What We're Doing

Policy Solution

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.

Policy Solution

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

Policy Solution

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

Policy Solution

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.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

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

NRDC Report: The Electric Industry Can Drive Out Pollution
Max Baumhefner

To cut carbon pollution and meet air quality standards, we have to ditch oil and power our cars, trucks, and buses with clean electricity. To do that, we need America’s electric industry to use its power (particularly electrical and financial) to supercharge the market for electric vehicles (EVs), and do so in a manner that also helps replace fossil fuel plants with renewable resources like wind and solar.

In a report released today, Driving Out Pollution: How Utilities Can Accelerate the Market for Electric Vehicles, we explain how the electric industry could accelerate the national EV market by helping to deploy charging stations where drivers live, work, and play; increasing public awareness of EVs’ economic and environmental benefits; and incentivizing drivers to charge their cars at times that will help bring more solar and wind energy onto the grid.

The report details how the electric industry can use spare capacity in the grid to charge our nation’s vehicle fleet, partner with independent EV charging companies to increase access to electricity as a transportation fuel, and maximize fuel cost savings relative to gasoline by offering lower rates for charging during periods when the grid is underutilized and/or excess renewable power is available.

According to a recent paper published by the National Academy of Sciences, the share of new vehicles sold that are electric vehicles needs to grow from today’s 1 percent, to 40 percent or more by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

This is not an impossible task—almost 400,000 people put down $1,000 deposits for the next-generation, moderately priced Tesla during a two-week period earlier this year and drivers are expected to pack dealerships later this year when the mass market Chevrolet Bolt goes on sale.

Tesla Motor Company

However, potential EV purchasers attracted by the prospect of fueling up on a cleaner fuel that is the cost equivalent to $1 per gallon gasoline may change their minds if the charging infrastructure network does not catch up to consumer demand.

Expanding the EV charging network can also pave the way for a broader, more diverse EV market and provide low-income customers much needed relief from wildly fluctuating gas prices.

Our report provides a roadmap for the electric industry to help grow the EV market, divided into three phases:

Phase 1 presents the most pressing issues, but the foundations for Phase 2 and Phase 3 must be laid today in order to realize the long-term benefits of widespread EV adoption. Now is the time to act. Short-term delays could result in a near-impossible task in the future, as it takes decades to turn over the nation’s vehicle fleet.

Thankfully, some states have already started down this path. California and Oregon adopted laws directing utilities to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved EV infrastructure and market education programs for Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric and is currently considering a widely supported settlement proposal that would implement a similar program in the northern and central areas of the state served by Pacific Gas & Electric.

Meanwhile, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a $3 million EV infrastructure deployment pilot proposed by Avista, which serves rural areas in the eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Kansas City Power and Light is investing $20 million to install more than 1,000 public and workplace charging stations, and Georgia Power and Light is implementing a $12 million “Get Current. Drive Electric” charging program to install 60 public charging stations with both standard and fast-charging stations.

In addition, power companies nationwide are pursuing EVs as a new and emerging revenue stream. Electrifying the transportation sector can bring money into the electric system that would otherwise go to oil companies—this can lower monthly bills for all electric utility customers.

It has been estimated that traffic pollution could cause more than 50,000 premature deaths annually in the lower 48 states, which is more than 1.5 times the deaths from traffic accidents on an annual basis. The electric industry should move quickly to bring forward the environmental and economic benefits of moving America off oil—once and for good.

Denver on Track as New-Mobility, Transportation Leader
Catherine Cox Blair
Denver's Union Station pixabay.com

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to transportation.

The day NRDC’s Urban Solutions group, where I work as a senior adviser, sponsored the second Live.Ride.Share conference with partners WalkDenver, Transit Alliance, Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), the City of Denver and several other groups and surrounding cities was the same day Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx arrived to talk to city leaders and stakeholders about Denver’s finalist status in the Smart City Challenge. The challenge winner will receive $40 million in federal funding for the development of mobility technologies to improve transportation and reduce carbon emissions.

Mayor Michael Hancock noted the intersection of events in his remarks at Live.Ride.Share and in an online post for the Department of Transportation—all just weeks after the city’s gleaming rail line opened to the airport and just a year after the CoPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group ranked Denver among the Top 10 cities in the nation for high tech transportation options.

Yes, it’s Denver’s moment, and it’s well-deserved considering the forward-thinking community that Politico just lauded for its ability to set aside differences and work together to temper the brown cloud of pollution that once plagued the city, offer options and opportunity in transportation and land use, and be inclusive of all communities in the process.

We were proud to highlight and elevate the conversation at Live.Ride.Share, which brought together a coalition of local and national transportation, business, environmental and advocacy organizations, and community, political and activist leaders on the rapidly growing, technology-driven trends and policies in transportation that are changing the way we live, work and travel.

The discussion went far beyond Denver to reveal the latest developments in innovative transportation solutions—ranging from new types of “smart” car pools to driverless vehicles—and discuss how they can transform cities, clean the air and improve public health, while also focusing on a renewed interest in walkable urban areas.

In addition to Hancock, among the speakers were Mark Dowd, the DOT’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology; Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft; Will Carry, senior director for Special Projects at the New York City Department of Transportation; Gabe Klein, author of Start-Up City, former director of Chicago’s Department of Transportation and the force behind one of the largest bikeshare systems in the U.S.; Timothy Papandreou, director of strategic planning for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation; and Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.

One of the many crowd-pleasing sessions was the opening plenary featuring Klein and Norton in a dialogue, with Klein noting the deficits in transit in the United States and the lack of political will for fixing urban infrastructure and creating practical solutions to transportation such as better land use.

Norton put transportation in historical perspective, using research and colorful examples of the ways that Americans were seduced by car companies and marketing into believing the automobile was their birthright.

With that historical understanding, it makes it perhaps easier to look ahead. My colleague at NRDC, Deron Lovaas, director of state/federal policy and practice for Urban Solutions, put it simply in a statement that got a lot of positive reaction on social media.

Reaction to the conference was overwhelmingly positive, with these among the testimonials we received afterward:

"Thank you for putting this together. All of the work you did was extremely beneficial. I, personally, learned a lot and will use these lessons going forward."

"Thanks for a great event! I was excited and fired up to keep moving forward and testing all these options."

"I thought the event was excellent and really opened creative thinking on the future of our country’s chosen methods of transportation. I would love to continue these talks and events."

"It's always amazing to be in a room of like-minded individuals focusing on the same goals."

One conference goer asked us to keep the community “informed of what's current and how quickly paradigms are shifting across the country.”

The Denver conference followed by a little more than a year the first Live.Ride.Share conference, in Los Angeles, and there are plans for more to come as we navigate the new-transportation journey. We will, indeed, keep you informed.

Images from Twitter of the panel at the Live.Ride.Share Conference in Denver courtesy of Danna Walker.

Cleaner Skies are Friendlier Skies
Debbie Hammel

NRDC just released its annual Aviation Biofuel Sustainability Scorecard, which rates individual airlines on sourcing sustainably produced biofuels.

For the 2016 scorecard, we surveyed 29 airlines. Airlines in the top category were: Air France/Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), South African Airways and United Airlines.

We received responses from 19 airlines – an improvement of two over last year’s responses. Because mergers among 2015 respondents reduced the overall number of airlines, the percentage response rate increased to 65.5 percent from last year’s 53.1 percent.

This year we grouped airlines into four categories: (1) Leading, (2) Advancing, (3) Basic, and (4) Nonresponsive. The categories were based on commitments to sustainable fuel supply chain development, sustainable fuel use, and monitoring and disclosure.

The full scorecard is available here.

Airlines are under unprecedented regulatory scrutiny in national and international climate policy arenas, and with good reason. The aviation industry now accounts for 2 percent of human-produced carbon dioxide. By 2050, this share is projected to grow to 3 percent – the fastest increase of any transportation sector.[1]

Fortunately, many in the industry – led by the airlines listed above – are taking steps to avoid such a steep increase. Airlines are designing more efficient aircraft, improving airspace management, and, perhaps most importantly, they are sourcing low-carbon fuels from non-petroleum sources. All three approaches will likely be required to meet the industry’s goals of achieving carbon-neutral growth starting in 2020 reducing emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.[2]

As our new scorecard makes it clear, if airlines are going to meet their carbon emission targets, new low-carbon fuel sourcing is essential. But these fuels must demonstrate reduced emissions across their entire life cycles – from production through use.

Critically, the industry must look beyond GHG reductions to include other sustainability concerns of low-carbon fuels, including adverse impacts on food security, land, water, air, wildlife, and local communities. First-generation biofuels such as corn ethanol and palm oil-based biodiesel have already been exposed as environmentally risky fuels whose production in the absence of adequate safeguards can have unintended negative consequences to sustainability.

Some airlines are taking these sustainability concerns seriously. For example, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), with its 28 member airlines representing approximately one third of commercial aviation fuel demand, has adopted a set of environmental, economic, and social sustainability criteria. SAFUG members pledge to use sustainability criteria “consistent with and complementary to emerging internationally recognized standards such as those being developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB).”[3] Third-party sustainability certification standards, such as those of RSB, provide assurance of sustainable performance and the RSB is widely regarded as the gold standard among an emerging set of certification systems.

Since the aviation industry is leading the development of advanced biofuels, airlines’ market signals can play a critical role in driving adoption of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. With 11 percent of global transportation fuel use and a 6 percent share of global oil consumption, aviation has market leverage that can drive development and adoption of comprehensively sustainable biofuels throughout the transportation sector.[4]

In turn, biofuel operators are making long-term design, employment, and operational decisions to optimize production for their marketplace, and many are now focusing on aviation as a key market. Sending clear signals that production must comply with independently audited sustainability standards, such as the RSB, will incentivize producers to proactively include this in their planning and operations.

Airlines deserve credit for their efforts to develop more sustainable fuels. By fortifying sustainability measures throughout their supply chains, airlines can help ensure the aviation biofuel sector grows in the most sustainable way possible, and that GHG emissions decline as the airline and advanced aviation biofuel industries expand.

Our scorecard concludes with the following recommendations:

  • Airlines should make public commitments to source only aviation biofuels that have been RSB-certified, and communicate this to fuel and feedstock producers.
  • Airlines that have not yet made a public commitment to using sustainable aviation biofuel – one that specifies volume, percentage, and timeline – should do so. Where possible, they should commit in all three areas.
  • Airlines that do not yet have a firm contract for delivery of RSB-certified biofuels should explore and secure a delivery contract at the earliest opportunity.
  • Airlines should strive for total transparency in aviation biofuel volumes, GHG emissions, and sustainability certification.
  • To meet the industry’s GHG emissions reduction goals, SAFUG and the International Air Transport Association should firmly commit to using the RSB certification framework.
  • All airlines should establish a clear policy that prohibits the purchase of fuels from coal and fossil natural gas.
  • Airlines should limit their use of forest-derived biomass feedstocks to those that will demonstrably reduce carbon emissions in the near term (compared with fossil fuels) and will not threaten natural forest ecosystems. Examples include sawmill residues including sawdust and waste wood chips that would otherwise quickly decompose.
  • Any biofuel credits under the ICAO’s GMBM should be based on validated life-cycle carbon performance. Credits should also account for ILUC and include sustainability requirements consistent with the RSB standard.

[1] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Aviation and Climate Change: Aircraft Emissions Expected to Grow, but Technological and Operational Improvements and Governmental Policies Can Help Control Emissions,” Report to Congressional Committees GAO-09-554, U.S Governmental Accountability Office, June 2009, www.gao.gov/assets/300/290594.pdf.

[2] International Air Transportation Association (IATA), “Climate Change,” accessed April 5, 2016, www.iata.org/policy/environment/pages/climate-change.aspx.

[3] Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), “Our Commitment to Sustainable Options,” accessed April 5, 2016, www.safug.org/safug-pledge/.

[4] Global aviation usage, 5.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d); road use, 38 mboe/d; rail and domestic waterways, 1.9 mboe/d, marine bunker, 4.1 mboe/d. Ban, J., et al., 2015 World Oil Outlook, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, 2015, pp. 95, 96, 125; www.opec.org/opec_web/static_files_project/media/downloads/publications/....

Five Things You Didn’t Know About California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Simon Mui

New industry compliance data on the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program shows that the LCFS—which requires the oil industry to help reduce carbon pollution from transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020 through increasing the mix of low-carbon fuels—is already working and exceeding expectations.

That’s good news because transportation fuels are responsible for nearly 40% percent of the carbon emissions in California, home to 30 million cars, trucks, and buses.

As highlighted below by the California Delivers coalition, which NRDC is a member of, an analysis of the data released last month by the California Air Resources Board reveals some important results about the program that has been in operation for the past five years:  

1. Industry has exceeded the standard on average by over 80 percent, slashing 16.6 million tons of carbon pollution.

Despite the oil lobby’s annual pilgrimage to the legislature to argue the standards won’t work, the data is showing the industry has actually greatly outperformed the standard. Enough early reductions are now “in the bank” to meet standards until 2019, just assuming industry maintains last year’s level of performance.  Of course, the clean fuels industry—including biodiesel, renewable diesel, advanced ethanol, biogas, hydrogen, and clean electricity—will only grow and enable standards to be met in 2019 and well beyond. Policy stability and business certainty, however, are critical to the clean fuels market.

2. The LCFS, together with statewide carbon pollution limits, has helped save the state $1.6 billion in health-related impacts from air pollution to date.

A study by the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense Fund estimates that the LCFS, together with statewide carbon pollution limits (known as AB32 cap-and-trade), has helped avoid $1.6 billion in health-related impacts from air pollution so far. These benefits will continue to grow to an estimated $8.2 billion annually by 2025 as the use of very low-carbon fuels grows. These clean transportation  programs are estimated to have helped avoid nearly 90,000 cases of respiratory symptoms, 8,000 cases of asthma-related health issues, and 15,000 lost work days. Over time, these numbers will also continue to grow.

Image courtesy of the American Lung Association of California

3. A record amount of low-carbon, alternative fuels was used in California.

Over the five years, the supplies and use of lower-carbon, alternative fuels grew by a record 36 percent in the state, helping displace the need for over 6.6 billion gallons of petroleum based gasoline and diesel. That’s the equivalent to displacing all the fuel used in the South Coast—Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernadino, and Orange County—for over a year. 

Courtesy of CA Delivers campaign

4. One of the world’s largest market for clean fuels has been created.

The LCFS program has helped increase the market value of the clean fuels market—including investments in production and distribution—by an estimated $650 million since 2011. While this is still only a fraction of the hundreds of billions spent over the same time period on petroleum-based fuels in California, the LCFS is jumpstarting increased investments across the clean fuel supply chain.

5. The LCFS has created a bridge to a lower cost, low-carbon future, despite the oil industry’s rhetoric

Just two years ago, Business Week reported on the oil lobby’s creation of 16 fake consumer and advocacy groups targeting California’s climate programs, including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.  Part of the oil industry’s road show was to claim that California was headed to a “LCFS Fuels Cliff” in 2015, predicting that “bad things” would happen, including “price spikes, fuel shortages and more.”  In an ironic twist, an explosion at the Exxon Mobile Torrance refinery in Southern California in early 2015 was the major culprit behind an actual “bad thing” happening. The explosion led to four injured workers, reduced gasoline supplies to Southern California as well as the rest of the state, and higher pump prices costing consumers $2.4 billion. Following the explosion, the California economy shrank by $6.9 billion in the first six months alone, according to a study by RAND.

Fortunately for California, most policymakers were smart enough to see through these claims and rejected the oil lobby’s efforts to derail environmental standards. A  bona-fide consumer group, Consumers Union (the policy arm of Consumers Report), issued a report in March that found the LCFS, together with California’s portfolio of clean transportation measures, will save California households up to $1,530 each year by 2030, helping lower consumer fuel costs and insulating consumers—particularly low-income consumers—against gasoline price spikes.  

The actual compliance data is further confirming that the LCFS is indeed working for California.

To see more charts and graphics underscoring these points, visit California Delivers.

Cleaner Skies Are Friendlier Skies: NRDC’s Aviation Biofuel Scorecard
Report

Even though the aviation industry represents the transportation sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions—and is not regulated under the recent Paris Agreement to combat climate change—it has set commendable goals to shrink its carbon footprint. Specifically, the industry has pledged to: 

  • Cap carbon emissions by 2020 and
  • Reduce emissions by 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2050. 

In its third installment, NRDC’s Aviation Biofuel Scorecard aims to encourage airline leadership to adopt truly sustainable biofuels using rigorous third-party certification standards—such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)—that assure reduced emissions across a biofuel’s entire life cycle, from production through use, as well as limiting adverse impacts on food security, land, water, air, wildlife, and local communities. The Scorecard has emerged as the premier global measure of airlines’ progress toward this goal. We surveyed 29 leading international airlines and broke them out into four categories: Leading, Advancing, Basic, and Non-respondent. While much remains to be done to achieve, and perhaps exceed, the industry’s goals, we found much progress toward cleaner and friendlier skies. 

The Tide Is Turning: The Private Sector Joins the Chinese Government and the International Community in Cleaning Up Global Shipping Emissions
Barbara Finamore

This post was co-authored with my colleagues Freda Fung, Zhixi Zhu, and Winslow Robertson.

Barbara Finamore (2nd from l.), China’s National Maritime Safety Administration Director Dong Leyi (3rd from l.), and from WWL, Anna Larsson, Head of Sustainability (4th from l.), Michael Hynekamp, Chief Operations Officer Ocean (4th from r.) and Xavier Leroi, Head of China (1st from r.) (Photo: Janet Fang, 2016)

The science is clear—air pollution from ships causes significant adverse impacts on both air quality and health for people living around ports and even far inland. That reality has guided our Asian ports work for the past three years. Today, our team is thrilled to witness a major victory for clean air the world over as Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL), a leading provider of global logistics and shipping solutions to manufacturers of vehicles, heavy equipment, and specialized cargo, announced a pledge to limit the sulfur content of fuel used at berth to less than 0.1% across all ports globally—“no exemptions, no exceptions.”

Beginning this year, China is phasing in Domestic Emission Control Area (DECA) regulation in three key port regions, and ships are required to switch to 0.5% sulfur fuel under the China DECAs. By going well beyond the existing fuel sulfur regulations in China and elsewhere, WWL demonstrates strong leadership in combating air pollution from ships around the globe.

In fact, ships carrying cargo to ports in International Maritime Organization (IMO) Emission Control Areas (ECAs), which requires the use of 0.1% sulfur fuel, are capable of switching to cleaner fuel and reducing their impacts on air quality and public health around the world. We commend WWL’s bold action and encourage other companies to follow suit.

China’s National Maritime Safety Administration Director Dong Leyi explains the importance of enforcement (Photo: Barbara Finamore, 2016)

WWL’s new policy strongly supports China’s ongoing efforts to develop a green and sustainable port and shipping industry. To make sure that all carriers calling at Chinese ports operate on a level playing field in the DECAs and ensure that the regulation delivers the expected environmental benefits, strong enforcement is necessary. At today’s WWL Environmental Seminar in Beijing, Director Dong Leyi of the China National Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) emphasized that point. He also noted MSAs in the Yangtze River Delta region have conducted 611 inspections since the DECA went into effect on April 1—and found seven violations.

At the seminar, we offered the following lessons learned from the U.S. and EU enforcement programs for Chinese leaders to consider as they further develop the DECA enforcement program:

  • Establishing detailed enforcement guidelines that specify the basis for determining non-compliance and assessing penalties to ensure that sanctions are fair, equitable, and have a strong deterrent effect
  • Mandating that a given percentage of ships have fuel samples taken to establish an enforcement presence
  • Using remote measurement technologies and establishing an enforcement database to guide ship selection for onboard inspection and fuel sampling
  • Imposing high non-compliance penalties
  • Offering training for enforcement officials
  • Assuring the quality of bunker fuel supplied in China
  • Promoting joint enforcement at the regional level
  • Assisting ship owners/operators to comply with the DECA regulation by providing accurate and timely information about said regulation, and offering incentives to encourage early adopters

China has already displayed robust action cleaning up air pollution from ships by adopting the DECA regulation, which has spurred business leaders, like WWL, to respond with voluntary clean fuel policies that go beyond minimal compliance. NRDC looks forward to working with and supporting efforts of both the Chinese government and businesses in cleaning up shipping emissions in China and, in turn, the world.

China Fighting Air Pollution in Air, Land, and Sea
Barbara Finamore

This post was co-authored with my colleagues Winslow Robertson, Freda Fung and Zhixi Zhu.

The NRDC delegation together with officials from the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration and the Shanghai Municipal Transport Commission

China has been rightly lauded for signing the Paris Agreement at the United Nations on Earth Day, April 22, and pledging to formally ratify the Agreement before the G20 Hangzhou summit in September this year. As part of China’s multi-front war against climate change and air pollution, the country is also pushing through bold reforms to combat air emissions from ports and shipping, after years of effort to introduce tougher fuel and vehicle standards on its roads.

China’s amended Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law gives the government clear legal authority to both tackle shipping emissions and use Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to set more stringent air pollution requirements for ships in important port areas. In late 2015, China adopted a domestic Emission Control Area (DECA) regulation that requires ships to switch to a cleaner marine fuel to reduce air pollution in its ports and along its coasts. Shanghai and its neighboring provinces in the Yangtze River Delta (Zhejiang and Jiangsu) decided to accelerate the process by starting to enforce the DECA regulation on April 1, 2016, nine months ahead of the national schedule. If implemented and enforced effectively, this regulation could reduce sulfur oxides and fine particulate (PM2.5) emissions by about 80% and 60% respectively when all ships navigating in the DECA of the Yangtze River Delta switch to low-sulfur fuel. 

The DECA is the first regulation for controlling shipping emissions adopted in mainland China. Building capacity to effectively implement and enforce standards is critical to ensuring that the DECA is a success. In mid-April, the NRDC China ports team organized a series of workshops in Shanghai and Beijing in which experts shared experiences with municipal and national officials in China on marine fuel regulation enforcement. NRDC also co-hosted another workshop in Beijing to discuss how to leverage the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process to drive the adoption of clean port and shipping practices.  Here are key takeaways from these workshops:

Chinese officials are very enthusiastic to learn international best practices

Two marine fuel regulation enforcement training workshops were hosted by the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) and the Shanghai Transport Commission, as well as the Waterborne Transport Research Institute of the Ministry of Transport (MOT). NRDC invited two experts to join these enforcement workshops:

  • Alex Barber, from the California Air Resources Board’s Railroad and Marine Enforcement Section, who has over 10 years of experience inspecting ships to verify compliance with California’s marine fuel regulations;  
  • Professor Johan Mellqvist of the Optical remote sensing group at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, who is leading multiple remote ship emission measurement campaigns in Denmark, Sweden and Belgium to facilitate enforcement of the Emission Control Areas in Europe.

Over 80 officials from MOT and the national and local MSA, including many front-line enforcement staff, attended the two marine fuel regulation enforcement workshops. The two experts, along with NRDC’s team (including NRDC consultant Rich Kassel), introduced the marine fuel enforcement process in California, ship emissions remote measurement campaigns in Europe, and the latest developments in LNG technologies for use in the marine sector and LNG-related safety regulations. On the second day of the Shanghai workshop, Alex Barber was invited to join a group of officials in conducting a mock fuel inspection on an oil tanker berthed in the Port of Shanghai. Alex demonstrated first-hand how to check oil log books,bunker delivery notes, engine temperature and viscosity readings, fuel temperature, viscosity alarms, and more to assess whether a ship is complying with fuel sulfur switching requirements.

During the on-board mock inspection Alex Barber (front row, c.) and the MSA inspectors (front row, l.) listened to the Chief Engineer of the oil tanker (front row, r.) as he presented documents stating when the ship had shifted to low-sulfur fuel at berth Barbara Finamore, 2016

Following the training workshops, NRDC jointly co-hosted a workshop on EIAs for port development and upgrades with MOT’s Transport Planning and Research Institute. NRDC invited Nick Yost, one of the founding fathers of the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to introduce EIA processes in the U.S. and California in particular and compare EIA regulations between the U.S. and China. David Pettit and Renilde Becque from the NRDC China port team also presented how EIA processes have driven ports to mitigate health and air quality impacts resulting from port developments and upgrades in the U.S. and the Netherlands.

Workshop on port EIAs, co-hosted by the MOT’s Transport Planning and Research Institute Barbara Finamore, 2016

China is serious about enforcing the DECA regulation and NRDC’s work is making a difference

Shanghai MSA webpage featuring the fuel switching enforcement workshop and stating Shanghai MSA’s commitment to strictly enforce the DECA regulation.

The workshops were so well received that they were featured on the Shanghai MSA webpage. Moreover, on April 27th, a little over two weeks after the NRDC workshops in Shanghai, the Shanghai MSA caught the first vessel violating China’s ECA regulations. According to this report, (in Chinese), the MSA inspectors used the very same methods that they learned from Alex Barber during the NRDC training. The inspectors checked the oil logbook, which showed that the vessel had switched to low-sulfur fuel. However, that finding seemed suspicious when checked against the engine computer and alarm records. The inspectors conducted a detailed on-board inspection and took oil samples for testing, which revealed that the vessel had actually not switched to low-sulfur fuel at all when berthed at the Port of Shanghai.

China now has the laws, the regulations, the capacity, and the will to continue to be a champion in fighting air pollution from ships. As the country becomes more adept at enforcing existing regulations to control air pollution and create a level playing field for the industry, it can continue to grow its economy without sacrificing environmental quality.

New Reports Show Significant Consumer Savings from California Climate Policies
Alex Jackson

For decades now, the principal argument against taking action to mitigate climate change is that we can’t afford it. While this narrative has always distorted the truth relative to the costs of inaction (what we truly can’t afford), it is seized on time and again by the fossil fuel industry and their political allies to thwart progress on climate – even in a state like California that is leading the way.

But in assessing the impact of California’s climate initiatives under the banner of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), now a decade into implementation, two new studies definitively put that notion to rest.

The first, released yesterday by Consumers Union (the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports), looks at the cumulative impact of California’s climate policies on household transportation costs. The key finding? Even after accounting for industry compliance costs, California households are projected to save up to $1,500 annually by 2030 thanks to lower annual fuel bills, and low-income households will experience the largest savings (as a share of income). The key reason? As the researchers, ICF International, put it – “focusing exclusively on vehicle and fuel pricing…can be misleading. Ultimately, consumer expenditures on travel are a function of vehicle and fuel pricing, as well as parameters such as vehicle efficiency and vehicle miles traveled.”

In other words, it’s the bottom line that counts. And thanks to improved vehicle efficiency, reduced travel times, and more competition and consumer choice being delivered by California’s suite of low- carbon transportation policies – including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Zero Emission Vehicle Program, and Sustainable Communities Strategies (SB 375) – Californians will spend significantly less of their overall budget on transportation costs in 15 years than they do today.

Photo credit: Consumers Union

The second study, “Protecting the Most Vulnerable,” released today by the UCLA Luskin Center, draws the same conclusion from analyzing the impact of California’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program on low-income households’ energy bills. The cap-and-trade program is designed to put a price on carbon throughout the economy to incentivize lower emissions choices, not just by the state’s biggest polluters, but also in the prices consumers see to encourage cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation. But like in the transportation context, focusing on just commodity costs misses the bigger picture.

Under California’s program, the revenue raised from having utility rates reflect the carbon emissions costs of the power mix is returned to households twice annually in the form of a line item bill credit, called a Climate Credit. For electric customers of Sothern California Edison, for example, every household will receive a $38 bill credit in April and October in 2016 – regardless of how much electricity they consume (which, on average, benefits lower-income households who tend to consume less).

As a result, the analysis finds that representative low-income households will benefit financially from the cap-and-trade program, to the tune of an estimated $200 to $250 cumulatively by 2020. The same applies on the natural gas side, where low-income households are projected to net between $44 and $83 cumulatively by 2020. And the results hold irrespective of allowance prices and in the absence of low-income rate assistance programs.

(Still) Crying Wolf

As California prepares to chart its plan to achieve Governor Jerry Brown’s goal of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030, we can expect the usual suspects to trot out the usual lineup of doomsday scenarios. Evidence to the contrary has not dissuaded them before, and I’m under no illusion these latest studies will either.

But for lawmakers who’ve been hearing more or less the same wolf cry for the past decade, it’s time to stop running up Aesop’s fabled hillside to check on the sheep. The only wolf they need fear is the one in sheep’s clothing that hides behind front groups, props up divisive wedge issues, and perpetuates misinformation campaigns to hold back our progress in building a healthier and more prosperous California.

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