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 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, improving 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 multi-stakeholder process 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 some time 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 miles traveled, increasing 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.
Key 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. All West Coast jurisdictions from British Columbia to California have Clean Fuel Standard policies in place to reduce pollution from transportation. Clean Fuel Standards work by requiring oil refineries and importers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels, providing more low-carbon fuels, and by promoting vehicle electrification. In addition to the climate benefits of reducing transportation, these policies are hugely beneficial for public health. 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.
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.
An open letter to Seattle's new mayor
Despite a recent Executive Order on climate action by outgoing Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan, Seattle is still behind on its goals. Deepa Sivirajan has a few recommendations for Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell on making climate central to his future governance.
TriMet is on the road to clean and climate-friendly public transportation
Oregon’s largest public transit agency has committed to fueling its existing fleet of transit vehicles with renewable diesel, as part of its transition to a clean, non-polluting transit vehicle fleet.
Still raging against the Manchin
Federal climate inaction ahead of COP26, offshore wind gets a US start, and heavy duty EVs
Tell legislators that a better future for Washington #TakesTransportation
We're past due for a new package of transportation projects, planning efforts, and innovations. We want legislators to pass a new package—and to ensure our transportation systems are equitable, accessible, safe, affordable, and clean.
Clean Trucks Are Here and Ready to Go
Right now, both Washington and Oregon are taking important steps to clean up bigger trucks and vehicles. Read on to learn more about these potential rules and how you can help ensure our states adopt them in a strong and equitable way!
Rage against the Manchin
The West Virginia Senator stands in the path of crucial climate progress. Also: what's in the Democrats' climate plan? And Oregon has the opportunity to expand clean transportation on its roads.
A textbook case of climate-fueled extremism
Clean trucks zoom ahead, Hurricane Ida roundup, and updates on 100% clean nationwide
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.
Here's to hope during the heat
After an incredible run of climate progress, what's next for the Northwest?
Keeping the momentum going on clean transportation
Oregon passed two clean transportation bills so far this year, but our work isn’t over.
Give for a brighter future
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• Our report: Transforming Transportation: How to cut our pollution and achieve our climate goals in Washington and Oregon
• Pathways to cut pollution
• Are we ready to handle all-electric transportation?