallons of gas and diesel every year. Similarly, under new modeling by the International Council on Clean Transportation, west coast clean fuels are likely to yield a reduced overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels in the region by 14-21% by 2030.

One major reason for California’s and the larger region’s transportation progress are the numerous business located here that are thriving by deploying fuel and vehicle solutions. In 2014, we mapped over 300 such companies in the low-carbon transportation space, many of which have been instrumental in California’s recent success. And, as shown in the most recent energy policy report by the California Energy Commission (CEC), the state gets about 8% of its fuel from alternatives and boasts world-leading penetration of electric, natural gas, and hydrogen vehicles.

Deploying California solutions internationally is an old idea with new urgency

In April of 2014, economist Severin Bornstein wrote about the need and value of developing solutions that have a, “greater emphasis on technology creation, both in the lab and downstream, where a lot of the learning goes on.” As Bornstein put it, California climate policy should “invent and develop the technologies that can replace fossil fuels, allowing the poorer nations of the world – where most of the world’s population lives – to achieve low-carbon economic growth. If we can do that, we can avert the fundamental risk of climate change. If we don’t do that, reducing California’s carbon footprint won’t matter.”

Consider the direct investment the state is making in developing and deploying transportation solutions. In the CEC’s 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report update, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) detailed almost $500 million in investments in fuel, vehicle, and infrastructure technology that California has made recently. This is money on top of hundreds of millions being used to develop mass transit, fleet modernization, and clean vehicle deployment in the state.

As California companies grow and thrive through the deployment of clean transportation solutions, their ability to capture market share in emerging markets will also grow. Not only will this provide new opportunity for business, but the spread of California transportation solutions across the globe will signal increased hope for the chance to solve climate change.

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