Union of Concerned ScientistsVehicles – Union of Concerned Scientists https://blog.ucsusa.org a blog on independent science + practical solutions Fri, 22 Feb 2019 22:22:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://blog.ucsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Vehicles – Union of Concerned Scientists https://blog.ucsusa.org 32 32 EPA Head Lies about Fuel Economy Fines in Push for Weaker Car Standards https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/epa-head-lies-about-fuel-economy-in-push-for-weaker-car-standards https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/epa-head-lies-about-fuel-economy-in-push-for-weaker-car-standards#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2019 21:43:58 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=64150
Fiat Chrysler spinning itself in circles as it chooses to pay fines and buy credits from competitors instead of investing in efficiency for the long-term. Photo courtesy of FCA

In an interview with Bloomberg Media on February 4th, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated that manufacturers have paid $77 million in fines for not complying “with the current Obama numbers,” going on to say that “it’s incorrect to say that the automobile manufacturer can comply with the Obama numbers. We want a more realistic number.”

In waging this war on “the Obama numbers”, Andrew Wheeler is waging a war on facts in order to increase pollution from passenger cars and trucks and force consumers to pay more at the pump, lining the pockets of the oil industry with whom he has met repeatedly in his short tenure at EPA.

Fiat-Chrysler is paying a fine…for repeating history

One part of the story is correct: Fiat Chrysler is paying $77 million in fines as a result of the inefficiency of its 2016 model year fleet. However, this fine is not because they aren’t in compliance the critical and important standards set under Obama (in fact, they are). Instead, Fiat Chrysler is paying a fine for violating a Congressional law meant to prevent the very actions which set in motion the bailout of Chrysler!

In the 2000s, Chrysler and other domestic manufacturers had invested heavily in SUV and light truck production in the United States, essentially ignoring investment in passenger cars. When oil prices rose, they were completely unprepared for the market shift away from these big gas guzzlers and towards the more efficient passenger cars made by their competitors. The result of this negligence were massive layoffs of domestic workers.

In 2005, General Motors announced the closure of 12 manufacturing plants, resulting in the loss of 30,000 jobs across North America. In 2006, Ford announced eliminations of up to 30,000 jobs and 14 factories. In 2007. Chrysler announced cuts to 13,000 jobs in North America and at least partial closures of 4 plants. This massive economic catastrophe was the result of a business strategy that ignored the possibility of a changing market and the inherent fluctuations resulting from a volatile oil market, putting short-term profits over smarter, longer-term investments.

Congress says enough is enough

The long-reaching impact of these lay-offs is apparent in Michigan today, even as many of these jobs have returned. And in 2007, Congress sought to put an end to the detrimental behavior that cost the public so much.

In the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress set a mandatory limit for a manufacturer’s domestically produced passenger car fleet—no longer would a manufacturer be allowed to ignore investment in a robust portfolio of efficient vehicles produced in North America. In order to make sure the bailouts, layoffs, and economic turmoil brought about by shortsighted investment strategies, the law requires that every manufacturer’s domestically produced passenger car fleet achieves an average fuel economy no more than 8 percent worse than the average car sold in the United States. .

Fiat-Chrysler tells the American people: We don’t care

In 2007, Congress tried to prevent future crises by passing EISA. And in 2008, the American taxpayer bailed out Chrysler and General Motors, assuming that these companies had learned their lesson. But just seven years later, Fiat Chrysler flaunted the requirements set out by Congress to avoid another bail-out and protect American jobs.

In 2015, Fiat Chrysler knew that it was going to fall well short of the requirements on North American production of efficient passenger cars. Yet in 2016, the company doubled down on its strategy, not only refusing to improve the efficiency of its domestic fleet but scrapping production of its  most efficient vehicles entirely. This was a conscious and deliberate choice to ignore Congress and the goodwill of the American people in bailing out the failing company by repeating history. The penalty for doing so was a $77 million price-tag they were willing to pay.

Fiat-Chrysler is being fined because they are falling short of their competitors and focusing on short-term gains in place of long-term investment, exactly the behavior the law they broke was meant to combat.

EPA wants you to believe that manufacturers can’t meet standards…and so does Fiat Chrysler

Andrew Wheeler’s EPA is in the process of undoing the regulations that have continued to make vehicles of every size and type more efficient. He’s already claimed ridiculous things about the impacts of these rules, but now he’s adding a new weapon in his quest to harm American consumers: lying about whether manufacturers are in compliance with these standards.

In fact, the document published by NHTSA disclosing these fines shows quite clearly that manufacturers continue to comply with the CAFE program. Even his own EPA shows that manufacturers continue to comply with the program, in part by using credits earned for exceeding expectations in the early years to buy more time to comply with the harder future standards, for which they’ve prepared a number of widespread developments, whether that’s mild hybridization of some of the largest vehicles on the road, deployment of dozens of new electric vehicles, or just the “holy grail” of internal combustion engines.

Fiat Chrysler has been quite clear about how it feels about regulations—it would rather pay the U.S. government fines than provide customers with efficient options. And it has lobbied Andrew Wheeler for a dramatically weaker program in order to continue doing so. But one company’s strategic indifference to fuel economy improvements are not justification to rollback a program that is cutting global warming emissions, reducing our use of fossil fuel, and saving consumers billions at the pump.

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Self-Driving Cars Need to be Steered in a Climate-Smart Direction https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/self-driving-cars-need-climate-smart-direction https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/self-driving-cars-need-climate-smart-direction#respond Thu, 07 Feb 2019 18:49:46 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=64066
Electric AVs being tested by Cruise Automation frequently pass by my home in San Francisco. Photo: Don Anair

The roving autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco are one of the frequent reminders on my daily commute that our transportation system is changing. But will self-driving cars be good or bad for climate change?

Imaginations can run wild with “heaven or hell” scenarios of automated cars.  Imagine zooming around uncongested roads and highways while passengers attend to their social media, relax with friends, or take in a movie in a clean, electric vehicle.  Or, in the darker vision, zombie cars with no passengers are clogging roads and spewing pollution, urban sprawl is given a new life, and marginalized communities continue to lack good transportation options. As this technology comes to market, it will be up to decision makers to set us on the right course with smart policies.

Some researchers have been putting pen to paper to better understand the potential climate risks of self-driving cars (or autonomous or automated vehicles (AVs) as they are otherwise called) as well as their potential climate benefits. This research is providing important insights into the potential for building a modern transportation system that is less polluting, less congested, more equitable and more efficient than what we have today. It also highlights the significant risks of inaction and the difficulty of achieving the best outcomes.

3 Revolutions and a Multi-Modal Future: Autonomous, electric, and sharing rides

Let’s start with the positive vision first. Self-driving car technologies are paired with electric vehicles, which we’ve shown have lower carbon emissions no matter where you live in the U.S.  In addition, AVs usher in a new wave of transportation services—think Uber and Lyft 2.0—where rides are more convenient than individual vehicle ownership and are cost-competitive.  This leads to a reduction in personal car ownership, since not owning a car is now a more viable, cheaper option for households.  Reduced car-ownership alone doesn’t solve the problem, but when paired with increased access to mobility options like shared bikes, scooters, and efficient mass transit, individuals now choose from a variety of options for each trip, rather than always defaulting to the car formerly parked in their driveway. Sharing or pooling of rides is seamless and offers a lower-cost option, access to faster moving car-pool lanes and lower tolls, while reducing the number of cars on the road.  This ideal future of clean, equitable, and accessible mobility is one of autonomous, electric, and pooled car trips combined with urban design and infrastructure that supports walking, scooters, bikes, and mass transit, and pricing signals that steer choices towards the cleanest, most efficient modes of travel.

Figure 1 Adapted from “Three Revolutions in Urban Transportation“, 2017.

What happens to climate emissions in this future? Researchers at University of California Davis and Institute for Transportation & Development Policy examined a future scenario where AVs are incorporated into a highly shared, multimodal, and electric urban transportation system.  They found, globally, urban transportation pollution could be reduced by 80 percent by 2050 and massive increases in congestion could be avoided, with vehicle miles traveled actually declining by 25 percent instead of increasing by 50 percent in the business as usual case (see figure).

This scenario of a future transportation system meets the travel demands of a growing population while driving down climate emissions.  And it requires coordinated policies to work, including compact development as well as policies that make the lowest emission and most efficient modes of transport the most attractive.  But what if that’s not what happens? What if we don’t make the decisions necessary to support the future described above, and instead take a hands-off approach to AV deployment?

The nightmare AV future: More vehicle miles, more congestion, more pollution, less equity

As wonderful as the vision of “three revolutions” is, it would be foolish to think that this vision of the future is likely—or even possible—without a lot of work. Here are a few ways that things could go wrong.

AVs could dramatically increase driving

If AVs primarily enable increased single occupancy vehicle trips, we are in trouble. One widely-cited study looked at a wide range of impacts AVs could have on energy consumption, travel and carbon emissions.  And there are many factors (see figure). Everything from the energy savings of robot eco-driving to energy and travel increases from newly empowered individuals who previously did not have the ability to drive their own vehicle. There are several potential impacts on both sides of the ledger, but the biggest potential increase in energy use (and by association, emissions) comes from a behavioral response to AVs.  If driving can now be productive time, longer commutes, for example, may not be the burden they once were.  This is one way in which AVs could reduce the time-cost of driving (see “travel cost reduction” results in the figure) and increase overall vehicle travel – as much as 60% according to the study.  Recent modeling of possible AV deployment in the Washington, D.C. metro region showed similar results, estimating that vehicle miles traveled could increase 46-66% with the introduction of self-driving cars.

So will people really drive that much more? Some researchers did an experiment to see what would happen to a household’s vehicle travel if they had access to a vehicle and a driver for a week – mimicking life with a self-driving car. Not surprisingly, most households used the vehicle more often (83% average increase in miles traveled), and even sent the car and driver out on errands (21% of the increase was zero-occupancy).  While there were only 13 participants in the study, which limits the generalization of the findings, the experiment does illustrate the potential behavioral shifts when a vehicle that can drive itself is introduced into a household. Why not send the car to pick-up your dry cleaning or take that trip to Aunt Esmerelda’s you’ve been putting off?

AVs could increase congestion and undermine transit, instead of complementing it

Pooling rides is essential to making AVs deliver on their potential to be clean, equitable and efficient.  Pooling rides for people with similar origins and destinations can deliver more passenger trips from fewer vehicle trips, which is key to making efficient use of vehicles (reducing pollution per trip) and roads (reducing congestion per trip).  But while pooled AVs could help increase the average occupancy of cars, they could also undermine our most important current source of pooling, mass transit.  A car with 2-3 people sharing a ride is an improvement over each person driving alone, but it is a lot more vehicles, pollution and congestion than 30 people in a bus, or several hundred in a subway or train.

Based on the current evidence, especially in larger cities where mass transit is especially important, ride-hailing is pulling more people from modes like transit, walking and biking than it is pooling passengers who would otherwise drive alone. This mode shift, along with additional trips that wouldn’t have been made in the absence of ride-hailing options, is leading to increases in congestion and increased vehicle miles traveled.  (See research by Clewlow & Mishra, Schaller, and University of Kentucky) Moreover, reduced ridership on mass transit hurts the economics of these critical systems as they lose fare revenue.  Adding AVs to ride-hailing fleets could drive down ride costs and exacerbate the changes in vehicle travel and transit impacts we are already seeing.

Roads snarled in congestion are not a good outcome for anyone, including companies that want to use these roads to sell people rides, pooled or otherwise.  So, new rules and incentives will be needed to efficiently manage transportation networks as private companies operate what are in effect private transit systems with occupancy sometimes higher than today’s cars but most often lower than today’s mass transit. Policy-makers will need to prioritize the movement of people over vehicles with policies that favor higher occupancy trips and modes. These could  take the form of preferential pricing, access to restricted lanes and ensuring that the financial model of mass-transit adapts along the way

If we don’t succeed in ensuring rides are largely pooled in both cars and in mass transit modes like rail and subway, not only will congestion get worse, but we will fail to reduce climate emissions to safe levels as electrifying our transportation system is simply not enough.   In the UC Davis/ITDP study, a “2 Revolution” scenario with AVs and widespread electrification but WITHOUT significant pooling of trips resulted in emissions reductions globally in 2050 by only 45% – far less than needed to stabilize our climate.

AVs could exacerbate or perpetuate inequities in our current transportation system

A new report by The Greenlining Institute outlines strategies to ensure AVs benefit all communities.

Our current car-ownership-based transportation system does not serve all communities in an equitable way.  Lower income households spend a larger share of their income on transportation than wealthier households. Those who cannot afford a car, or are too old or young to drive, or have physical handicaps to driving, have to rely on a transit system that often doesn’t meet their needs.

AVs could improve mobility for communities historically underserved by our current transportation system – if the technology enables greater access to affordable, accessible and reliable transportation.  If, however, AV technology is primarily relegated to private car ownership and leads to increased congestion or undermines public transit, as described above, the current inequities will be exacerbated.

A new report by the Greenlining Institute describes in more details the health, economic and mobility risks of AVs for marginalized groups like people of color, the poor, the elderly, and those with disabilities, and offers a list of recommendations to policymakers for ensuring the rollout of AVs leads to greater mobility options for all. UCS will also be releasing a report soon with results from an analysis of the Washington DC metro area and how the rollout of AVs in that region could impact transportation equity.  This research is important for informing the policies necessary to maximize the benefits of self-driving technology.

Now’s the time to get on the right path

Research is providing some helpful insights on understanding the potential role of AVs in a transportation system that cuts climate emissions and improves mobility.  It also offers a cautionary tale of the potential for AVs to dramatically increase emissions and exacerbate congestion if decision makers are not proactive and thoughtful about putting in place the policies that will lead us to the best outcomes.

We are starting to see some positive action on this front.  In California, legislation (SB1014)signed into law last year requires state agencies to develop standards to ensure ride-hailing companies are moving towards greater shared, zero-emission trips. Since AVs are likely to be rolled out in ride-hailing services, these rules will affect AV deployment.  But that’s only a drop in the bucket. Developing effective public policy to ensure AVs deliver climate and transportation system benefits requires shared goals, effective interagency coordination, and development and implementation of effective policy at different levels of government.  In California, UCS is sponsoring legislation with CALSTART (SB59 authored by Senator Ben Allen) that would get the ball rolling at the state level and ensure proactive policies can be deployed as AV technology is hitting the street.

Smart policies are critical for ensuring self-driving car technology ushers in a new era of clean, affordable, and efficient transportation rather than the zombie car apocalypse.  AVs may be able to drive themselves, but it is up to us to steer them in the right direction.

Photo: Don Anair
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¿Quién respira el aire más contaminado por emisiones de vehículos en California? https://blog.ucsusa.org/cecilia-moura/quien-respira-el-aire-mas-contaminado-por-emisiones-de-vehiculos-en-california https://blog.ucsusa.org/cecilia-moura/quien-respira-el-aire-mas-contaminado-por-emisiones-de-vehiculos-en-california#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 17:01:23 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=64001

Es bien sabido que los residentes de muchas ciudades grandes y los que viven cerca de autopistas principales respiran aire contaminado.  ¿Quién no ha visto un bus o camión botando humo negro en el medio del tráfico urbano o en una carretera, o no ha olido aire sucio al caminar por las calles de una ciudad?

Coches, camiones y autobuses emiten partículas finas que son lo suficientemente pequeñas como para penetrar profundamente en los pulmones e incluso  en el torrente sanguíneo. Estas partículas pueden causar enfermedades cardiovasculares, ataques cardíacos, y el cáncer de pulmón, entre otras enfermedades. Se ha estimado que la contaminación del aire por partículas finas es responsable de la gran mayoría de las 3 a 4 millones de muertes anuales atribuídas a la contaminación del aire en todo el mundo.

Lo que mucha gente no sabe, o quizás sepa pero sin evidencia concreta, es que existe una gran disparidad en la exposición a la contaminación entre los grupos raciales y étnicos de muchos lugares de EE.UU.. Vivimos en una sociedade desigual donde la contaminación del aire es una de las desigualdades menos visibles, pero que impacta tremendamente  la salud humana.

Ahora tenemos evidencia cuantitativa de esta triste realidad para  California.  La contaminación del aire por partículas finas en California es un problema particularmente grave, ya que este estado cuenta con siete de las diez  ciudades más contaminadas del EE.UU.

Los latinos, afroamericanos y asiáticos en California respiran un aire más contaminado por vehículos que los californianos blancos

De acuerdo com  un nuevo análisis de Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), que utilizó un nuevo modelo desarrollado en la Universidad de Washington y datos de la Oficina del Censo de los Estados Unidos, los californianos afroamericanos, latinos y asiáticos están expuestos a una contaminación de material particulado fino (PM2.5), que es 43, 39 y 21 por ciento, respectivamente, más alta que aquella a la que están expuestos los californianos blancos.

La investigación analizó las emisiones vehiculares de los tubos de escape y el reabastecimiento de combustible y estimó la exposición a la contaminación a nivel de zona censal. “Los residentes en las comunidades más afectadas han sabido por generaciones que había una cantidad desproporcionada de contaminación del aire en sus vecindarios”, dijo David Reichmuth, ingeniero sénior de UCS y autor del nuevo estudio. “Este modelo nos permite cuantificar la magnitud de la desigualdad en todo el estado. California ha logrado grandes avances en las últimas décadas para reducir la contaminación de los vehículos, pero estos datos muestran que los afroamericanos, latinos y asiáticos en California aún respiran mayores cantidades de contaminación”.

En promedio en todo el estado, la investigación encontró que la contaminación del aire es más baja donde el porcentaje de californianos blancos es más alto.

Las comunidades con un alto porcentaje de población blanca están menos expuestas a la contaminación del aire.

Hogares de bajos ingresos o que no poseen coche también son más afectados

Otro resultado del análisis demuestra que los hogares de más bajos ingresos (que ganan menos de $20.000 por año) en el estado viven donde la contaminación por PM2.5 es 10 por ciento más alta que el promedio estatal, mientras que los hogares con ingresos más altos (que ganan más de $200.000 por año) viven donde la contaminación por PM2.5 se ubica 13 por ciento por debajo del promedio estatal.

Los californianos que viven en hogares sin un vehículo personal también están expuestos a niveles más altos de contaminación vehicular que otros hogares—un 19 por ciento más de PM2.5 que el promedio estatal—debido a que estos hogares  tienden a estar en áreas urbanas rodeadas por tráfico vehicular.

“Las personas que a propósito o debido a circunstancias financieras no son dueños de un automóvil y no contribuyen directamente a la contaminación del aire proveniente de automóviles y camiones aún viven con más de ese tipo de contaminación. Los líderes locales y los defensores del aire limpio deben notar la ironía”, dijo Reichmuth.

Hay también una gran disparidad dentro del estado de California

La gran disparidad en la exposición a la contaminación entre los grupos raciales y étnicos fue similar a las disparidades encontradas entre las áreas geográficas y los niveles de ingresos en California. Los residentes de Los Ángeles están expuestos a un 60 por ciento más de contaminación vehicular que el promedio estatal y un 250 por ciento más que los residentes del área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Sin embargo, en ciertas zonas  de la Bahía de San Francisco el aire es igual de sucio al promedio de contaminación de Los Ángeles.

La gran disparidad en la exposición a la contaminación entre los grupos raciales y étnicos fue similar a las disparidades encontradas entre las áreas geográficas y los niveles de ingresos en California. Los residentes de Los Ángeles están expuestos a un 60 por ciento más de contaminación vehicular que el promedio estatal y un 250 por ciento más que los residentes del área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Sin embargo, en ciertas zonas  de la Bahía de San Francisco el aire es igual de sucio al promedio de contaminación de Los Ángeles.

Haga clic en el map para explorar el mapa interactivo. 

¿Qué es el  PM2.5 y por qué es un problema tan grave para la salud?

Parte de la contaminación de estas partículas finas proviene de fuentes tales como el polvo de carreteras y construcciones, y de incendios. Otra parte se forma directamente durante la combustión en plantas de energía, y durante la combustión de gasolina o diesel en vehículos.

Sin embargo, gran parte de PM2.5 se forma indirectamente a través de las reacciones de los gases contaminantes en la atmósfera. La mayoría de estes contaminantes, que incluyen amonio, óxidos de nitrógeno, óxidos de azufre y compuestos orgánicos volátilese, son emitidos en los tubos de escape de los vehículos, aunque los compuestos orgánicos volátiles también provienen de la evaporación de la gasolina durante el reabastecimiento, de las fugas en los tanques y de las mangueras de combustible de los vehículos.

El PM2.5 proveniente del transporte por carreteras puede exacerbar las afecciones pulmonares y cardíacas, causar ataques de asma y provocar un aumento en las hospitalizaciones.  La exposición crónica de niños a PM2.5 también se ha vinculado con el crecimiento lento de la función pulmonar, el desarrollo de asma y otras enfermedades.

La exposición a PM2.5 conduce a aproximadamente 3.100 muertes prematuras por año en California debido a enfermedades cardiovasculares, ataques cardíacos, el cáncer de pulmón y otras enfermedades. En comparación, en el año 2017, se reportaron 1.829 homicidios en el estado, o aproximadamente un 40 por ciento menos que las muertes estimadas debido a la contaminación por PM2.5 proveniente de automóviles y camiones. La cantidad de muertes relacionadas con la contaminación es sólo ligeramente inferior a las 3.600 muertes causadas por accidentes de tránsito que se reportan en todo el estado durante el 2016.

Teniendo en cuenta el aumento proyectado en la tasa de mortalidad, esta contaminación tiene un costo anual de $29 mil millones, según la estimación de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos sobre el costo de los riesgos para la vida humana.

¿Qué podemos hacer para reducir la contaminación y la desigualdad?

Existen muchas oportunidades para reducir esta importante fuente de emisiones asociadas  no solamente a la contaminación del aire, pero al calentamiento global.

La electrificación de coches, buses y camiones podría reducir considerablemente las emisiones. Los vehículos con batería eléctrica y los vehículos de celdas de combustible, en particular, no producen emisiones de escape (sin embargo, hay cantidades menores de PM5 por el desgaste de los neumáticos y de los frenos) y evitan por completo la necesidad de reabastecimiento de gasolina y sus emisiones asociadas. California tiene estándares de contenido renovable tanto para el  hidrógeno  para el transporte como para la electricidad, estándares que limitarán las emisiones adicionales (Wisland 2018; Senado del Estado de California 2006).

Los vehículos convencionales más eficientes y que producen menos emisiones también son importantes para reducir la contaminación del aire. Los vehículos de gasolina con mayor economía de combustible necesitan menos reabastecimiento. Además, las tecnologías de ahorro de combustible, como los sistemas de arranque y parada que reducen las emisiones cuando los vehículos están encendidos pero inactivos, también pueden contribuir a reducir los gases emitidos por el tubo de escape.

Disminuir las millas conducidas, especialmente en áreas de mayor población, también es una estrategia potencial para reducir la contaminación del aire. Las decisiones sobre el uso del suelo son importantes para reducir la necesidad de conducir vehículos, y las políticas que fomentan el uso del transporte público, caminar o andar en bicicleta en lugar del uso privado de vehículos de pasajeros podrían reducir la generación de PM2.5

Si bien que los californianos pueden marcar la diferencia al elegir vehículos más limpios, gran parte de la contaminación proviene de fuentes que están fuera del control individual. El análisis de UCS señala que es clave expandir las políticas estatales y locales actuales dirigidas a reducir la contaminación vehicular en comunidades sobrecargadas para disminuir la grave desigualdad entre los grupos raciales y las personas de diversos niveles de ingresos en todo el estado.

Las acciones existentes ejemplifican los pasos que el estado ha tomado para reducir la contaminación del aire provocada por los vehículos:

Los formuladores de políticas también han tomado acciones específicas dirigidas a reducir las cargas en las comunidades más afectadas, por ejemplo, estableciendo requisitos para que el gobierno invierta un porcentaje mínimo de los ingresos generados por el programa limitación y comercio de las emisiones (‘cap-and-trade program’) en las comunidades más afectadas por la contaminación.

Este análisis de UCS proporciona evidencia de la necesidad y la importancia de estes tipos de programas, y puede ayudar a informar y configurar acciones futuras dirigidas a reducir la exposición a la contaminación, así como las desigualdades ambientales en California.

“Tenemos la ventaja en este estado de que ya contamos con reglas y políticas innovadoras que nos han convertido en líderes en la electrificación del transporte y la reducción de emisiones”, dijo Reichmuth. “Pero tenemos que hacer más para asegurarnos de que todos los californianos respiren aire puro. Con una crisis de vivienda sin cesar en este estado y un desarrollo más denso cerca de los corredores de alto tráfico, debemos priorizar los programas de vehículos limpios que beneficien a las comunidades más afectadas por la contaminación del aire”.

 

 

 

 

Photo: Eric Sonstroem/Flickr
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Air Pollution from Vehicles in California: People of Color Bear the Biggest Burden https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/pollution-california-people-of-color-bear-burden https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/pollution-california-people-of-color-bear-burden#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2019 17:00:56 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63995
Photo: Eric Sonstroem/Flickr

Cars, trucks, and buses are a significant source of air pollution in California. But how much pollution is attributable to these vehicles and who is exposed to this pollution? To help answer these questions, I’ve used a computer model to estimate the amount of fine particulate matter air pollution (known as PM2.5) created by using on-road vehicles (cars, trucks, and buses). The findings are troubling, both because they show that people of color are exposed to higher levels of harmful air pollution and because this result is likely not to be a surprise to many Californians (full report available in English and Spanish). The study supports the claims many have been making for decades – that on average, African American, Latino, and Asian Californians are exposed to more PM2.5 pollution from cars, trucks, and buses than white Californians. In fact, these groups are exposed to PM2.5 pollution 43, 39, and 21 percent higher, respectively, than white Californians.

What is PM2.5 and why is it important?

Petroleum-powered cars, trucks, and buses produce emissions that lead to harmful air pollution.

Exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) is linked to increased illness and death, primarily from heart and lung diseases. These particles are small —20 times smaller than the diameter of fine human hair— so they can penetrate deeply into the lungs, and the smallest particles can even enter into the bloodstream. While PM2.5 is not the only air pollutant that adversely affects health, it is estimated to be responsible for approximately 95 percent of the global public health impacts from air pollution. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 causes increased death rates attributed to cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, and has been linked to other adverse impacts such as lung cancer. Chronic exposure to PM2.5 in children has also been linked to slowed lung-function growth, development of asthma, and other negative health impacts.

On-road vehicles like cars, trucks, and buses are a significant source of harmful emissions in California. The burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel has multiple negative effects: it produces climate-changing emissions such as carbon dioxide and pollution that reduces air quality. PM2.5 pollution is of particular concern in California, as the state has seven of the 10 most polluted US cities in terms of PM2.5 pollution.

Greater PM2.5 pollution for Latinos and African Americans, low-income households

We estimated exposure to particulate matter air pollution using a recently developed model from the University of Washington and data from the US Census Bureau. This model lets us calculate how vehicle tailpipe and refueling emissions ultimately lead to ground-level pollution exposure so we can understand how exposure to PM2.5 varies among groups and locations.

The results are clear: PM2.5 pollution burden from cars, trucks, and buses is inequitable when looking at the exposure experienced by racial groups in California. Latinos are, on average, exposed to 15 percent higher PM2.5 concentrations than the average Californian, and African Americans in California experience concentrations 18 percent higher than average. White Californians have average exposure that is 17 percent lower than the average for the state. This means that, on average, African American and Latino Californians are exposed to PM2.5 pollution that is 43 and 39 percent higher, respectively, than white Californians.

African American and Latino Californians are exposed to higher than average levels of particulate matter pollution from cars, trucks, and buses

Unequal pollution burdens can also be seen at the community level. In census tracts with average annual PM2.5 concentrations less than half the state average, whites make up 48 percent of the population, while only constituting 38 percent of the state’s total population. In contrast, the most polluted census tracts have a higher proportion of people of color. More than 60 percent of people in these highest burden areas are Latino, compared with a state population that is just 39 percent Latino. The inequities and disparities are clear.

Communities with higher percentages of white population have less exposure to particulate matter from cars, trucks, and buses.

Our research also links inequitable disparities in household income to pollution exposure, with less affluent households having higher exposure to PM2.5 pollution from on-road transportation. On average, households with the lowest incomes (less than $20,000 per year) are exposed to more than 25 percent more particulate matter air pollution than the highest-income households (greater than $200,000 per year).

PM2.5 exposure from cars and trucks varies greatly within California

Click to view interactive map.

Los Angeles County has the highest average PM2.5 pollution exposure from cars and trucks in the state: on average, 60 percent higher than the mean value for the state. One quarter of the population in Los Angeles County experiences pollution levels that are more than double the state average. And because Los Angeles County is the most populous in the state, this higher level of pollution affects millions of people. Only six counties have an average exposure from on-road transportation that is greater than the state average, but four of them (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Diego) are in the top five most populous counties in California, with a combined population of almost 19 million people.

Other areas, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, have zones of higher pollution but have much lower average exposure to vehicle-related particulate pollution compared with the state average. The worst regions of the Bay Area (such as downtown Oakland and San Jose) have annual average PM2.5 concentrations equal to the average across Los Angeles County.

Opportunities to reduce harmful impacts of vehicle use

Particulate matter air pollution from on-road transportation places significant health burdens on Californians, and those burdens are inequitably distributed. However, there are opportunities to greatly reduce the exposure to PM2.5 by reducing tailpipe and refueling emissions, making much of this burden avoidable.

Electrification of vehicles, both passenger and freight, could greatly reduce emissions. Battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in particular have no tailpipe emissions (however, there are minor amounts of PM2.5 emissions from tire and brake wear that all vehicles produce) and completely avoid the need for, and emissions associated with, gasoline refueling. Electricity generation and hydrogen production can produce emissions; however, California has renewable content standards for both hydrogen for transportation and electricity that will limit additional emissions.

While Californians can make a difference by buying cleaner vehicles, much of the pollution comes from sources outside an individual’s direct control, like heavy-duty trucks and buses. The state needs to continue to move forward on regulations, incentives, and other policies to reduce vehicle emissions. Equity and meaningful involvement of disadvantaged communities should be key considerations in designing policies and strategies to reduce pollution from vehicles. The state will need to continue to make progress on reducing emissions and should prioritize actions that reduce the inequitably distributed burden of air pollution in California. Programs like the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program (incentives to help retire older, polluting cars) and low-income clean vehicle rebates are examples of ways the state can help, but clearly more can and should be done to address the problem of harmful air pollution in California.

Photo: Eric Sonstroem/Flickr
Photo: Jimmy O'Dea
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Will the Real State of the Union Please Stand Up? 7 Things President Trump Won’t Say https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/will-the-real-state-of-the-union-please-stand-up-7-things-president-trump-wont-say https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/will-the-real-state-of-the-union-please-stand-up-7-things-president-trump-wont-say#respond Mon, 04 Feb 2019 19:54:50 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63971

A great public servant and one of my mentors, William Ruckelshaus, always emphasized to me that the State of the Union was a time to put big ideas on the table, to talk about the truly great challenges facing the country, and to provide leadership for what we as a nation needed to do to live up to the ideals of our democracy. New education initiatives, cleaning up pollution, providing health care—these are some of the big ideas that previous presidents have talked about on this national stage.

Call me crazy but I don’t think that is what we will hear from President Trump.

Instead we’re likely to hear misdirection and falsehoods. According to the Washington Post, President Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims during his first two years in office. Even if by some miracle he sticks to actual facts during his State of the Union address, it’s a safe bet that he won’t address many of the most crucial challenges facing America. Instead he’s likely to tout the strong economy, while ignoring rising inequality and continuing losses for everyone but the wealthy. He’ll rail about border security, while dismissing the real security threats highlighted by his intelligence agencies. And he will talk about jobs, while ignoring worker safety and threats to public health.

What should be in the speech are some of the truly great challenges we need to tackle as a nation. We need a real change in direction and focus from this administration, and so I will be watching the speech live, tweeting the #RealSOTU, and calling for this nation to face up to the truth.

Here are seven BIG things that President Trump won’t say in his 2019 State of the Union speech.

Rolling back regulations hurts people

President Trump and his appointed agency heads have cut down landmark public protections that we all depend on for our health and safety, and sidelining science has consistently been one of their go-to strategies to accomplish it.

Rolling back regulations that reduce air pollution, water pollution, toxic contamination, worker protections, and more might give windfall profits to some companies. But those profits come at public expense. And who’s bearing the brunt of those impacts and costs? Poorer communities and communities of color.

That all needs to stop, right now.

And right now, with a new Congress in place there is a renewed opportunity to call on our elected officials to represent their constituents and to hold the Trump administration accountable. The administration should be doing its job of serving the public, not special interests.

We need policies that treat our people equitably, that require those who pollute to clean up their mess regardless of what neighborhood they are located in. And we need our government to hold polluters to account. Mr. President, do you want to make real change?  Then work for the people who need the government’s help. That isn’t the oil and gas or chemical industry.

We have one decade left to avoid catastrophic climate change

We have about a decade left to dramatically reduce carbon pollution and avoid truly catastrophic climate change impacts, including unprecedented and life-threatening heat waves, the loss of millions of coastal homes to rising seas, and a growing number of extreme and damaging weather events.

The IPCC’s recent special report and the Trump administration’s own National Climate Assessment (NCA4) both tell us that climate change is already affecting all of us, and that right now we are speeding down one of the most costly and damaging paths possible.

Whether it’s national security, natural disasters, the military, the economy, immigration, or any other number of issues, there’s one thing Trump will surely fail to recognize in his speech: Climate change affects all of them.

Consider, for example, the 2018 report on the vulnerability of military installations to climate-related impacts, which showed that about 10 percent of sites are being affected by extreme temperatures, and some six percent are affected by flooding due to storm surge and by wildfire. Or the 2019 worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community, which identifies climate change as a national security risk.  Or how the NCA4 finds that existing water, transportation, and energy infrastructure are already being impacted by heavy rainfall, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, drought, wildfire, heat waves, and other weather and climate events.

The last two years of natural disasters and extreme weather brought huge costs to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are also part and parcel of a warming climate, and our economy—indeed our very future—depends on the country getting deadly serious about the climate crisis right now.

Coal is dying and renewables are booming. Not fast enough.

Our electricity system is moving away from dirty fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Today coal produces only a quarter of our nation’s electricity, down from 50 percent a short dozen years ago. That’s an encouraging trend, but we still need faster progress and more ambitious policies to achieve the emissions cuts needed to meet the climate crisis head on.

The Trump administration is instead doing everything it can think of to try and prop up the failing coal industry. It’s not working, and coal is still on it way out, but President Trump is still wasting precious time that would be much better spent on ramping up clean energy across the country.

In his speech, Trump will also likely ignore the remarkable economic benefits of renewable energy, especially that the US clean energy industry means jobs, with already more than 100,000 working in the wind sector, 250,000 working in solar, and more than 2 million making our homes and businesses more energy efficient. And the nascent US offshore wind sector offers the potential for tens of thousands of new jobs up and down our coasts.

The administration is moving full speed backwards on transportation emissions

Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in the US, making it more important than ever to increase the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks and reduce the amount of planet-warming emissions we’re putting into the atmosphere. (Plus I like saving money—and driving a cleaner, more fuel-efficient car helps consumers do that as well.)

The president and his administration, however, are still moving ahead with their plans to roll back fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and trucks and halt progress on reducing emissions from the transportation sector.

My colleagues cranked the numbers on what this rollback would mean and it is truly staggering, especially when it’s taken together with the administration’s threat to void state regulations on vehicle emissions. As senior UCS vehicles analyst Dave Cooke points out, rolling back these standards will result in an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions by 2040—that’s 170 million metric tons in 2040 alone, equivalent to keeping 43 coal-fired power plants online. These inefficient cars and trucks will use an additional 200 billion gallons of gasoline by 2040—that’s as much oil as we’ve imported from the Persian Gulf since the standards were first finalized in 2010. And it will cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars—in 2040 alone, consumers will spend an additional $55 billion at the pump if these standards are rolled back.

It’s a safe bet that the president won’t mention any of this. And, for good measure, he will also likely fail to mention his desire to get rid of the electric vehicle tax credit, which makes it easier and more affordable to buy a cleaner car.

Fossil fuel companies are responsible, but still getting special treatment

Trump definitely won’t bring up the fact that fossil fuel companies have known for at least 50 years that their products—oil, gas, and coal—cause global warming. Or that companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron have spent decades and millions of dollars intentionally manufacturing doubt about climate science and lobbying to block sensible climate policy—and are still playing dirty even today as the costs of climate change grow.

Just this past fall, BP poured $13 million into a campaign opposing a carbon pricing measure in Washington state—while simultaneously publicly claiming to support a carbon tax. Other major fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, still fund industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute to do their dirty work lobbying for anti-climate policies.

Meanwhile regular people living through the disruptive impacts of climate change are currently paying for it with their tax dollars. All while fossil fuel companies continue to cash in, plan for and envision minimal disruption to their business models, and avoid paying their fair share of the costs of climate change.

The administration is betraying farmers, workers, and children

Regulatory rollbacks and putting profits over the interests of the public don’t just affect pollution and the environment. They also impact the food we eat and the people who bring it to us, from farm to fork.

In his speech, Trump won’t mention that he and his Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue have repeatedly favored ideology and the agribusiness industry while disregarding science—but that’s exactly what UCS has found. This not only restricts the products and practices that would make us healthier but also ignores the very people who feed us. Small farmers, workers, and children all lose when the administration betrays their interests for the profits of big agribusiness companies, from chemical giant Dow to multinational poultry and pork conglomerates.

Rolling back school lunch rules for the nation’s children or threatening to deny food assistance to immigrant families and low-wage workers is not worthy of this nation. Undermining the USDA’s research agencies, catering to the chemical industry, and waging a disastrous trade war threatens the future for farmers, consumers, and communities.

What the country needs is a food policy that supports public health, ensures that everyone gets the nutrition they need, and reduces the impact of agriculture on the environment and the planet.

Investing massive amounts of money in nuclear weapons is just wrong

Spending over a trillion dollars to re-build the entire nuclear arsenal while walking away from highly successful nuclear arms agreements with Russia is, well, a really bad idea. So is saying that one’s nuclear button is bigger. But the president probably won’t admit that, or indicate that doing so would take the country backwards and greatly increase the chance of nuclear war.

Nuclear weapons still pose an existential threat to our nation and the world. We should be doing all we can to reduce that threat, not just “win” another arms race. Instead the administration just announced that it plans to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty—an agreement negotiated by President Ronald Reagan which eliminated a whole class of lethal weaponry and made the world a much safer place.

Bellicose rhetoric and building newer, more enhanced nuclear weapons won’t lessen the danger either. We need to be leading the world to reduce the nuclear arsenals, not increasing the odds of nuclear war.

Share the #RealSOTU

It can be hard to listen to the president when we’ve learned to expect an avoidance of essential truths like these.

But I’ll be watching his speech nonetheless, live-tweeting using the #RealSOTU hashtag, and highlighting some of the crucial facts that the president will not.

I hope you can join me.

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Will Washington Step Up on Climate in 2019? https://blog.ucsusa.org/jason-barbose/washington-state-climate-2019 https://blog.ucsusa.org/jason-barbose/washington-state-climate-2019#respond Fri, 25 Jan 2019 15:27:58 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63724
Photos left to right: Washington Department of Commerce, iStockphoto/m-imagephotography

While the majority of Washingtonians are worried about climate change and support taking steps to reduce heat-trapping emissions,  it’s no secret that the state has struggled to adopt many big-ticket policies on this issue. (Voters rejected initiatives in 2016 and 2018 to place fees on the state’s biggest emitters of global warming emissions; the Legislature has failed to pass previous proposals from Gov. Inslee to put a price on emissions, and a court also struck down an Inslee administration regulation tackling emissions.) However, I’m not one to linger on past failure, and fortunately this year has brought new opportunities that give me hope Washington lawmakers will seize the moment and take much-needed steps to curtail the state’s global warming emissions.

Washington needs to move quicker on climate

Two recent reports paint a clear picture of why Washington so urgently needs to change course on climate change. In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the UN body responsible for assessing science related to climate change—released a special report outlining the impacts of a global average temperature increase of 1.5°C versus 2°C (above pre-industrial levels), and pathways to limit temperature increases to that level. The report’s findings highlight that the next decade is critical for making dramatic cuts in heat-trapping emissions and that emissions around the world will need to reach net-zero by mid-century to keep global average temperatures from crossing dangerous thresholds.

More recently, Washington’s Department of Ecology released the latest inventory of climate change emissions in the state through 2015. The report shows that emissions climbed more than 6% between 2012 and 2015, with increases from transportation and electricity generation. While some factors are outside of policymakers’ control (e.g., 2015 was a drought year with lower than typical electrical generation from hydroelectric dams), the numbers do not paint a picture of a state heading quickly in the right direction. Hopefully the juxtaposition of these findings further motivates lawmakers to take serious action in 2019.

Creating a market for cleaner transportation fuels

Emissions from transportation represent the largest portion of global warming emissions in Washington (42.5%). There are many strategies needed to significantly cut these emissions and one of the biggest is cleaning up Washington’s fuel supply. UCS is strongly supporting House Bill 1110, which would create a clean fuel standard. The standard would require petroleum refineries and fuel importers to reduce the average carbon intensity of the fuels they sell in Washington by 10 percent by 2028 (compared to 2017).

Refineries and fuel importers could meet the standard by blending low-carbon biofuels into the gasoline or diesel they sell and by purchasing credits generated by providers of lower-carbon fuels, including electricity, renewable diesel, and renewable natural gas.

The standard would create a dependable market for cleaner fuels, facilitating steady investment into research, development, and deployment of low-carbon fuels that are necessary to fully decarbonize the transportation sector in coming decades. Similar programs exist in California and Oregon and a recent expert analysis showed enough clean fuels would be available by 2028 to meet the proposal in House Bill 1110. I am personally excited that a clean fuels program would support investments to speed the transition to electric vehicles, which is playing a growing role in cleaning up our transportation fuel system.

Phasing out fossil fuels from electricity generation

While Washington produces a lot of electricity cleanly from hydropower, the state also uses electricity from coal and natural gas. In 2015 these fossil fuels supplied about 30% of Washington’s electricity, representing about a fifth of the state’s total global warming emissions. Senate Bill 5116 and House Bill 1211 would ban electricity produced from coal by 2025 and require that all electricity sold in the state be generated from renewable and carbon-free sources by 2045. Fortunately, the cost of renewable energy has dramatically declined in the past decade. In fact, clean energy like solar and wind power is now cheaper than natural gas, coal, or nuclear power.

Supplying all of Washington’s electricity from renewable and zero-carbon sources is a bold goal, but achieving it is within reach. Key strategies for eliminating fossil fuels include more efficient use of electricity, greater use of energy storage technologies, access to a wider and more diverse supply of renewable technologies, increased flexibility of electricity users to shift demand, and better coordination of renewable resources among Western states.

Momentum is building among states, cities, and utilities to commit to 100% clean electricity. In September, California adopted a law committing to 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045. Then, in December, Xcel Energy, one of the country’s largest electric utilities, announced it would supply all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. Washington already has a leg-up toward reaching this goal thanks to its abundant supply of carbon-free hydropower. Now is the time for the state to stake its future to an electricity supply free of fossil fuels.

More opportunities on electric vehicles, efficient buildings, and “super” pollutants

Washington legislators have introduced many additional bills that would address different pieces of the state’s climate change puzzle. A few that I am most closely following relate to:

  • Electric vehicles: SB 5336 would further promote electric vehicles (EVs) by requiring automakers to offer an increasing share of EVs for sale, authorizing electric utilities to build EV charging infrastructure, and renewing an expired EV sales tax credit.
  • Energy efficiency of buildings: SB 5293 and HB 1257 would help create more energy efficient buildings by setting new standards for large, commercial buildings and allowing local governments to adopt better codes for new residential construction, among other provisions.
  • “Super” pollutants: HB 1112 would cut emissions of a highly-potent category of heat-trapping gases used in refrigeration, known as hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs.

There is no shortage of opportunities for Washington to act on climate change in 2019. Lawmakers have stepped up to the plate by offering many important proposals. The question is whether they succeed in passing these bills to notch some important victories for our climate—Washington, I’m rooting for you!

Photos left to right: Washington Department of Commerce, iStockphoto/m-imagephotography
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Dear Automakers – Consumers Want Cleaner Cars this Year and Every Year! https://blog.ucsusa.org/michelle-robinson/consumers-want-cleaner-cars-this-year https://blog.ucsusa.org/michelle-robinson/consumers-want-cleaner-cars-this-year#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 20:57:42 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63359
Photo: Conny Sandland/Flickr

Whether your gifts come during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Día de Los Reyes, everyone knows it’s holiday wish-list time. The automakers know this too – you can’t turn on the tv without seeing lots of shiny new cars festooned with giant red bows. Due to the strong national fuel efficiency/emissions standards for cars and trucks we helped enact several years ago – the cars in holiday showrooms are some of the cleanest, most efficient models ever produced. The existing standards save consumers millions at the pump, cut global warming pollution by 470 million metric tons – the equivalent of shutting down 136 typical coal plants for an entire year, and would reduce oil use by over 2.4 million barrels a day by 2030.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration at the behest of the automakers and the oil industry has proposed rolling back the clean car standards – and even though automakers have been easily meeting strong standards so far, the mpg on the sticker in 2025 could actually be lower than what we enjoy today! But the American people strongly support maintaining the current standards. In fact, Consumers Union polling earlier this year found that an overwhelming majority of American adults (85%—with Republicans at 88%) agree that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types.

UCS asked our supporters across the country to weigh in – so in addition to their letters to Santa, many American drivers also wrote letters to their automakers this year. Here are just a few highlights:

From GM owner, Robert from Michigan –

I am a long time GMC driver, fuel efficient cars (and in my case, trucks) benefit consumers like me who save money at the pump. Even more important, these standards are helping to cut climate pollution and push innovation forward. I want to know that you are doing your part to make sure that the next car or truck I buy is more fuel efficient than the one I am driving now. Also, as a consumer of one of your most profitable products (pickups), I can assure you I am willing to bear my fair share of the legitimate costs to minimize negative environmental impacts.   You do your part in the political arena to prove your commitment to safeguarding our environment, and I’ll do mine in the marketplace.

From Ford owner, Dee (and husband Peter) from North Carolina –   

My husband and I own and drive a 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid — only the third US-made car we’ve bought in our 30 years of marriage. We chose this car instead of a foreign hybrid because we were thrilled to see a US automaker heading in the right direction in making a fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicle — and we voted with our dollars to support you in that effort. It’s a great car and I’d like to see you increase your hybrid and electric vehicle offerings. I’m not alone in that! However, I was disturbed to learn that you are working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards. Don’t be foolish!! Fuel efficient cars save money on gas — but even more importantly, strict standards help to cut climate pollution, create jobs, and push innovation forward. Be a leader! In 2012, you agreed to and promised to uphold strong fuel-efficiency standards and I respected and supported your company for that stance. Don’t abandon your principles and align yourself with President Trump, whose aim of relaxing the standards is retrogressive and short-sighted. As a consumer, I urge you to stay true to your word, be a leader in designing cars for the future, and resist any effort to weaken these standards.

From Toyota owner, Carol from Massachusetts –

I am a long time Toyota owner — in fact, every car I have ever owned has been a Toyota, including my current Camry hybrid, and I have been planning to buy one for my daughter later this summer. Part of my loyalty to Toyota has been because I think of you as a relatively ethical company. So, I have been deeply disturbed to see you working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards. Global warming has already proceeded to the point that it will have very negative impacts on my daughter and people of her generation around the world. How can you renege on standards and make this problem worse?!? Fuel efficiency standards are helping to cut climate pollution, create jobs, and push innovation forward. I want to know that you are doing your part to uphold them. As a longtime loyal customer, I urge you to stay true to your word and not support any effort to weaken these standards.

From Ford investor, GM AND Toyota owner, Joy from Virginia –

I am a long time Toyota owner (one of my vehicles is a Prius), a new Chevrolet Bolt owner, a long-time investor in Ford, and a more recent investor in General Motors. I appreciate the investments these companies have made in more fuel-efficient, hybrid, and electric vehicles, and I have rewarded them with my patronage when I could find a vehicle that suited my needs. As a consumer and a citizen concerned about and acting on what climate science is telling us, I am quite disturbed to learn that many automakers are working with the Trump administration to try to relax the fuel economy and global warming emission standards.   I want to know that all U. S. automakers are doing their part to make sure that the next car I buy is more fuel efficient than the one I am driving now.   That goal is what has driven 2 of my last 3 vehicle purchases. In 2012 I wanted a vehicle that could beat the 30 mpg I was getting with my Camry; the Prius was the closest I could come on my budget. In 2016, if any company had offered an electric or hybrid pickup truck when I needed to replace my old one, I would not have bought the gas-hog Toyota Tacoma that I did. I had not bought a GM vehicle since 1990 because I long ago lost faith in its products, but I reversed myself in 2017 because it offered the best EV I could find for the range and money. Not only do I not believe I am all that unique among auto buyers, I believe my purchase considerations are the future. U. S. car makers need to get the message. Our country and indeed our world need the automobile industry to employ its creativity, ingenuity, and manufacturing prowess to lead us all toward a clean, emission-free transportation future. By standing with President Trump during his announcement to reopen the review process of the standards, your company is clearly leading the push to weaken them and is thereby endorsing a horrible course of action. As a consumer and past (and maybe future customer depending on what you do going forward), I urge you to stay true to your word and not support any effort to weaken these standards. And for heaven’s sake do not join the ranks of the fossil fuel industry and cover up or lie about the true risks posed by our warming climate.

These letters, just a few among over 23,000 sent to automakers over the course of a year, are a powerful testament to the deep-seated concern many have about having clean car choices in the marketplace. A car purchase is one of the most important choices a consumer can make in terms of their personal carbon footprint.

The Trump administration’s proposed rollback of the federal fuel efficiency standards is still working its way through an agency rulemaking process, so the automakers have a chance to give consumers what they’re wishing for this season – they can stop the proposed rollback and ensure that the standards remain strong and continue to drive innovation. They’ve been shown the ghosts of actions past, present, and future, and they still have a chance to turn things around this holiday season, but only if they deliver the cleaner cars they promised.

Photo: Conny Sandland/Flickr
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A Big Win on Climate Change and Clean Transportation https://blog.ucsusa.org/ken-kimmell/regional-cap-invest-northeast-mid-atlantic https://blog.ucsusa.org/ken-kimmell/regional-cap-invest-northeast-mid-atlantic#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2018 19:24:26 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63348
Photo by Cris Ovalle on Unsplash

If you would like to be inspired by an example of states working together on an ambitious plan to address climate change, read on—the following is a big deal!

Today, the governors of nine states (MA, VA, MD, CT, RI, VT, NJ, PA, DE) and the District of Columbia announced that their states will establish a regional “cap and invest” program to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and invest in clean transportation solutions. To pass muster, the announcement states that the program must cause substantial carbon emission reductions, ensure equity in its benefits and burdens, foster economic growth and job creation, enhance resilience in the transportation system, and allow states to pursue other, complementary policies. The states are to design the program in one year, at which point these states will make final decisions on participation and seek legislative or regulatory approvals.

This announcement borrows a page from a highly successful playbook. About ten years ago, the governors of many of these same states called for, and ultimately put in place, a cap and invest program that has driven down emissions from the electric sector, and generated billions of economic benefits for the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. This same model can work transportation.

What is ‘Cap and Invest,’ and why do we need it?

As readers of my Boston Globe op-ed and various UCS blogs know, the transportation sector is now the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States and the northeast/mid-Atlantic region. While there are a number of policies in place to lower transportation emissions (fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, incentives and mandates for electric cars, and investments in public transit), transportation sector emissions are expected to stay flat, and may even rise.

Why? Among other things, we are missing two key pieces: 1) a legally binding mechanism to force overall emissions down; and 2) a revenue source to fund the transition to cleaner transportation.

The regional cap and invest program announced today can put these vital pieces in place. It would establish a legally binding mechanism to drive down emissions by setting an overall, regional cap on greenhouse gas emissions from cars, trucks, and buses that will decline over time. To ensure that the cap is not exceeded, companies that bring transportation fuels (gasoline, diesel) into the region would have to acquire “allowances” that would be tied to the greenhouse gas emissions from combusting their fuel. The total allowances sold each year would not exceed the applicable cap, ensuring that the region’s emission reduction goals would be met.

The program also provides a much-needed revenue source for clean transportation. The allowances that companies would have to obtain would be sold at public auction, and states can use the revenues to invest in cleaner transportation, including electric cars, buses, and trucks, better public transportation, and affordable housing near jobs. We estimate that at modest allowance prices that would cost the average driver $6 per month, the program could bring approximately $3.5 billion into the region for clean transportation investments.

That’s an investment that will pay off in spades. For example, when we replace older dirty transit and school buses with ones that run on clean electricity, we can dramatically improve air quality for our kids and protect vulnerable populations that live in polluted areas.

Why is this a big deal?

Three reasons:

  1. It shows again that states are leading, even while the federal government has abdicated its duty to protect current and future generations from climate change, as demonstrated most recently—and shamelessly—by its hawking of fossil fuels at last week’s international climate conference. This bold regional plan announced by these ten states and the District of Columbia will help reassure an anxious world that the United States has not abandoned the fight and demonstrate that the Trump administration does not speak for the country on climate change.
  2. The scale of this plan is stunning. Over 50 million people live in these participating states, comprising over 15% of the US population and close to 20% of the US economy. If these states were a single country, they would be just beyond Germany as the fifth largest economy in the world.
  3. This is a bi-partisan success. The governors of 3 of the nine states (MA, MD and VT) are republicans, and the cap and invest approach is an idea pioneered by President George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain. In our current polarized political landscape, bipartisan collaboration, especially on climate change, is extremely rare. This initiative sets an excellent example.

What’s next?

This announcement is a first step. In the coming year, the states will need to hash out a number of important details, such as the initial level of the emissions cap, the pace of decline of the cap, which entities in the stream of commerce will be responsible for purchasing allowances, how revenues will be allocated back to participating states, and the principles for making equitable investments. This will take some time, but the states can take advantage of the fact that California and Quebec already have a working cap and invest program for transportation, and the RGGI program for electricity can also provide useful guidance on how to structure the program.

As the details are being hammered out, diverse stakeholder and public engagement will also be critical, and should include, among others, business, equity, health, justice, labor, and transit advocates. Making sure that these groups are empowered during the process will make for a cap and invest plan that benefits everyone.

UCS has played a major role in advancing this initiative to this stage. We have made the case for it to policymakers and anyone else who would listen, issued fresh technical analysis, built coalitions, and mobilized our members and supporters. We will continue to engage in both technical design and public outreach and education.

But for now, we applaud the governors and officials who have put their states behind a sensible, cost-effective, and much-needed policy to tackle the challenge of building a clean, equitable, modern transportation system for all.

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Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Hangs in the Balance https://blog.ucsusa.org/josh-goldman/electric-vehicle-tax-credit-hangs-in-the-balance https://blog.ucsusa.org/josh-goldman/electric-vehicle-tax-credit-hangs-in-the-balance#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:21:19 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63304
Photo: Oregon Convention Center/Flickr

I’m back from my hiatus as a full-time dad and am reengaged in the biggest. transportation. policy debates. in Washington, D.C.! Super exciting, I know.

Today, I’m reporting on the legislative tug-of-war over the $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. Fossil fuel interests on one end, literally everyone else on the other. This fight arose when the suits over at Exxon, Shell, and Koch Industries became worried about the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) to mess with their 90 percent share of transportation fuel in the U.S. And you know what? They should be worried. The EV market is small but growing fast, and there have been tons of production milestones and new model releases over the past quarter.

So, the suits gather around and hatch a plan. The first step is easy. Poke a bunch of holes in the earth until a black goo comes out, refine it, and sell a LOT of it – like millions and millions of barrels – every day. Second, pay geeks-for-hire to produce analysis that skews data to reach misleading results about any policy or technology that may affect sales. Then, aggressively fund advocacy groups with innocuous names like Americans for Prosperity and American Commitment to push the bogus analysis along with talking points on the importance of maintaining a free-market for transportation fuels. (This step both distances yourself from the court of public opinion and masks any mention of maintaining the oil-powered status quo). The final piece of the puzzle is to spend an egregious amount of money on a politician – preferably a Senator – in hopes they will turn your holiday policy wish list into, oh I don’t know, maybe a bill called the Fairness for Every Driver Act, which would eliminate the EV tax credit and slap EV owners with a user fee. Thanks Senator Barrasso (R-Wyo)!

Fortunately for everyone on the side of science, groups like UCS and our allies recognize the need for clean electricity to replace oil as the dominant transportation fuel. Armed with peer-reviewed studies, widespread public support, and a couple well-written blog posts, advocates are pushing to improve the tax credit so that it can advance the EV market even further.  There are a few ideas about how to best do this, including the Electric CARS Act, which would extend the tax credit for 10 years and has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Merkley (D-OR), Heinrich (D-NM), and Cortez Masto (D-NV), and in the House by Reps. Welch (D-VT) and Rosen (D-NV).

Congress has a couple weeks before they adjourn and toss any un-passed bills in the trash just like my kid’s 5-week old finger paintings. Whether the EV tax credit will be improved, eliminated, or untouched is unclear. What is clear is that you can get involved in this policy debate by taking 2 minutes to place a phone call to your Senator and House Representative in support of the EV tax credit.

Call 833-216-1727 (or 833-513-5863 if you live in California or Nevada) to support the EV tax credit

Politicians take constituent calls seriously, and they can move the needle on how hard your elected officials will fight for clean air, combating climate change and supporting the American EV industry. You can remind whoever answers the phone about the science behind the benefits of electrifying transportation. For example; an EV produces the emissions equivalent of a gasoline car that gets 80 MPG; driving on electricity can save you almost $800 per year in fuel costs and more on scheduled maintenance; EVs offer a quieter, safe ride; EVs are great in the snow and inclement weather; and driving an EV means never stopping for gas at that one gross gas station!

Want to stay up-to-date on future EV policy debates? Text “EV” to 662266. You will be opted in for occasional general UCS updates in addition to our messages especially for EV enthusiasts.

Photo: Oregon Convention Center/Flickr
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Rural Drivers Can Save the Most From Clean Vehicles https://blog.ucsusa.org/daniel-gatti/clean-vehicles-save-rural-drivers-money https://blog.ucsusa.org/daniel-gatti/clean-vehicles-save-rural-drivers-money#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 18:01:10 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=63219
Photo: Shutterstock/Standret

This post was written in collaboration with Maria Cecilia Pinto de Moura

The transition to clean vehicle technologies such as electric vehicles will benefit consumers everywhere, promising lower operating and maintenance costs, along with less pollution and a cleaner environment.

But the drivers with the greatest economic potential to gain by purchasing an electric vehicle are the residents of small towns and rural counties. Drivers living outside of urban areas often have farther to travel to work, shop, and visit a doctor. They have to repair their vehicles more frequently, they produce more carbon emissions per capita, and they spend more money on gasoline. As a result, rural drivers have the greatest potential to save money by making the switch to an electric vehicle.

Overall, rural residents have the potential to save up to twice as much as urban residents by making the switch from a conventional sedan to an electric vehicle. In addition, rural residents who drive pickup trucks and SUVs have the potential to dramatically cut their fuel costs and emissions through programs to encourage efficiency and electrification.

Rural drivers’ potential to save money and cut emissions

Using data from the 2017 National Highway Traffic Survey, we created a model that approximates what vehicles are being driven, and for how many miles, in every county in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. This data allows us to approximate the average cost and emission savings from an electric vehicle in each county. We also mapped out some of the differences in vehicle miles traveled that form the basis of these calculations (see below, our full methodology is here).

Annual average fuel savings, miles driven and emissions reduction for a typical driver in 12 states and the District of Columbia

Overall, we find that in our most rural counties, the average driver will save $870 per year and cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3 metric tons per year by choosing an electric vehicle over a conventional sedan. That is almost twice the average emissions reduction from an EV in our most urban counties.

Bringing clean vehicle technologies to rural areas will not only benefit rural drivers, but it will also improve whole rural economies. Nearly all the money that we spend on gasoline and diesel fuel ultimately leaves our towns and our region, for other parts of the world. As electric vehicles replace the internal combustion engine on our roads, there will be more money in consumers’ pockets – which means more jobs, and more local development for our small towns.

Obstacles to rural electrification

Unfortunately, although rural residents have the greatest potential to save from purchasing an electric vehicle, currently EV sales are concentrated in urban areas and inner suburbs. As of 2017, people in urban areas and inner suburbs report that they are about three times more likely to own a plug-in vehicle compared to people in rural areas.

Rural drivers share many of the same challenges in selecting an electric vehicle as urban and suburban drivers: not many consumers are aware of how easy it is to make the switch to an electric vehicle, and the charging infrastructure is inadequate. These concerns are particularly acute for rural drivers, who on average need to travel greater distances between charging stations and destinations. Rural drivers do have one major advantage over urban drivers: they are much more likely to have access to offstreet parking, which should make installation of a home charging station easier.

In addition, rural drivers may have additional concerns about electric vehicle technology, such as the ability of electric vehicles to provide adequate performance in cold weather climates (hint: EVs are great in cold or inclement weather) or to provide enough range to deal with rural driving distances. Some of these concerns are being addressed through improvements in technology: at 200+ miles, cars like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 can serve the daily driving needs of residents of all areas. But even as the technology improves, cultural assumptions about what kind of vehicle is appropriate in what kind of area may remain.

As more electric vehicle models come to market, and vehicle costs continue to drop, rural drivers will have increasing choices in vehicle types from SUVs to pick-up trucks. But an EV may not work for every rural household today. Fortunately, automakers compelled by vehicle efficiency standards have been bringing more efficiency gasoline and diesel cars and trucks to market. Upgrading to a newer, more fuel efficient vehicle is another strategy available for every household today.

The Northeast needs a rural electrification strategy

Increasing growth of EV sales in rural areas will require states of the Northeast region to take a more proactive approach towards electrification in rural areas. We need a targeted strategy to reduce the barriers to adopt electric vehicles in our outer suburbs and rural areas. Such a strategy should include:

  • Increased incentives for rural & low- and moderate-income drivers. Overcoming the high purchase price of the vehicles is critical to achieving mainstream penetration of electric vehicles. Northeast states should consider adding additional incentives to make electric vehicles affordable for rural drivers. These incentives should include not only additional upfront rebates to reduce the purchase price of the car, but also financing assistance to help people with insufficient credit to purchase a new car. By targeting rural drivers, we can use incentive money most effectively to achieve our goals for emission reduction and cost savings.
  • Vehicle retirement programs to take the most inefficient trucks off the road. Many rural drivers are stuck driving some of the dirtiest, most inefficient vehicles on the road. A 10 year old Ford F-150 gets as little as 14 mpg, for example. A rural driver who trades an old F-150 to a new model can save up to $1,000 per year. Programs such as California’s Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program have helped retire some of these low-emission vehicles and in the process saved money for drivers of all kinds of vehicles.
  • Build rural charging infrastructure. Addressing rural range anxiety will require increased investment in rural charging stations. Utilities should target rural areas for support, both for public charging and for support in constructing home charging stations.
  • Support grassroots education outreach and marketing efforts. Bulk purchasing programs such as the Drive Green program run by Green Energy Consumers Alliance can reduce costs and help consumers address the complex decisions necessary to purchase an electric vehicle. Utility programs such as Green Mountain Power’s electric vehicle program can negotiate good deals from the auto industry and help their customers make the switch to electric vehicles. These programs should be encouraged to target rural communities and drivers.

As states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic consider new regional strategies to address transportation emissions, it will be critical for states to identify new strategies to help rural residents cut emissions and save money on transportation. One piece of a rural transportation strategy should be to enhance infrastructure that provides an alternative to driving an automobile, through expanded regional public transportation that give them easy access to urban centers, pedestrian and biking infrastructure that create vibrant communities in small towns. We should also consider how to best use innovative new transportation models facilitated by technology, such as vanpools, flexible bus routes, and ride hailing and sharing services to expand clean mobility to rural residents.

At the same time, we know that realistically driving a personal vehicle will remain an important part of the transportation system for rural communities. We need to provide rural residents with the cleanest vehicles that fit their needs. We encourage states to meet the challenges facing rural drivers with bold investments that can save money for consumers and reduce pollution for everybody.

Photo: Shutterstock/Standret
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