We've been meeting with California's climate and clean air experts in order to undertstand where the state is in regard to goals for reducing climate and air pollution, what the state needs to ensure we meet or exceed these goals, and whether our proposed climate and clean air funding initiative could raise the money needed to accelerate our progress.
Unfortunately, we are not alone in questioning whether we are on track to meet or exceed California’s climate and clean air goals, which include:
- The SB 32 target to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030;
- Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order that all sales of light-duty cars and trucks be zero-emission by 2035, all off-road vehicles and equipment sales be zero emission by 2035 “where feasible,” and all medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2045 “where feasible”;
- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) first-in-the-world mandate, the Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, requires manufacturers to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of sales starting in 2024. By 2035, 55% of all light-duty truck sales must be zero-emission and 75% of all medium- and heavy-duty truck sales must be zero-emission, and by 2045 every truck sold in California must be zero-emission.
Below are key takeaways from the conversation we had with nine panelists in early December, which focused on transportation, climate and clean air. The names of all nine panelists pictured above are listed at the end of this blog post. Our major take-aways from the event are below:
We must think about the climate change challenge together with air pollution and environmental and labor justice:
The transportation sector in California is the primary source of both the pollutants that dirty our air and the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. The transportation sector—vehicles and fuels—is responsible for more than half of California’s GHG emissions, and more than 80% of the nitrous oxides (NOx) and other air pollutants that directly impact human health and hit low-income neighborhoods and communities of color the hardest. Air pollution, especially diesel emissions, is so impactful on these “frontline communities” because they are often located adjacent to busy freeways, ports, distribution centers, and railyards—where the heavy-duty diesel-powered trucks that emit the most air pollution and much of our GHG emissions operate. Cleaning up heavy-duty long-haul trucks—which are about one-eighth of all trucks in the South Coast Air District but produce about half of all diesel truck emissions—is especially important and will provide these communities with the most significant air quality, public health, and environmental justice benefits.
Transportation is a major source of emissions not just in California but in industrialized countries everywhere.
Like California, many countries are starting to address the transportation problem with regulations, clean fuels, carbon pricing, and by developing or expanding emissions trading systems much like California’s Cap and Trade program. Cap and Trade brings in dollars from the auction of carbon credits to invest in California’s Low-Carbon Transportation Program—but some argue Cap and Trade also allows companies to continue to pollute the air. California is an important source of innovation and model programs for many states and nations.
Building the market for clean technology requires incentives as well as regulation.
CARB’s regulations, including the recently adopted Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, push manufacturers to develop more advanced transportation technologies. CARB’s incentive programs then encourage buyers and vehicle operators to purchase these advanced technology trucks and other vehicles. This dynamic helps to build the marketplace for advanced technologies much more rapidly and encourages manufacturers to further invest in the development and commercialization of new transportation technologies. Influencing the market in this way creates a more sustainable market for advanced technologies.
How fast can we get to zero-emission cars and trucks?
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) had considered a funding initiative for Southern California similar to our proposed statewide initiative. The SCAQMD estimated the length of time required to make zero-emissions technologies cost-competitive with conventional technologies if there were significant incentives and investments in infrastructure, and found that cars, SUVs, pick-up trucks and school buses would likely be cost-competitive with conventional technologies in a decade, while medium- and heavy-duty trucks would likely be cost competitive in two decades (these calculations were
made before Governor Newsom’s recent executive orders). These vehicle categories represent almost 40% of all California’s GHG emissions and more than 80% of our NOx emissions.
Southern California may have to use both zero- and near-zero trucks to meet the looming 2031 clean air deadlines.
Southern California—home to 44% of the state's population—must meet federal air quality attainment deadlines by 2031, which means emissions from all sectors must be reduced by more than 50%. Diesel technologies are primarily to blame for our bad air quality and also contribute to climate change. Two of the largest ports in the U.S. are located in LA and Long Beach, and 40% of all containerized goods that come into the U.S. travel from these ports up through Southern California—mostly transported by diesel trucks.
The NOx emissions responsible for SoCal's smog problem are mostly due to the heavy-duty diesel technologies associated with goods movement—trucks as well as off-road vehicles and equipment, marine vessels and locomotives. Using regulations as well as incentives the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is working with CARB to develop and pilot a near-zero 90% cleaner renewable natural gas engine—as well as zero-emission truck technology—for use in heavy-duty trucks, but incentives will be needed to ensure the market adopts these technologies. Because of the impending air quality deadlines the SCAQMD believes it is critical to employ trucks with 90% cleaner engines while zero-emission technologies are being developed and commercialized.
Some say we should push zero-emission vehicles as hard as we can, but we should also realize that by 2030 only half of all the cars, trucks and equipment sold are likely to be powered by zero-emission technologies. The other half will likely be powered by some form of internal combustion engines. The cleanest available alternative will likely be near-zero emission engines running on cleaner fuels such as renewable natural gas, biodiesel and renewable diesel.
The status of clean truck technology.
The commercial vehicle market includes many different kinds of trucks and buses, with an estimated 40% operating less than 200 miles/day and then returning “to base” every night. Because these vehicles can be readily recharged this portion of the fleet will be more adaptable to emerging zero-emission technologies. Medium-sized freight and regional-haul trucks are also believed to be able to transition to zero-emission technologies, perhaps beginning as early as 2022, because the technology is improving and battery costs continue to come down (by 90% over the last 10 years). It is estimated that the cost of some trucks may come down as early as 2025, and that zero-emission trucks will be cost competitive with those powered by internal-combustion engines. Up-front costs, however, are likely to remain high and owners of small fleets (by far the majority of trucking companies in California), will need up-front capital support to purchase these trucks.
The SCAQMD has been working to develop truck technologies using fuel cells or batteries with major manufacturers including Volvo and Daimler, the two top truck manufacturers in the world. The SCAQMD believes it will be necessary to replace 200,000-400,000 heavy-duty trucks— now powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) and fueled by diesel—with advanced clean technologies in order to meet federal air quality deadlines in 2031.
The clean-car-bus-truck-fuel-technology industry is creating major economic opportunities in California.
California’s climate and clean air policies have attracted many companies and created an estimated 60,000 jobs in California directly related to the clean transportation industry. There are more electric vehicles and buses built here than in any other state, and companies are developing new technologies, building vehicles and components, and producing clean fuels. With additional investment the industry is likely to grow and create even more jobs.
What is the role for cleaner fuels that are available now, such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen?
Renewable natural gas or RNG refers to methane that is created biologically at dairies, landfills, and wastewater treatment facilities. If allowed to escape into the atmosphere as “fugitive emissions” RNG becomes a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) with powerful “climate forcing” properties. If captured for use as a fuel, RNG can be used for the same purposes as fossil fuel natural gas. Scientists give RNG a “negative carbon intensity rating” because not only can it replace and thus reduce the use of fossil fuels but it can also reduce the methane that otherwise would have been released into the atmosphere. As a result, RNG gets the lowest carbon intensity ratings in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. In addition, RNG can be re-formed into hydrogen, which is a zero-emission fuel when used in fuel cells for multiple applications. RNG is available today. We need to reduce it or use it so that it does not escape into the atmosphere where it is a very powerful climate forcer.
If we really want to transform the transportation sector and dramatically reduce the use of diesel trucks and other diesel-powered technologies, it is important to give potential users options. Many people are bullish on zero-emission hydrogen, which can move into the market at the same time as battery-electric technologies. Trucks can be fueled as quickly as they can with fossil fuels, which means there's very little downtime for trucking operations. The amount of time it takes to charge electric trucks has been a problem for the industry, which is built on the "fast fuel" diesel model. Because hydrogen keeps that model it is more likely to gain acceptance in the long-haul trucking marketplace.
Northern California takes a varied approach to meeting the climate and clean air challenge.
Transportation is also the biggest source of air pollutants and GHG emissions in the Bay Area, but the ports are smaller and there’s less truck travel. While there is great interest in accelerating fleet turnover through new and cleaner truck technologies and fuel, the climate and clean air priorities are not just about vehicles and technologies but also human behavior: Priorities include addressing historic land use and lending practices that have led to frontline communities being disproportionately impacted by diesel; the need to reduce vehicle use and VMT; and programs and incentives that encourage local governments to support active transportation, transit, safe routes to schools, and open streets programs that provide more space where people can be outside, walking, biking and skating/skate-boarding.
Our panelists included, from top left clockwise to lower left: Steven Cliff, Deputy Executive Officer, CARB; Rajinder Sahota, Chief of the Industrial Strategies Division, CARB; John Boesel, President & CEO of CALSTART; Matt Miyasato, Chief Technologist & Deputy Executive Officer for Science & Technology Advancement, South Coast Air Quality Management District; Todd Campbell, Vice President of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Clean Energy; Dawn Wilson, Former Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, Southern California Edison; Raj Dhillon, Senior Manager of Advocacy & Public Policy, Breathe Southern California; Kevin Maggay, Program Manager, Southern California Gas Company; Susana Reyes, Sierra Club, National Co-Lead, Clean Transportation for All Campaign. THANK YOU PANELISTS!