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.

 

Shifting Gears from Dirty Diesel to Cleaner Air with the VW Settlement

Oregon has the highest per-capita ownership of emissions-cheating Volkswagens in the U.S. Now the state plans to spend some of the settlement money to clean up diesel and reduce emissions for real.

Transition Time

As I prepare to retire from Climate Solutions' staff, I'm hopeful about the even bigger transition that we're working towards together--away from fossil fuels, building a clean energy economy.

ClimateCast logo over icy Antarctic inlet

Tesla ignites frenzy, Hawaii plans for 100% clean power

2.5 million Americans work in clean energy, South Africa and Nevada solar plants provide night-time power, coalition builds behind Clean Power Plan, and more news of the week in climate and clean energy.

Why Electric Vehicles are a Climate Solution

Climate Solutions looks at the climate promise of electric vehicles, and what it would take for EVs to play a significant role in decarbonizing the Northwest’s economy.

From the Pacific to Paris and back

The Paris Agreement sets the stage for the immediate future of coordinated, international climate action. Much of the actual progress will depend on local and regional action; every Northwest oil terminal abandoned, ton of coal left in ground, and solar panel installed, fuels the ambition of the U.S., Canada, and therefore countries around the world to meet and exceed our carbon-reduction goals.   

ClimateCast logo over California wildfire

Final Clean Power rules tougher, less friendly to gas

Second-largest U.S. coal company files for bankruptcy, small businesses can finance solar arrays on their property tax bills, UPS aims for 12 percent renewable fuel by 2017, and more news of the week in clean energy solutions. 

ClimateCast logo over offshore wind farm

Mega-firms pledge $140 B in climate investments

Wind and solar lead renaissance in Buffalo, NY; construction begins on first US offshore wind farm; France to quadruple its price on carbon; and more news of the week in clean energy solutions.

Oil versus Optimism

Tough legislative sessions in Washington and Oregon are over. But we, together with an inspiring coalition, are just getting started.

Oregon's curvy road toward clean energy

The 2015 Oregon legislative session concluded last week, and the outcomes for climate were decidedly mixed. With a clear win on clean fuels, there remains much to do to help transition our state from fossil fuels to clean energy.

400 Oregon businesses call for clean energy and climate protection

Oregon businesses are responding in ever-increasing numbers to the threat of global warming, and the ways climate change is harming our state's economy right now. You'll be inspired to see who's on the list!

Climate Solutions 10th Annual Dinner & 20th Anniversary Celebration

Our Climate Solutions 10th Annual Dinner & 20th Anniversary Celebration on November 29 is a seated and catered dinner at the Hilton Portland 5:00pm-8:00pm with time allocated for check-in and mingling with the other guests between 5pm-6:00pm. Our keynote speaker is renewable energy visionary Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation. We anticipate attracting 350 people including business executives, policymakers, and community leaders.  During the Dinner you will be given the opportunity to support our work by making a gift to Climate Solutions.

To register or to learn more about sponsorship, table host or tablew captain opportunities, please visit the event site. Thanks so much for your consideration and support! We look forward to seeing you there. 

We all agree: it's time for climate action in Washington

A coalition of more than 25 organizations sent a message to Washington state legislators calling for strong climate action, in the form of three key solutions: (1) supporting a path to 100% carbon-free electricity, (2) putting a price on carbon pollution, and (3) advancing clean fuels for transportation.

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