Photo of sunrise over Steens Mountain - Little Blitzen Gorge, 2016
So… What just happened in Salem?
Oregon’s 2021 legislative session has come to a close. We’ve made some major progress on statewide climate action, but before we dive into those details, let’s talk about how we got here.
Clean transportation

We all want clean, affordable, accessible, safe and efficient ways to get around. Our transportation system is a crucial part of everyone’s life, enabling or restricting us from accessing essential services, job opportunities, or helping break the cycle of poverty. 

We all rely on our transportation system, yet transportation fuels are responsible for nearly half of our climate and harmful air pollution in the Pacific Northwest: 46% of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions and 39% of Oregon’s. Health professionals link this air pollution directly to asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. Due to racist public policies like redlining, and inner-city highway construction, toxic concentrations of diesel pollution like the high amounts found in busy trucking corridors, bus depots, distribution hubs, and seaports disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color. Cleaning up transportation pollution will help cut climate pollution, improve public health while addressing environmental racism in our transportation system.

Transitioning to electricity as a fuel

Shifting to zero-emission vehicles that get their power from clean energy is one of the fastest ways we can clean our air and our transportation system. Achieving this vision means electrifying vehicles economy-wide including but not limited to; personal vehicles, medium and heavy duty trucks, construction and agriculture equipment, buses and more.

Although heavy duty vehicles comprise 10 percent of all vehicles on the road, they account for nearly 25 percent of total U.S. climate pollution from transportation, and 45 percent of NOx emissions (nitrous oxide; a greenhouse gas roughly 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide). This is why we need to prioritize every tool to clean up the delivery trucks, transit and school buses, big rigs and other vehicles that make up the medium and heavy-duty transportation sector. Getting zero-emission trucks on the road is a public health imperative and has been a decades-long priority of environmental justice advocates. Replacing dirty diesel-powered trucks with their zero-emission counterparts can clean the air we breathe, reduce climate emissions, and create green jobs.

Commercial aviation accounts for two percent of global carbon pollution, a figure projected to grow to between three and 4.7 percent by 2050 without concerted action to curb emissions. Accordingly, a comprehensive solution to the world’s climate predicament requires a strategy to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint. Industry leaders recognize this imperative and accordingly have set a goal of reducing the sector’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050.   In 2011, Climate Solutions facilitated the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN), a process created by The Boeing Company, Alaska Airlines, Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport, Washington State University, and Climate Solutions to develop sustainable and economically viable aviation biofuels in the Northwest.

Marine vessels, long-haul trucks, and airplanes will likely need to rely on lower carbon liquid fuels for the foreseeable future to reduce their carbon pollution. Just as we are expanding our ability to produce clean electricity, we can source our biofuels from sustainable feedstocks, including used cooking oil, dairy manure, sewage treatment and other waste streams that would otherwise only increase our emissions.

Reducing How Much We Have to Travel, Increasing the Ways to Get Around

While shifting to electricity as a fuel is part of our solution, it doesn’t solve all of our other transportation related problems. For example, if all of our vehicles became electric overnight, we would still be stuck in traffic jams and we would continue to have a unacceptably high number of vehicle related deaths. While we need electric cars, trucks and buses, we also need to make it possible to get around safely, accessibly, affordably, and efficiently by walking, rolling, and taking transit.  Reducing the amount we need to drive to access our daily commutes and essential services like visiting the doctor or going to the grocery store not only reduces our carbon pollution, but also increases safety, cuts congestion, and increases our quality of life.  

Needed Solutions for Clean Transportation

There are many policy pathways to accelerate the transition to clean transportation, including changing how to fund transportation investments and shifting away from fossil fuels.   One key solution Climate Solutions has championed is a Clean Fuel Standard as it would require low carbon fuels including electricity.  West coast jurisdictions of California, Oregon and British Columbia already have Clean Fuel Standard policies to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation pollution. Clean Fuel Standards work by requiring oil refineries and importers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels, providing more low-carbon fuels and electricity to fuel our transportation system.  Leading public health organizations like the American Lung Association see a Clean Fuel Standard as one of the most important ways to improve public health and transition our transportation to cleaner sources. A recent study found that California’s Clean Fuel Standard could save $8.3 billion in avoided public health costs by 2025 because of fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations, lower rates of lung cancer and heart attacks, and thousands of fewer lost workdays. Governor Brown recently doubled the Clean Fuel Standard in Oregon. Washington does not have a Clean Fuel Standard, and a similar policy in Washington could lead to the same public health benefits by cleaning up our air.

In addition to statewide policy solutions, we are working with local governments, transit districts, and utility providers to equitably accelerate transportation electrification by adopting medium and heavy duty zero-emission regulations, building more publicly accessible and affordable charging stations, promoting financial incentives for individual and fleet EV purchases, supporting transportation options and programs that are inclusive to community needs,  encouraging transit agencies to buy zero-emission electric buses, and working in coalition to advocate for a clean and just transportation system.

 

Sustainable biofuels are ready for prime time

We are seeing the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants commissioned in the United States and green diesel is emerging as a key biofuel, potentially a game-changer for sustainable advanced fuels.

Spring Forward

This is the week of sleepy (read: grumpy) kids in my house, due to the return of daylight savings time. But even a household disrupted doesn’t squelch my love of the lost hour. It’s the signal of longer, warmer – sunnier! -- days to come, the most hopeful time of the year for me.  A time to look forward.  We’re doing a lot of that around Climate Solutions these days.

Spirit of St Louis Continues to Inspire Innovation

Erik Lindbergh’s organization Powering Imagination is now working with innovators in electric flight, biofuels, and noise reduction to influence the future direction of aviation.

Clean Energy Economy – Country Style

We’re looking forward to Harvesting Clean Energy in Helena, MT next week! Clean energy practitioners and rural economic development advocates will gather to talk about opportunities for clean energy to benefit Northwest farms, ranches, forests, and rural businesses.  

Boeing proposes Green Diesel for new jet fuel blends

In a potentially game-changing move, Boeing wants to increase the use of sustainable biodiesel as an ingredient in jet fuel.  

Clean tech's Mark Twain moment

The 60 Minutes piece was more than a case of bad reporting - it deliberately ignored the context within which clean tech operates: climate change.  

Out with the Old, In with the New... Keeping Momentum in 2014

This year is closing with a flurry of activity throughout the Northwest and 2014 is shaping up to be a critical year on the path to make the clean energy future a present reality in our region.

Banner year for Sustainable Advanced Fuels

In the short time since we formally launched our SAF program, we have had the opportunity to drive good policy and increase understanding of the opportunities, needs and specific actions required to support sustainable fuels in our region and around the world.

A Clean Fuels Standard works

Fossil fuel companies are trotting out another round of warmed over allegations that climate policy, in particular a clean fuels standard, is unworkable and will crash the economy. They’re running up against a difficult opponent: reality.

Clean Energy Wins in Double Legislative Overtime

While much of the media attention of the state legislature session focused on the near government shutdown and the budget negotiations, the legacy of the 2013 Washington State legislative session m

Women in Trades Career Fair

The largest non-traditional career fair of its kind, Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. produces the interactive, 3-day Women in Trades Career Fair to increase the overall number of women working in the trades and to help fill the imminent gap in the labor force that will be created with record-levels of upcoming retirements of skilled trades people.

Produced annually since 1993, this unique, industry sponsored and volunteer powered event offers dozens of hands-on activities designed to introduce women and girls to the possibility of a future career in the trades.

Climate action: unstoppable

On Tuesday, hearing rooms at the State Capitol in Olympia were overflowing with people waiting to tell legislators that it's time for climate action. Join us this Saturday in Olympia or Seattle to learn more about proposed climate legislation in WA.

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