Union of Concerned ScientistsUnion of Concerned Scientists https://blog.ucsusa.org a blog on independent science + practical solutions Wed, 17 Oct 2018 13:28:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://blog.ucsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Union of Concerned Scientists https://blog.ucsusa.org 32 32 Automakers Well Positioned to Meet Fuel Economy Standards https://blog.ucsusa.org/science-blogger/automakers-well-positioned-to-meet-fuel-economy-standards https://blog.ucsusa.org/science-blogger/automakers-well-positioned-to-meet-fuel-economy-standards#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 13:28:02 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61996

I spent my career as an automotive engineer at GM. During my time in the auto industry I played a hands-on role in putting new technologies on the road, and had a front row seat to view how cars and trucks have become more efficient over time. That’s partly due to the hard work of my colleagues who design and manufacture vehicles and their parts—but also due in part to a strong set of federal standards that have helped drive the technology forward.

The efficiency and emissions standards that went into effect in 2012 have been a real success—they’ve saved drivers tens of billions of dollars on fuel and cut hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, that progress is at risk because the executive branch is trying to roll back these standards.

The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have proposed flatlining standards in 2020, meaning that cars and trucks wouldn’t need to get cleaner or more efficient. They say automakers can’t meet the challenge of increasing efficiency. They’re wrong—and I know because I’ve spent my career helping to improve their efficiency.

As a mechanical engineer, I designed automatic transmissions and their components.  When I began nearly forty years ago, these were sometimes noisy and rough-shifting—and not particularly fuel-efficient.  But over time, they’ve been transformed into an elegant enabler of vehicle fuel efficiency. These advanced transmissions go hand in hand with improved vehicle aerodynamics, lightweight materials, and fuel economy advancements in the engine and other vehicle components. By combining all these technologies, automakers have achieved vehicle fuel economy undreamt of when I started.

Many features have contributed to the transmission’s transformation, but perhaps the two most important are more speeds and electrification. Due to high mechanical efficiency, transmissions are more efficient than internal combustion engines when it comes to producing the wide range of wheel torque needed in vehicles.  Having a high number of transmission ranges allows the engine to operate at peak efficiency, a key foundation of fuel economy. When I began, most transmissions were 3 or 4 speeds, a far cry from optimum.  After the 70’s oil embargo, fuel economy became more important, leading to the initial CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations. To help meet them, 6-speed transmissions began arriving and included other features such as a torque converter lockup clutch, overdrive, and electronic controls, all contributing to fuel economy gains.

In the late 90’s as fuel prices continued their steady rise and California’s emissions regulations became more stringent, transmission electrification began with the Toyota Prius electric hybrid.  The primary feature of electric hybrids is the addition of motors inside the transmission which connect to various gearing elements.  The motors effectively act to provide more transmission ranges, allowing the engine to run more efficiently, significantly improving fuel economy.  The motors are powered by a battery pack kept charged by the engine and a home charger if a plug-in variety.  In addition, during vehicle braking, the motors become generators, charging the battery as well as improving brake life.  Analogous to mechanical ranges, having more electric speeds improves efficiency by enabling the motors to operate in their efficient zones.  The Prius has just one electric speed, but other manufacturers had designs with more.

When the Prius was introduced, I was at Allison Transmission, then GM’s lead division for transmission electrification.  Allison designs and produces transmissions for all manner of vehicles larger than passenger cars.  Initially, electrification focused on the transit bus market and in 2003 production began on a 2-speed electric hybrid still produced for buses today.  With its success, the architecture was downsized for SUVs and pickup applications. When combined with engine and other vehicle improvements, it provided significant fuel economy gains.  It went into limited production in 2008 just as GM was forced to sell many of their assets including Allison, but unable to escape bankruptcy.

Soon after, I began work on a 4-speed hybrid being developed for even better fuel economy than the 2-speed version to help meet the 2012 revised CAFE standards.  It was intended to complement a new series of 8 speed conventional transmissions concurrently being designed for rear wheel drive vehicles which started production in 2013. But vehicle fuel economy improvements kept coming, everything from vehicle electrification like the Volt to continued conventional powertrain improvements, including a joint venture with Ford on a series of 9-speed front wheel drive and 10-speed rear wheel drive transmissions.  The standards could now be met without the 4-speed hybrid and it was eliminated, one indication the regulations can be met without an abundance of higher initial cost electrification. Further indications came from a detailed analysis by the regulating agencies who concluded the same thing–manufacturers across the industry can meet the standards even with low electric and hybrid penetration.

Since the revised standards, fuel economy innovations have blossomed with a range of offerings on every type of vehicle.  Electric components have become affordable for many and the continued development of fuel cells adds yet another dimension.  Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) which mimic electric hybrids without adding motors are available in some vehicles.  Dual clutch transmissions (DCTs) which combine the higher efficiencies of manual transmissions with the drivability of automatics are also gaining acceptance. Continued improvements to conventional drivetrains keep them viable as well.

The fact is automakers can continue to improve, and they’re putting technology to work to meet today’s federal standards. Vehicle sales have set records and the auto industry is employing workers in record numbers, in part due to these higher fuel economy features.  Automakers are well positioned to meet standards and consumers can take full advantage of the lower fuel costs and reduced emissions that result. We’re moving forward—and it would be a mistake to slam on the brakes now.

 

Greg Kempf recently retired as a mechanical engineer from General Motors after 37 years.  His career was mainly spent designing automatic and electric-hybrid transmissions for which he holds 15 patents.  He’s now an aspiring writer, working on his first novel about climate change. 

Science Network Voices gives Equation readers access to the depth of expertise and broad perspective on current issues that our Science Network members bring to UCS. The views expressed in Science Network posts are those of the author alone.

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Fighting for a Diverse and Equitable STEM Workforce in Colorado https://blog.ucsusa.org/science-blogger/fighting-for-a-diverse-and-equitable-stem-workforce-in-colorado https://blog.ucsusa.org/science-blogger/fighting-for-a-diverse-and-equitable-stem-workforce-in-colorado#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 19:17:20 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61972
Women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory pose for a photo in mission control in honor of Women in Science Day. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the state of Colorado, there are just over two million women, making up 53% of the enrolled undergraduate population and 50% of the workforce. However, women account for only 33% of those graduating with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and hold only 26% of STEM jobs in the state. Colorado is not unique – this disparity in STEM education and employment is a nation-wide trend. This disparity begins early, with difference in male and female student interest in STEM showing up as early as middle school, by some estimates, and female students being more likely to self-describe themselves as “bad at math” as early as second grade. These differences in encouragement and interest have broad-reaching, profound, and lifelong implications for women’s economic security, career advancement, and workforce readiness compared to their male counterparts.

It is up to each and every one of us to change this reality. My name is Marian Hamilton, and I hold a PhD in Biological Anthropology and am an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Colorado (UNCO). As a participant in the Union of Concerned Scientist’s (UCS) Science Network Mentor Program, I had the pleasure of learning the basics of advocacy and community organizing from some of the nation’s most passionate, creative, and qualified scientists over the past 10 months. Armed with these tools, I am forming a Women in STEM group for interested undergraduate students at UNCO with three major objectives: first, to build a community that encourages, supports, and empowers women, particularly from minority or underrepresented groups, to choose majors and careers in STEM fields; second, to facilitate mentor partnerships at the K-12, college, and professional level; and third, to advocate for policies that will improve STEM education across Colorado and the nation, such as universal pre-K. Today, I want to share with you some of the key lessons I’ll be taking with me into this project:

Lesson 1: It starts early

Girls begin losing interest in STEM – or being told that they are “not good at” STEM fields – tragically early. For example, male high school students are more likely to enroll in engineering and computer science classes than their female classmates, and more likely to enroll in AP computer science classes, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. The gap between white and non-white students in such high school classes is even starker: black and Latinx students were significantly less likely to enroll in advanced science courses than their white classmates.

To change the societal biases that drive such disparities, we must start young, with universal access to pre-K programs that include a STEM component. Ballot measures like Initiative 93 in Colorado, on the ballot in November, would support all-day Kindergarten; withdrawn measures such as Initiative 98 would have provided full day pre-K to Colorado citizens and need to be revisited in upcoming election cycles. This Women in STEM group will support and advocate for such measures to appear on future ballots because fully funding early childhood education helps all students achieve in future STEM classes. Beyond this, such measures also help to close the achievement gap between wealthy and non-wealthy students, such that one’s readiness for the K-12 classroom – and the STEM classes therein – is not dependent on that child’s zip code.

Lesson 2: It takes a village

Changing a system is not something that happens in a vacuum. In fact, research suggests that one of the most effective ways to keep girls in STEM is through mentorship, such as bringing in current college students as mentors to K-12 classrooms. We will implement such a program through the Women in Science group, partnering with public schools across northern Colorado.

As part of the Science Network Mentor Program, we learned about the importance of ‘democratizing’ science, and employing our skill sets as scientists to be tools for the community to employ, rather than trying to engineer solutions from the outside. For us, this means not assuming that this gap in STEM enrollment originates from the same place for all schools, or even all individuals. We need to begin conversations with teachers, with students, and with families about what opportunities they crave, what barriers they face, and what skills and tools would be the most useful. Furthermore, this work is necessarily intersectional; building gender diversity in STEM is only one of the facets by which we must work to diversify our STEM workforce. The Women in STEM group will collaborate closely with other cultural centers across campus, ensuring that we are diverse across all identities.

Lesson 3: We are all in this together

Study after study demonstrates that one of the most effective, efficient, and powerful ways to change perspectives and encourage diversity in STEM is through mentorship. Women in engineering paired with a female mentor, for example, experienced more of a sense of belonging, motivation, and confidence in their work, as well as greater aspiration to remain in the field. Through this Women in STEM club at UNCO, we will work to tie mentors and mentees together through all levels of education, putting college students with high school and middle school students and bringing in professionals in STEM fields to mentor the college students in turn.

Beyond this, we must work to change the entire ecosystem within which women in STEM fields work. For example, we will strongly advocate for family-friendly policies at the state and local level, including paid family leave. At the local level, we will lobby for the maintenance and expansion of university policies such as sabbaticals which facilitate continued engagement with STEM research, particularly for women and minority faculty who historically take on disproportionate service and teaching loads during typical semesters. Through this three-pronged approach of building community, facilitating mentorship, and advocating for education- and research-friendly policies at all levels of government, it is my truest hope and expectation that we can make the STEM workforce in Colorado a reflection of the powerful diversity of people that call this state home.

 

Marian Hamilton holds a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology from the University of New Mexico. She is a former middle school science teacher and currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado, where she researches human evolution and paleoenvironments. Dr. Hamilton is wild about women in STEM, educational equity, wildlife and habitat conservation, and her dog, Gedi. 

Science Network Voices gives Equation readers access to the depth of expertise and broad perspective on current issues that our Science Network members bring to UCS. The views expressed in Science Network posts are those of the author alone.

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November Elections and the Art of Voter Suppression https://blog.ucsusa.org/michael-latner/voter-suppression-november-elections-2018 https://blog.ucsusa.org/michael-latner/voter-suppression-november-elections-2018#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:00:33 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61946
Source: Michael Latner/UCS

Voting rights violations are emerging across several states with less than a month before the conclusion of midterm elections in the United States. As a result of discriminatory election laws and procedures, representation and policy making power could be distorted in favor of powerful, entrenched interests, against the will of a majority of the electorate. The threat of such democratic dysfunction illustrates the need for meaningful electoral reform and the protection of voting rights for all citizens.

Early voting is underway in seventeen states, including at least two states where voting rights have already become a flashpoint in pivotal elections.

In North Dakota, Senator Heidi Heitkamp and challenger Kevin Cramer is in a race that Cook Political Report rates as a “toss up.” The election could determine control over the US Senate—but the Supreme Court of the United States just refused to block the state’s discriminatory practice of requiring voter identification from a residential street address.

Because the US Postal Service does not provide delivery to rural reservations in North Dakota, most Native American tribal members use P.O. Boxes, which is listed on their identification. The state’s voter identification law specifically requires a street address for valid identification. Earlier this year a district found that nearly 5,000 members of North Dakota tribes lack valid identification, and many of them also lack supplementary documentation that allow them to cast a provisional ballot. Senator Heitkamp won her last election by fewer than 3,000 votes.

In an even more egregious smear on democracy, Georgia gubernatorial candidate and current Secretary of State Brian Kemp has frozen over 50,000 registration applications, most of them from African-American voters, according to an AP analysis. Kemp claims “voter roll maintenance” is necessary to preserve the integrity of elections and ensure that only legal citizens are voting. However, previous scientific and legal challenges have shown that voter impersonation is nearly non-existent.

Moreover, Kemp’s “exact match” tactic used to remove unvalidated voters from the state registration file was already prohibited as a violation of voting equality in a previous lawsuit, but the law was reinstated by the state legislature to allow for a “curing” of unmatched voters records within, wait for it, 26 months. Kemp has chosen to keep using this method despite scientific studies that show there are far superior methods for record matching.

Even though he knows about the disproportionate, discriminatory impact these laws have on African-American voters in Georgia, Kemp maintains that he is a defender of electoral integrity. His opponent Stacy Abrams, who would become the first African-American woman elected governor in the United States if she won, has a different title for Kemp: a “remarkable architect of voter suppression.”

Earlier this year, a Brennan Center analysis estimated that the purging of registered voters from state files has increased by approximately four million people since 2008. Much of the increase is attributed to states that were previously covered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act preclearance provisions.

The Mississippi governor’s race in 2019 may similarly turn on Jim Crow era electoral restrictions. Popular Attorney General Jim Hood has an opportunity to be the state’s first Democratic governor in nearly two decades. However, the state constitution requires that the governor win not just a majority of the popular vote, but a majority of state House seats, which are heavily gerrymandered in favor of the incumbent party.

These and other restrictive election laws are distorting the representation of voters across the country, weakening the ability of already under-represented groups to protect their own health and safety. This is just one of many reasons why it is so important that citizens exercise their voting rights and mobilize communities to elect candidates that will advance effective electoral reforms before 2020.

Be sure to check your voter registration status at https://866ourvote.org/

If you or anyone you know believe that their voting rights are being denied, you can call the following numbers for legal assistance:

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE

American Civil Liberties Union Voter Protection Hotline: 877-523-2792

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Bringing Energy Storage to Energy Markets https://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/bringing-energy-storage-to-energy-markets https://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/bringing-energy-storage-to-energy-markets#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 19:41:52 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61941

Excitement over storing electricity, and expectations for new market rules in the US, promise great changes in energy. Instead of hype and speculation, this blog offers a preview of those market changes. For those who are waiting for FERC Order 841 to sort things out, ISO-New England has published something you might want to see.

Anticipation has been building since mid-February, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 841 required the organized electricity markets in the US (i.e. RTOs and ISOs) to make changes to facilitate the use of energy storage. At the time, New England hinted that work was already begun to sort out the changes that would make the market software and rules consistent for charging and discharging large-scale batteries. Now, two months ahead of the deadline set of the market operators to file, ISO-NE has revealed what this is all about.

Energy storage is only kind of new

Dedication of a new battery plant to increase use of renewable energy. Credit: M. Jacobs

Energy storage is new—and it’s not new. Colonial-era scientist and political leader Benjamin Franklin ran experiments with the storage devices of his time, and was the first person to use the terms charging and discharging while describing the transfer of electricity. Utilities built pumped water storage facilities, what we call pumped hydro plants, in the 1890’s in Europe and the 1930’s in the United States.

There was a boom in 1970’s for these kind of plants to help manage the inflexible additions of nuclear power. This experience provides a starting place for grid operators making changes for new storage technology.

New England has significant pumped hydro, as well as activity on new storage technology. New proposals made in last couple of years to build battery storage projects in New England now total over 800 MWs, and there are approximately 170 MWs of battery storage proposals co-located with wind and solar projects.

Beginning in 2016, ISO-New England began working on the changes that would enable batteries and other similar technologies to participate more fully in the wholesale markets. Many people anticipate these changes will unleash a new technology because of the constraints contained in the present market software and rules. There certainly is evidence that battery storage can replace conventional power plants, and that the obstacles addressed by these regulatory and software changes will bring us closer to the routine adoption of storage plants instead of new fuel-burning capacity.

Details, details

Part of this change reveals how grid operators have multiple layers for understanding an energy source. As ISO-NE makes clear, storage plants aren’t single-purpose; they have a range of functions that need to be understood and modeled for. For example, pumped storage hydro may register and be modeled as a Generator Asset and, if it also has the capability to consume, a Load Asset. But not just any load asset: a “Dispatchable Asset Related Demand,” or DARD.

In fact, the market rules that get written out and filed at FERC will have new definitions, including: Electric Storage Facility, Binary Storage Facility, Continuous Storage Facility, Continuous Storage Generator Asset, Continuous Storage DARD, and Continuous Storage ATRR.  The market rules in New England already have 35 pages of definitions.

The existing  market software makes decisions for pumped hydro more slowly than desirable for batteries. The large pumped hydro equipment can stop and reverse direction in minutes, so the decision to switch from a load to a generator is not made in the same run of the software: they are made in sequential runs. Batteries with their power electronics can change direction much more quickly (i.e. milliseconds, which offers additional benefits if used for contingencies). (Let’s not even get into how the transmission system folks model the physical battery.)

Headed in the right direction

The goal with the rule changes for ISO-NE and its governing body NEPOOL was to provide a means for batteries (and other storage technologies capable of continuously and rapidly transitioning between charging and discharging) to participate simultaneously in the energy, reserves, and regulation markets. The design goals included the following:

  • Storage facilities should be dispatched to generate and consume based on economics;
  • Storage facilities should not be dispatched to generate when empty, nor dispatched to charge when full;
  • Storage facilities should be able to set real-time Locational Marginal Prices when generating or consuming;
  • Storage facilities should be able to provide regulation while maintaining their state of charge, allowing simultaneous regulation market and energy market participation;
  • Storage facilities should be designated for reserves (even when regulating);
  • Storage facilities should be able to save energy for a future interval;
  • Storage facilities should receive compensation if dispatched out-of-place from its economics; and
  • The ISO control room should be able to direct storage facilities to increase storage, or save available energy, for a future hour.

I could give you more detail on how all this is done, but remember you are reading a blog. If you are excited to get a look at how Order 841 reforms are going to work, take a look at the ISO-NE filing. You might be able to see if there are truly gold bars buried in these changes. Certainly, you should see the start of the future grid, and how storage is going to be a lot more important than it has been.

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Why Andrew Wheeler’s Social Media Actions Matter https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/why-andrew-wheelers-social-media-actions-matter https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/why-andrew-wheelers-social-media-actions-matter#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:51:46 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61936
Photo: Alamy

Andrew Wheeler took over as acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency when former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned amid a flurry of ethics scandals. It is no less of a scandal that Mr. Wheeler has been engaging with racist content and conspiracy theorists on social media. Whether he remembers it, or claims it was a mistake or not, Mr. Wheeler’s actions disrespect people of color and demonstrate an affinity for theories that have no scientific backing.

Like all Americans, Mr. Wheeler is free to express his personal political views. But when a public official espouses views or, through his actions, legitimizes fringe voices who propagate dangerous race or conspiracy rhetoric—he has crossed a line that should give Americans across the political spectrum pause.

Mr. Wheeler’s position is to protect public health and safety from the impacts of pollution. And those people most impacted by that pollution, most in need of a high-level effective and committed voice in government, are the poor and communities of color. There is overwhelming evidence that these communities suffer more from pollution and have long been denied public health and safety protections.

The Environmental Protection Agency—and indeed all our government agencies—are mandated to use empirical evidence to advance the public interest.  Yes, they do so imperfectly. But, conspiracy theorists and racial baiting are the antithesis of any rational, fact-based approach.

As we saw with Pruitt, ideologies, values, and biases of public officials shine through in their governance. When biases flow unchecked from federal agency leaders, it reflects in their agency’s policies and actions and has lasting consequences. Racial bias is no exception.

This cannot be the norm. This administration has a long way to go to show the country that they care about all of us, not just their friends in industry, or in wealthy white communities. Mr. Wheeler has made that road even longer. Yes, he should apologize. But more importantly, he must show us all by his actions that he knows his job is to enact policies that actively protect those most impacted by pollution across the nation. Show us now.

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Scientists Cut Out of EPA’s Particulate Pollution Standard Setting https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/scientists-cut-out-of-epa-standard-setting https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/scientists-cut-out-of-epa-standard-setting#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2018 16:33:52 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61930
Photo: Diliff/Wikimedia Commons

In the latest of several moves targeting EPA air pollution protections, the Trump administration appears to have cut scientists out of a process for reviewing particulate pollution standards.  The move breaks with a longstanding process for how the agency gets independent scientific review into its decisionmaking on air pollution protections. Without such expertise involved, EPA won’t have the best available scientific input to keep people safe from air pollution, as the law requires.

What the heck is PM2.5?

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is responsible for thousands of deaths in the US annually. The Trump administration is undermining the science-based air pollution controls that have reduced particulate pollution for decades.

Particulate pollution or particulate matter (PM) is a kind of air pollution comprised of tiny solid particles (as opposed to gaseous air pollutants like ozone and carbon monoxide).  These particles—especially ones smaller than 2.5 micrometers—are especially harmful because they can reach deep into human lungs, causing pulmonary and respiratory issues.  In fact, particulate pollution kills more people in the US than any other form of air pollution, with tens of thousands of premature deaths per year attributed.

The good news is that PM pollution has gone down over the past few decades.  Most of the country now meets the current annual PM standard. Cities and industrial sources have invested significantly in technology and other strategies to keep their particulate emissions down.

NAAQS: A Science-based Process

Our nation has had success in reducing PM because of our strong science-based standards. Under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), every five years the EPA must revisit the science of particulate matter pollution and health. After a thorough review of all science available and extensive input from PM experts, the EPA administrator will set a standard based on what level of pollution protects public health with an adequate margin of safety.  This process has worked remarkably well, at least until now.

The EPA relies on the air pollution and health expertise of its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and pollutant review panels. CASAC (as I’ve written about before) provides the EPA with a recommendation for the standard based on its understanding of the science.  Both the EPA and CASAC rely on help from pollutant review panels to ensure they are using and interpreting correctly the best available science.

These review panels are comprised of experts on the pollutant under review specifically, allowing the agency to benefit from subject matter expertise. For example, CASAC will include folks with air pollution modeling or monitoring expertise and epidemiologists, but the PM review panel might include experts on the toxicology of particulates or an expert on particulate measurement error. This is especially important because CASAC is small (seven people). No matter how expert, it would not be possible for this group to have working expertise of all elements of the relationship between a pollutant and health AND have that knowledge for all six criteria pollutants under CASAC’s purview. As a result, EPA decisions on pollution standards can benefit from scientific expertise on all facets of the science on particulates and health.

Think of it this way: You could create a team of seven doctors from different disciplines to oversee your general health but if you developed a brain tumor you’d probably want the advice of a specialist who had experience in brain surgery.  Likewise, EPA needs the help of specialists to fully assess the state of the science on individual pollutants.

Nixing the PM (and Ozone) Review Panels?

Yesterday, the EPA issued a statement noting that CASAC would be leading the review of the science for PM and ozone standard updates, with no mention of the PM and ozone review panels that have always been convened to inform the scientific assessments.  This is a break with how the agency has always done things.  By nixing these panels, the EPA would be cutting off the vital expertise it needs to get the science right on the health effects of air pollutants.

The administration might claim to be making this move in the name of streamlining but there are much bigger consequences to eliminating science from the process.  Sure, it will be a faster process to update the PM standard without a review panel, but we’ll also have a less science-based process. Review panels effectively serve as a public peer-review of the EPA’s integrated science assessments, which detail the state of the science on pollutants.  Without a PM review panel, there is far less expert input informing the PM standard.

But perhaps this is precisely the point. The administration has made clear that they are interested in fast-tracking the PM and ozone reviews in order to set new standards before the end of the administration.  This is an aggressive timeline, considering that the EPA is only required to update the standards every five years, and usually needs more time to conduct the careful, science-based process of characterizing the state of the science on a pollutant’s health effects and working with scientific experts to issue a standard that is protective of public health. If you can eliminate this careful scientific assessment, you can speed up the process, but at the expense of public health.

An EPA hostile to clean air

The announcement is especially concerning in light of the other changes that the Trump administration is making to air pollution policy and science advice at the EPA.

  • Ongoingly the administration has been gutting science advisory committees at the EPA, replacing independent scientists with conflicted and unqualified individuals. Yesterday’s announcement continued this pattern, by removing four independent experts on CASAC and replacing mostly with individuals that work for state agencies. Only one academic scientist remains on CASAC, a committee historically dominated by academic scientists with extensive publication records on air pollution and health research.  The administration is treating advisory committee positions like political appointments. In reality, the science advisory committee are intended to capture the breadth of scientific understanding—not to have specific policy views, and not to get stakeholder input.
  • Last April a Presidential Memorandum outlined other changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards process, including restricting the kinds of science that EPA can use to inform the standards for PM and other pollutants. Implementation of these changes will limit the science EPA looks at in determining the relationship between air pollutants and health, i.e. the science that determines the health-based air pollution standards.
  • PM has also been the primary target of the EPA’s proposed rule to restrict the science that EPA can use in decisionmaking broadly. Chronic exposure to particulates is linked to premature deaths. As a result, reducing PM pollution has a huge bang per buck, saving many lives with every improvement in air quality. This fact is inconvenient for industries that want to continue to emit particulate pollution, making PM science a long-time target by ideological and financial interests that don’t want the tighter PM standards that save lives. The proposed rule to restrict EPA’s use of science is the latest assault to undermine the use of the science on PM’s health impacts.

Less Science, More Soot

These changes to the air pollution standard setting process will make it easier for the administration to weaken air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone.  With less science and fewer scientists to inform decisionmakers, challenge assumptions, and verify scientific assertions, we are on a path toward political decisions cloaked in science.  The administration might be able speed up the process by removing the crucial steps where the science is assessed, and experts weigh in, but this will come at the expense of our health.  Can the EPA protect public health if it doesn’t take the time to determine what level of pollution is unsafe?

If the PM standard is weakened, public health will undoubtedly suffer. Pollution sources would be able ease controls on their pollution and potentially build new polluting facilities in more places. And the health burdens won’t fall equally. Low-income communities and communities of color that are already disproportionately burdened by air pollution from industrial and traffic sources are likely to be harder hit.  Vulnerable populations like the children, the elderly and those with lung diseases are more likely to face health effects of increased soot in the air.  In near literal terms, by removing the science, we remove the air from our lungs.

Photo: Diliff/Wikimedia Commons
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Sidelining Science Hurts Children https://blog.ucsusa.org/jacob-carter/sidelining-science-hurts-children https://blog.ucsusa.org/jacob-carter/sidelining-science-hurts-children#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 15:30:26 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61913
Photo: CMRF Crumlin/Flickr

That week, her mother chose groceries over her daughter’s asthma inhaler. Food for your children over medicine for your children; for a parent, there is not a more tortuous game of Russian Roulette than this. That week, this mother lost that gamble. Her daughter had an asthma attack. There was no inhaler. She died gasping for air in their living room.

These are the words of Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus as he describes the disproportionate impact climate change has on black communities, particularly children. In this case it was a 14-year-old girl who lived in Southeast Washington, DC. The reverend explains here that 1 in 6 African-American children in the US have asthma, and 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant.

The Reverend Yearwood’s story is one that I cannot shake ever since I heard it in-person when he spoke to the Union of Concerned Scientists nearly one year ago. It is a powerful story that illustrates that when science-based issues are poorly addressed, the results can be deadly, particularly for children and our country’s most disenfranchised people.

Yet, the Trump administration has made it easier for these power plants to release toxic air pollutants known to cause asthma and other disease. This administration  is literally deleting scientific evidence that climate change disproportionately affects the health of children. And then last week, they abruptly placed the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, which has the authority to weigh in on decisions around power plant emissions and many other public health threats, on leave. These decisions paint a worrisome picture for the future of the safety of children as UCS Executive Director Kathleen Rest detailed here.

When science is sidelined, there is often an underlying story of the people who are hurt by these decisions and it is often children.

Impairing children’s brain development

When the EPA reversed course and decided not to ban the harmful insecticide chlorpyrifos, many families worried about their children and their health. Fidelia Morales notices chemicals float onto her children’s jungle gym in their very own backyard in California. Her children have had learning issues, and have suffered from bronchitis, asthma and other chronic illnesses. Morales fears the pesticides are the reason for these illnesses. There is a good chance that she is correct given that the swath of research showing chlorpyrifos affects the brain development, IQ, and health of developing and young children.

Children are losing parents

In 2017, President Trump rolled back President Obama’s Executive Order 13690 that would have increased protection from future extreme floods. Such floods are expected to increase in frequency and intensity with climate change, science that Obama’s Executive Order embraced, but that President Trump refuses to acknowledge. Ten days after Trump’s rescission of this executive order, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas with historic rainfall causing unprecedented flooding. The floods left an estimated 30,000 people in need of shelter.

One mother made the ultimate sacrifice saving her child during the floods of Harvey. A woman and her 3-year old child were swept out of a parking lot by the flood waters of hurricane Harvey. Two police officers spotted a child clinging to their mother in a canal. When the police arrived at the scene, the mother was unresponsive and pronounced dead shortly after arriving at an ambulance, whereas the child suffered from hypothermia but was cared for and released to family members in stable condition. What if we recognized the threats of climate change and prepared for them? Maybe this child could grow up knowing their mother.

Children lose when vaccines are lost

President Trump has on many occasions misrepresented overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe. In 2015, when asked about getting the flu vaccine during an interview, Trump said, “I’ve never had one… Thus far I’ve never had the flu. I don’t like the idea of injecting bad stuff into [my] body, which is basically what they do.” Such statements have bolstered the movement of people who refuse to vaccinate their kids, causing real harm to their and other children.

Flu season is upon us. Last winter, the flu took 172 children with it – the largest death toll in nearly a decade. One of those children was 6-year old Eden Murray, whose family thought that maybe she was just tired from school when she stayed in bed all day. Most families don’t think they are going to lose their child to the flu – this also was the case for the family of 6-year old Emily Muth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that most children that die from the flu (around 85%) are not vaccinated.

President Trump is wrong to lambast vaccines for children. Make sure your children and you are safe this season, go get your flu vaccine.

How many more children must suffer?

The Trump administration’s chlorpyrifos decision was reversed by courts this year – one strategy that has worked in favor of public health. These successes are great, but there are still major issues to be addressed. Extreme flooding is continuing this year. The floodwaters of hurricane Florence have been attributed to 35 deaths thus far. The Trump administration also is attacking air pollution standards on many fronts, even though there are a number of studies that provide evidence that increased air pollution is linked to decline in human health and life expectancy.

How many more teenage girls have to gasp for air? How many more children must grow up without knowing a parent? How many more mothers must worry about their children playing outside?

I never thought that I would be writing a blog to advocate for children’s health – it is seriously mind-boggling for me. And while this all may seem alarmist, these stories are real. Let’s acknowledge these stories, the lives, and faces of those affected by the sidelining of science – we must learn from them to protect children now and in the future.

Photo: CMRF Crumlin/Flickr
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With The Farm Bill Expired, Will Science Stall? https://blog.ucsusa.org/marcia-delonge/with-the-farm-bill-expired-will-science-stall https://blog.ucsusa.org/marcia-delonge/with-the-farm-bill-expired-will-science-stall#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2018 20:48:06 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61899
Photo: IIP Photo Archive/Flickr

We’re well into October, and there’s still no farm bill in sight. My colleagues have written about some of the 39 programs that are left unfunded—including programs that improve nutrition for low-income consumers and help local food systems thrive. All the stranded programs together account for only $2.8 billion of the nearly $1 trillion farm bill. But they provide significant value, and none less than the research and education programs now in budgetary limbo.

In this post, I’ll focus on the three such programs: Organic Agriculture Research and Extension, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Depending on how long Congress leaves these programs hanging before passing a new farm bill, important agricultural research and extension, and the field of agroecology, could suffer.

Three essential programs, three reasons to protect them

The farm bill is the foundation for dozens of critical research, extension and education programs, many of which I’ve written about before.  I’m focusing on just three in this post, however, because these are the only ones in the bill’s Research Title that do not have a “budget baseline”, causing trouble when the farm bill expires. Without action, these programs won’t be able to fund new projects, leaving a substantial gap.  Let’s take a closer look at why it would be a mistake to put any of these three critical programs at risk, one program at a time.

1. Beginning farmers and ranchers need a steady stream of support.

By now you’ve probably heard that the average age of the US farmer is 58, and has been on the rise. Meanwhile, the number of farmers has been in decline, dwindling to fewer than 2.1 million in 2017. And, at a time when we need beginning farmers, challenges such as low prices, trade wars, and climate change are standing in the way.

The USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is one of the programs left stranded by the sidetracked farm bill process. Among other things, this crucial program supports beginning farmers (including veterans, as shown here) with much-needed technical assistance.

Fortunately, initiatives have cropped up to support beginning farmers and ranchers, among the most important of which is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).  This competitive grant program received $100 million in the now-lapsed 2014 farm bill and, over 9 years, has funded 291 collaborative education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance projects across nearly all states.  BFRDP also sets aside grants each year to support socially and financially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as military veterans, who are going into agriculture, ensuring that 5 percent of total program resources reach each of these groups.  Delaying funding for BFRDP, which was specifically developed to ease barriers for new farmers, could unnecessarily create a new set of hurdles instead.

2. Organic research and extension are already dwarfed by swelling demand

Research specific to organic farming systems is sorely needed to enable farmers and the industry to respond to the demand for organic products, which continues to grow.  Furthermore, such research has proven helpful for agroecology and sustainable agriculture more broadly.  These research areas have received relatively limited investment, thus organic research programs can be instrumental in filling key gaps.

In this vein, the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension program, which received $100 million in the 2014 farm bill, has played an important role in US public agricultural research funding over the past decade. For example, over nearly a decade, the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) has supported 111 research, education, and extension grants for highly competitive research distributed among 37 states. But, if the program’s hands are tied while a farm bill battle drags on, this high-demand, urgent research will remain on ice.

3. Why wait to stretch dollars and spur innovation?

Limited agricultural research support is particularly pronounced in some areas, such as for beginning farmers and for organic systems, but it is also generally the case that US public agricultural research funding has been in decline. With funding in short supply, making each dollar go further is of the utmost importance.

It was in this context that the 2014 farm bill established the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), with a budget of $200 million and a mission to match those funds with equal or greater non-federal funds. Through this public-private partnership model, FFAR has been leveraging these research dollars to fund innovation in cutting edge areas, including healthy soils, sustainability, urban food systems, and more. In the case of these partnerships, a delay in additional public funding threatens to leave not just public dollars on the table, but private dollars as well.  Why risk it?

Delaying public research in some of our nation’s most important agricultural research programs would be a very unfortunate side-effect of the sidetracked farm bill process. But this outcome is fully preventable.

The whole issue could be avoided by passing a new farm bill as soon as possible, ideally one that prevents these important programs from being stranded in the future (side note: the Senate bill makes funding for BFRDP and OREI permanent, resolving this problem for the long run, while renewing support and securing an additional $200 million in funding for FFAR).  But in the meantime, an extension of these high value programs could also do the trick.

Regardless of the path that’s taken, keeping these programs funded in the short-term should be a priority. Tell Congress that farmers and ranchers are counting on them.

Photo: IIP Photo Archive/Flickr
Photo: USDA/Flickr
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Three Reasons Bernard McNamee is a Horrible Choice for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission https://blog.ucsusa.org/sam-gomberg/three-reasons-bernard-mcnamee-is-a-bad-choice https://blog.ucsusa.org/sam-gomberg/three-reasons-bernard-mcnamee-is-a-bad-choice#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 18:57:26 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61889

President Trump’s nomination of Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may not grab a lot of headlines but make no mistake – it’s a blatant (and oft repeated) move by the Trump administration to pollute an independent regulatory body with political operatives intent on carrying out his crony capitalism. A hearing to consider McNamee’s nomination is already set for Tuesday, October 16th – a clear sign that Trump’s political allies are trying to ram through his appointment without thoughtful consideration. But here’s three reasons McNamee is a horrible choice to be a FERC commissioner and why his potential confirmation should worry all of us.

But first, what is “FERC”?

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – or “FERC” – is an independent federal regulatory body that is organized as part of the Department of Energy and that oversees much of our modern energy infrastructure. From pipelines, to hydroelectric dams, to our interstate transmission system and wholesale electricity markets, FERC is tasked with ensuring “reliable, efficient and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost”. To put it simply: FERC’s decisions impact our wallets, our environment, and our climate.

Now that we understand why it’s important who our next FERC commissioner is, here are three reasons why Bernard McNamee is the wrong man for the job:

1. McNamee has serious conflicts of interest.

Bernard McNamee has been a key player in the Trump Administration’s unsuccessful attempts to bailout the coal industry. Now McNamee’s been nominated to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission despite a lack of qualifications and clear conflicts of interest.

President Trump and the Department of Energy led by Rick Perry have been trying to bailout their buddies in the coal industry since they got to D.C. In his positions with the DOE, McNamee helped craft a previous proposal to provide subsidies to uneconomic coal plants. That proposal was unanimously rejected by FERC in January. We also know that DOE is still working to find the legal authority to order subsidies – with cost estimates of $34 billion or more – be paid to these same plants.

McNamee almost certainly had a role in crafting this latest proposal that is opposed by nearly everyone except the coal industry. To date he has not divulged exactly what role he’s played, who he’s worked with, or what communications he’s had with FERC about the upcoming proposal. Working to craft a bailout proposal for the coal industry would create a serious conflict of interest if he were to then be appointed to FERC that would ultimately vote on the proposal.

Imagine if you were accused of a crime and, once the prosecutor had made his closing arguments, he was appointed to be the judge in your case. That is akin to what we’re now facing with McNamee’s potential appointment to FERC. Free and fair electricity markets, low-cost electricity, and our clean energy future are at stake.

 2. He’s horribly unqualified.

Bernard McNamee has no experience in the utility or natural gas utility industries and has no experience as a regulator of these industries. He was appointed to the Department of Energy (DOE) by President Trump, and before that worked for a conservative think tank in Texas and was an advisor to Senator Ted Cruz and the Texas Attorney General.

3. He would destroy FERC’s standing as an independent regulatory body.

FERC was specifically designed to be independent from political interference. BY nominating Bernard McNamee to join FERC, the Trump Administration is trying to pollute that longstanding independence.

FERC has a long history of steering clear of the political fray, particularly in its responsibility to protect free and fair energy markets. In fact, FERC is specifically designed to be independent from political influence so that it can remain objective. To protect against undue influence at the Commission, no more than three of the five commissioners can be from the same political party, FERC is not funded by taxpayer dollars (and therefore not subject to appropriations battles), and FERC decisions are not reviewed in advance by the President or Congress.

This independence has already been thrown into question by FERC’s chief of staff, Anthony Pugliese – another unqualified political operative inserted at FERC by President Trump. The appointment of McNamee to be a FERC commissioner would double down on Trump’s efforts to make FERC a pawn to his political agenda. Everyone should be concerned about the erosion of independent decision making and the precedent that would set.

Before any hearing is scheduled on his nomination, a full accounting of his activities since joining the DOE, including his communications with the coal industry and his role in the ongoing effort to bailout uneconomic coal plants, should be made public. Then it’s up to the Senate to ask serious questions about how he plans to fulfill his duties at FERC given his lack of qualification and his apparent conflicts of interest. If we can’t get acceptable answers to these questions, then it’s painfully clear that McNamee has no place at FERC.

Photo: Ryan McKnight
Photo: Tammy Anthony Baker/Wikimedia Commons
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Clean Transportation Technologies Can Cut Emissions and Save Northeast Over $1 Trillion in Reduced Spending on Oil. https://blog.ucsusa.org/daniel-gatti/five-steps-to-cut-emissions-in-northeast https://blog.ucsusa.org/daniel-gatti/five-steps-to-cut-emissions-in-northeast#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 14:20:42 +0000 https://blog.ucsusa.org/?p=61883

We can cut oil use, reduce climate and air pollution, lower costs for consumers, and strengthen our regional economy by investing in three proven strategies: increasing vehicle efficiency; transitioning to electric cars, buses, and trucks; and shifting to cleaner fuels. According to a new analysis for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) by M.J. Bradley and Associates, the states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region can:

  • Cut climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution from on-road transportation by 37 percent in 2030, relative to 1990 levels, and by 78 percent in 2050.
  • Reduce consumer spending on gasoline and diesel fuel by more than $125 billion by 2030 and more than $1 trillion by 2050.
  • Improve air quality, leading to more than $3 billion in cumulative avoided health impacts by 2030 and more than $30 billion by 2050.
  • Build a stronger and more reliable electric grid through smart charging, which can save ratepayers over $138 billion by 2050 and facilitate the shift to renewable electricity.
  • Save almost $25 billion in environmental damages region-wide by 2030 and almost $195 billion in 2050, by diminishing the risk of property damage from extreme climate events, preserving ecosystems, and avoiding climate-related changes in agricultural productivity, among other benefits.

Together with efforts to provide residents with better alternatives to driving through investments in public transportation, walking and biking infrastructure, and affordable housing near transit, these investments in clean vehicles and fuels can put the region on track to achieve the deep decarbonization of transportation. Furthermore, by directing investments toward the communities that need them the most, the region can make its transportation system more equitable.

Five policies to move the region forward

This analysis comes as states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region consider new approaches to addressing the challenge of transportation pollution. Transportation is the largest source of pollution in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. While the region has made progress in reducing pollution from power plants, pollution from cars, trucks, and buses have actually grown since 1990. The region will not meet our long-term climate goals without significant new policies to address transportation emissions.

Over the past year, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have been exploring new policy approaches to deal with this challenge. Agency officials committed last year to explore market-based policies to reduce transportation emissions. State agencies have conducted analysis, and held listening sessions that have brought hundreds of people together throughout the region to discuss strategies to improve transportation.We have an opportunity right now to move the region forward with a comprehensive strategy to reduce vehicle emissions and clean our transportation system.

We evaluated three proven technology pathways by which the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states can accelerate the deployment of clean vehicles and clean fuels at a scale sufficient to meet their climate targets, calculating the investment needed to take these technologies to scale as well as the resulting financial, environmental, and health benefits. These pathways are: increasing fuel efficiency in conventional vehicles, promoting electric vehicles, and increasing production of clean biofuels.

We find that aggressive investment in clean transportation technologies can help the Northeast achieve deep decarbonization of the transportation sector. We also find that achieving this transformation will require sustained and significant efforts to overcome major obstacles to clean transportation technology, including the high upfront cost of the vehicles, the need for more charging infrastructure, and additional costs for low-carbon biofuels.

We recommend policy leaders in the Northeast take five major steps:

1. Accelerate vehicle emission standards

Vehicle efficiency and emissions standards, including federal CAFE rules as well as the regional Zero-Emission Vehicle program play a critical role in encouraging automaker investments in clean transportation technologies. The Trump administration proposes to freeze federal standards for vehicles and threatens to attack the authority of California and Northeast states to set higher emission standards. We propose instead that the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states join California to fight proposed rollbacks at the federal level and to keep vehicle emissions standards and the ZEV program on track post-2025.

With steady progress on vehicle efficiency, a new passenger car in 2030 can operate on one-third less gasoline than a car sold today. Continuing to strengthen the efficiency of buses and trucks is also important, because, although heavy-duty vehicles make up less than 10 percent of all vehicles on US highways, they constitute more than 25 percent of the nation’s consumption of petroleum-based fuels.

2. Make electric vehicles work for everybody

Electric vehicles (EVs) represent the most promising technology ever developed to help reduce the consumption of petroleum-based fuels. EVs are increasingly available in all vehicle classes and models, from sedans to transit buses and delivery trucks. On today’s grid, electric cars produce less than half the emissions of a conventional vehicle (Reichmuth 2017). They are cheaper to fuel and cheaper to maintain, and their up-front costs continue to decline, though incentives remain important for moderate- and low-income drivers to share in these consumer benefits.

Our analysis finds that the widespread adoption of electric vehicles by 2050—which assumes the electrification of 95 percent of the fleet of transit buses, 90 percent of passenger cars, 70 percent of small trucks, and 30 percent of large trucks—is cost-effective. Achieving these growth rates will require sustained investments to incentivize switching to EVs and build charging infrastructure.

To make this happen, we encourage states to increase incentives for low- and moderate-income residents, to make these vehicles affordable to people of all income levels. We encourage states to achieve the rapid electrification of port fleets and transit buses, particularly in communities with high rates of air pollution caused by diesel fumes.  And we call on states and utilities in the region to build out the charging infrastructure that we will need to support widespread electrification, and to adopt policies that will encourage these vehicles to charge at the most efficient time of day for the grid.

3. Enact a clean fuel standard

Clean transportation must be powered by cleaner fuels, a shift that can be achieved by switching to clean electricity and blending low-carbon biofuels into gasoline and diesel. In our analysis, we found that clean fuels can achieve a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions per unit of transportation fuel by 2030, and 30 percent by 2050. Setting a steadily declining standard for the average carbon intensity of transportation fuel, including electricity, biofuels, and petroleum-based fuels, would support the transition to both electric vehicles and low-carbon biofuels, while preventing the introduction of high-carbon sources of oil, such as fuel derived from Canadian tar sands.

4. Create a clean transportation investment fund.

Making clean transportation work for all communities and constituencies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will require sustained, creative and strategic investments. A dedicated funding source for clean transportation investments could play a critical role in helping communities develop smart solutions to the challenge of reducing transportation emissions. Building on successful program models such as the Green Communities Act and Cleaner Greener Communities, a clean transportation fund could help engage local government and local coalitions around specific projects to improve transportation in their communities. Funds could also be used to engage key stakeholders, such as large fleet operators, auto dealers, transit agencies, universities and hospitals, and transportation network companies (TNCs).

A clean transportation fund would also provide the state with a way of dedicating revenues to the communities and constituencies that are most in need of investments in clean transportation. That includes environmental justice communities that face disproportionately high rates of asthma and air pollution, skyrocketing housing costs, and underinvestment in public transportation. And it also includes rural communities, who have the highest transportation costs and the greatest potential to save money from the transition to electric vehicles.

This fund could be supported through the same kind of funding mechanisms that are already working to improve efficiency and reduce consumer costs in the electric and gas sectors, such as a systems benefits charge or a cap and invest program covering transportation fuels.

5. Implement a market-based limit on transportation emissions.

Finally, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states should place a declining limit on emissions from transportation fuels and enforce that limit through a market-based policy similar to what the region has achieved in the electric sector through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI).

RGGI is a policy with a proven track record of reducing emissions while improving our economy and cutting costs for consumers. It works by setting an overall declining limit on emissions from power plants and requiring polluters to purchase allowances made available in regular auctions. By limiting the number of allowances available, the program creates mandatory emission reductions. At the same time, sales of allowances raise money, which can then be invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency technology. By investing smartly in energy efficiency, RGGI has lowered net costs for consumers.

Our analysis demonstrates that this policy model could achieve this same success in transportation. For example, if the Northeast were to implement a market-based program covering transportation fuels at auction prices equal to those of the Western Climate Initiative, that would raise almost $60 billion to invest in clean transportation solutions by 2030. That alone would be sufficient to cover the entire added cost of electric vehicle technology, and together with additional complementary policies, these clean transportation investments could save consumers over $145 billion by 2030 – with hundreds of billions in additional savings in the following decades.

Public Domain
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