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We helped broker a fuel-efficiency deal that will cut carbon pollution from new cars in half and save drivers $90 billion a year at the pump.

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We're pushing for biofuels that are sustainably grown, protect sensitive landscapes, and lower carbon pollution.

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Electric cars require no gas and release no tailpipe emissions. That’s why we're working to get more of them on the road.

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As China’s electric vehicle market is growing rapidly, we're helping the country prepare its electric grid to power EVs with clean, renewable energy.

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Your Guide to Going Electric

Considering making the switch? Here's everything you need to know about driving electric cars and hybrids.

How smog, soot, greenhouse gases, and other top air pollutants are affecting the planet—and your health

Experts & Resources

Utility Regulators Help Michigan’s Auto Industry Electrify
Max Baumhefner

For over 100 years, Michigan has remained the country’s undisputed automotive capitol. As the home of the Big Three (Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler) and a nation-leading 70,000 jobs in clean transportation technology, it’s no wonder that the industry is a point of pride for many Michiganders. Now, with mass-market electric vehicles (EVs) like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Tesla Model 3 under production, the auto industry is faced with a challenge and an opportunity to collaborate with another big player—the electric industry.

Recognizing the critical role the electric utilities it regulates will play in fueling the EV market, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) are co-sponsoring a technical conference on August 9th with automakers, utilities, charging station companies, and other stake holders to discuss how Michigan’s utility industry can help the state carry its automotive history into the future of electrified transport.

I’ll be speaking on a panel at the conference focused on “The Role of Regulation and Government in Creating Effective Policy.” As noted in this NRDC issue brief, which lays out guiding principles to inform utility programs, we need effective policies to ensure we realize the benefits of an increased role for the electric industry:

The electrification of the transportation sector is not only a key pathway by which to meet air quality and climate goals, but also a singular opportunity for the electric industry. The United States spends more than $436 billion annually on gasoline and diesel. Diverting a portion of that expenditure to the electric sector can spread the costs of the transmission and distribution grid over more sales, putting downward pressure on the price of electricity while also providing consumers relief from volatile gasoline and diesel prices.

If done correctly, utility programs could spur EV growth in Michigan to the benefit of all residents—regardless of whether they own an EV. NRDC and our partners at Sierra Club and Ecology Center commissioned a report by MJ Bradley & Associates to analyze how benefits to Michiganders scale up as EV adoption increases. By extrapolating upon a Bloomberg New Energy Finance EV growth forecast, MJ Bradley & Associates estimates that by 2050:

  • The number of EVs in Michigan will grow from roughly 1 million in 2030 to 5.4 million in 2050—up from roughly 13,000 today;
  • Michigan utility customers can expect to save $2.6 billion cumulatively on their electric bills from managed EV charging;
  • Michigan drivers can expect to save $23.1 billion cumulatively through reduced fueling and maintenance costs; and
  • Michigan residents will realize $5.7 cumulatively in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The study also examines how benefits to utility customers change as new electric demand from EVs shifts. The results suggest that when EV drivers have the incentive to charge late in the evening when the grid is less stressed—as opposed to plugging in right after work when everyone’s gadgets are turned on—the monetary benefits to all utility customers nearly double.

There’s no doubt that Michigan remains the center of the automotive world today. But when about 400,000 people put down $1,000 deposits for Tesla’s Model 3 last April, it did not go unnoticed in the Motor City. The Michigan Public Service Commission technical conference presents an opportunity to affirm the state’s leadership role in automotive innovation, in partnership with the electric industry. By providing a clear regulatory pathway for utility participation in the EV space, the Commission can spur investments needed to support widespread transportation electrification that benefits all Michiganders.

Michigan Electric Vehicle Cost-Benefit Analysis
Report

For over a century, Michigan's auto industry has laid a foundation for economic growth and job creation in the region. As mass-market electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt are brought to the fore, Michigan has an opportunity to continue this leadership while benefitting Michiganders - regardless of whether they drive electric.

A new MJ Bradley & Associates report, commissioned by NRDC, Sierra Club, and The Ecology Center, finds that scaling up electric vehicle (EV) adoption at a level consistent with expert projections will provide the state $2.6 billion in cumulative utility bill savings through the improved utilization of the electric grid by 2050. The analysis also reveals that Michigan drivers can expect to save a striking $23.1 billion in vehicle fuel and maintenance costs while also yielding societal benefits of $5.7 billion in the form of reduced pollution - both by 2050. Ensuring that the majority of EV charging occurs during off-peak hours when the grid is not stressed will drive even greater benefits for utility customers. With the right policies in place, Michigan can look forward to a bright and electrified future as the country's undisputed automotive leader.

Tesla Delivers Model 3 as CA Moves Plan to Boost EV Market
Max Baumhefner

Tesla has delivered the first 30 production Model 3’s—the automaker’s mass-market, affordable electric vehicle (EV) that will be available for under $27,500 after a federal tax credit. This marks a potential tipping point for the EV market, but it still leaves more than half a million people waiting to get theirs after putting down $1,000 deposits for the vehicle. And some might ask for their money back if the charging infrastructure network doesn’t catch up to consumer demand.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Motors

Thankfully, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) just approved the first cycle of an $800 million investment to accelerate the market for EVs that will deploy charging stations along highways and in communities across the state, increase public awareness of EVs, and make Sacramento a “Green City” for electric transportation. And, earlier this year, the U.S. EPA approved the first cycle of a corresponding $1.2 billion national plan. The combined $2 billion investment by Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, represents one part of a consent decree its mother company reached with the federal government and California after it was caught cheating on diesel emissions tests.

The resulting charging network will be available to anyone, removing a potential barrier to widespread EV adoption. Tesla has already invested in its own charging network, not to sell electricity, but to sell cars by providing its customers with confidence they can complete the occasional intercity trip. Electrify America’s network will help provide non-Tesla drivers with the same confidence, though it alone will not be sufficient. Utilities and EV charging companies need to re-double efforts to deploy fast charging stations and “long dwell-time” charging stations (e.g., at workplaces and apartment complexes) to address a growing charging infrastructure gap.

NRDC, The Greenlining Institute, Valley LEAP, Central California Asthma Collaborative, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, the American Lung Association in California, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environment California, Sierra Club, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology, and the Coalition for Clean Air jointly submitted this letter recommending ARB approve  Electrify America’s plan, in light of significant improvements that were made to the plan in response to public input.

As noted in the letter, we will continue to engage to ensure Electrify America delivers the benefits promised in the plan approved by ARB last week. In combination with second-generation EVs like the Tesla Model 3, Electrify America’s investments could lay the foundation for a mass-market for EVs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Trump administration put Americans’ health at risk by abruptly suspending a federal safeguard intended to curb a major source of climate-changing emissions, the pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, according to a lawsuit filed today.

NRDC, Others Sue Trump Administration for Illegally Suspending Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standard
Legal Filings

Clean Air Carolina, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Public Interest Research Group have filed a lawsuit charging the Trump administration with breaking the law by suspending a transportation greenhouse gas standard.

We’re Suing to Defend a Key Transportation Rule
Amanda Eaken Deron Lovaas

NRDC today leads a coalition in challenging the Trump Administration’s latest assault on the environment.

We are suing to defend and protect a key rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)—a performance standard for measuring and limiting carbon pollution from  transportation sources. In January, the FHWA issued this bold rule to for the first time require regions and states to measure heat-trapping carbon pollution generated from vehicles traveling on the National Highway System and to set targets for reducing that pollution.

The rule is the final in a series under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21 transportation law enacted in 2012. Collectively these rules would achieve the law’s promise to launch transportation into the 21st century by making it more performance-driven—a recommendation made by many analysts and groups, including the Bipartisan Policy Center.

It’s a simple but profound premise: Transportation plans must be more accountable for performance outcomes, including carbon pollution.

A 2016 report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirms the current lack of accountability, finding, “Spending on highways does not correspond very well with how the roads are used and valued.” CBO recommended three possible remedies for investing federal dollars more effectively, including performance management for transportation plans.

In addition, a just-released Government Accountability Office report calls for improved implementation of the transportation planning improvements in MAP-21. The report concludes:

As our past work has demonstrated, it is increasingly important to improve the effectiveness of surface transportation programs by establishing links to performance and measuring progress toward clear national goals in order to maximize the use of available resources.

Yet with no opportunity for public notice or comment, FHWA halted this commonsense performance standard, abruptly announcing it will “indefinitely delay” the greenhouse gas (GHG) sections of the larger Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) transportation rule. That sounds illegal because it is.

NRDC, Clean Air Carolina and U.S. PIRG challenge this unlawful move because transportation is the leading source of carbon pollution in the United States and our transportation sector produces more carbon pollution than the entire economies of every nation on earth save China, India and Russia. To tackle climate change we must limit pollution from our transportation system—and quickly.

Had the rule taken effect, regions and states would now be engaged in a process to measure—or benchmark—the carbon pollution emitted by vehicles on the national highway system to project how much it would grow in coming decades based on plans that receive federal assistance, and then set targets for reducing that pollution.

We don’t have to speculate what would happen with this rule because we are nine years into implementation of a similar law in California, SB 375.       

Under SB 375, regions learned quickly that to cut carbon pollution from transportation, they needed to invest in choices that can help reduce the need to drive. Regions have spent billions improving public transportation choices such as light-rail and buses and creating new infrastructure for safe walking and biking. They have also created new innovative mobility choices such as the recently launched Ford Go Bike bikeshare system in the Bay Area, or the low-income electric carshare program in Los Angeles. The persistent theme across regions is to reduce reliance on driving by creating competitive, affordable, low-carbon transportation choices.

This investment comes with many benefits beyond reducing carbon pollution.

Southern California’s plan is projected to reduce congestion by 39% per capita. Sacramento will invest over $10 billion—nearly one-third of available revenues—in its public transit system, providing affordable mobility choices for tens of thousands of residents. And the Bay Area aims to reduce adverse health impacts associated with air quality, road safety, and physical inactivity by 10%, as well as reduce by tenfold the share spent on transportation and housing by low-income households.  

By indefinitely delaying the GHG performance standard, FHWA is denying communities across the country access to cleaner air and more affordable mobility options to connect them to jobs and opportunity. It is also leaving in place a legacy of dangerous roads that results in nearly 36,000 traffic-related fatalities every year.

We are fighting to protect the interests of the overwhelming majority of those who commented in support of this rule. In fact, we’re pretty sure it was a record shattered for number of comments ever received in an FHWA rulemaking docket. As FHWA itself notes, “Supporting comments came from 91,695 citizens, 9 State DOTs, 24 MPOs, 19 U.S. Senators, 48 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, over 100 cities, numerous local officials, over 100 businesses, and over 100 public interest, nonprofit and advocacy organizations.”

The carbon pollution performance standard was also strongly supported by Americans of all political stripes. In polling conducted in 2016, we learned that over 2/3 of Americans supported FHWA’s efforts to create it.

That’s why we’re fighting back in court against such an ill-conceived and detrimental step backward in critically needed progress on the environment. 

Letter to CARB Regarding Volkswagen’s “Supplement to the California ZEV Investment Plan: Cycle 1”
Letter

Letter submitted to the California Air Resources Board by NRDC and 10 other environmental organizations urging approval of Volkswagen's modified Cycle One California ZEV Investment Plan.

The Sustainable Biomass Program: A Smokescreen for Forest Destruction and Corporate Non-accountability
Issue Paper

Unfortunately, and despite evidence to the contrary, climate and energy policies in the European Union treat biomass energy as carbon neutral, on par with other truly clean energy technologies like wind and solar. In fact, when all emissions are counted, forest biomass fuels—such as wood pellets made from whole trees and other large-diameter wood—emit carbon pollution comparable to, or in excess of, fossil fuels for more than five decades. Still, these wrongheaded policies have sent the demand for biomass soaring, and biomass producers are reaching into forests in the United States to meet it.

In 2013, biomass companies created the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) to provide assurances that their wood pellets and other biomass fuel are sustainable and legally sourced. However, analysis from NRDC, in partnership with the Dogwood Alliance, shows that the SBP is highly deficient in many important respects.

As a whole, the SBP is more noteworthy for what it doesn’t require rather than what it does. It functions basically as a self-assessment scheme for biomass producers, with virtually no requirements for independent on-site forest audits. Its “forest of loopholes” ignores both the emissions from burning biomass feedstocks and the substantial amount of forest carbon that can be lost through logging natural forests in requirements for carbon emissions claims.

It also lacks concrete, performance-oriented thresholds and protections, and thus provides little assurance regarding environmental or social protections in source forests and exempts potentially large amounts of biomass producers’ supply areas from the SBP’s core standards for forest sustainability and legality.

European policymakers are increasingly looking to “sustainable” sourcing standards such as the SBP to ensure their biomass imports are “green.” However, in light of these deficiencies, SBP-certified biomass projects will likely continue to pose a high degree of risk to forest integrity, local communities, and carbon-reduction goals. We caution policymakers in the United States and Europe to reassess whether the SBP can mitigate the carbon and sustainability risks inherent to burning biomass for energy and call on them to invest in truly clean and lower-cost energy technologies like solar, wind, and energy efficiency.

New Progress Report Shows Low Carbon Fuel Standard Working
Simon Mui

California released an encouraging batch of new numbers today that confirm continued success in the state’s effort to expand the use of cleaner fuels. Under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Program (LCFS), which requires the oil industry to reduce the carbon-intensity of gasoline and diesel, fuel suppliers reported 100 percent compliance in 2016. More than that, clean fuel producers helped to exceed the overall targets by about 60 percent since the program began. That’s according to agency staff with the Air Resources Board (ARB) who are presenting their progress report at today’s public hearing, where I will be also testifying. 

ARB staff also compared their earlier assessment of low-carbon fuel supplies against reports sponsored by the Western States Petroleum Association (performed by Boston Consulting Group) and Chevron. As shown below, the comparison revealed that the oil industry was wrong in its dire, doomsday predictions of  "fuels cliff" among other claims. I’ve previously blogged on this issue and the oil industry’s other claims of fuel price spikes and refinery closures that never materialized

In contrast, a varied cohort of business owners recognizes the value of LCFS, not only in terms of cleaning the air but creating jobs and jumpstarting technology advancements. Last month, 155 companies and industry groups signed a letter by Calstart in support of the standard, calling it a necessary incentive for investment in a clean energy economy. The signers include vehicle fleet operators, manufacturers, fuel producers, utilities, and business groups.

By expanding the market for cleaner fuels, the LCFS is also helping California diversify its fuel supply, because it encourages investment in alternatives such as biodiesel and renewable diesel, low-carbon ethanol, biogas, transportation electrification, as well as low-carbon technologies in the petroleum supply chain. The LCFS has spurred $1.6 billion in clean fuels investment since its inception and helped increase alternative fuel use by 57 percent in the state.  By diversifying the transportation fuel supply beyond petroleum, the LCFS will also help protect California’s economy from the frequent refinery outages and price swings in the global oil market.

The LCFS has also become one of the state’s most important programs for reducing carbon pollution – together with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards, Clean Car Standards, and Cap-and-trade program. Already, the standard has helped California avoid 26 million tons of planet-warming carbon pollution since 2011 and $2 billion in public health impacts.

The state has more work to do though to meet state climate and air quality requirements. California will needs to continue the LCFS program beyond 2020 as well as other complementary climate and air quality programs. In fact, a recent report from the consulting firm ICF found that strengthening the LCFS target to 20 percent for 2030 would reduce costs for the state’s cap-and-trade program by lessening the burden on other sectors. Put another way, the LCFS works together with cap-and-trade while also helping ensure the fuels industry contributes its fair share of emission reductions.

In a world where the federal government has relinquished its climate leadership, the state has been, and will continue to be, a beacon of clean energy policy for the rest of the U.S. and the world. California is already one step ahead with the success of the LCFS and increasingly well-positioned for a global market that will need to be increasingly lower-carbon and less polluting.

Petition for Review of EPA Stay of Landfill Emissions Rule
Legal Filings

NRDC and partners’ petition for review, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, seeking to block EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s 90-day administrative stay of standards of performance and emission guidelines for emissions of landfill gas from new and existing municipal solid waste landfills.

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