Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fwd: The Efficient Little Engine that Could

Below the break, Kate Gordon of Next Generation talks to us about "Charge Ahead California" -RMF

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Kate Gordon" <>
Date: Nov 14, 2013 12:25 PM
Subject: The Efficient Little Engine that Could
To: <>

California just launched Charge Ahead, a campaign to put 1 million EVs on the road. A huge step forward, but not the only answer
NEWS 11.13.2013 A New Alliance on Climate Change » New York Times 11.14.2013 A flaw in California's cap-and-trade plan » Los Angeles Times 11.13.2013 Rooftop solar could generate jobs » Los Angeles Times 11.07.2013 Bay Area commits to 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction » Grist 11.11.2013 Typhoon Haiyan's Deadly Surge Noted in Warsaw Talks » Climate Central 11.12.2013 The Secret Environmental Cost of US Ethanol Policy » Associated Press 11.10.2013 California on course for driest year on record » San Francisco Chronicle 11.11.2013 North Dakota's Salty Fracked Wells Drink More Water to Keep Oil Flowing » National Geographic 11.11.2013 A Jolt to Complacency on Food Supply » New York Times 11.11.2013 The Next Big Innovation in Renewable Energy Won't Be Technological » The Atlantic

The Efficient Little Engine that Could

I'm back in the Bay Area, finally, after far too much travel. Tonight I got to read my son a bedtime story in person, instead of via Skype, and had this revelation: Did you ever notice that in The Little Engine That Could, all the unhelpful engines are male, while the Little Engine itself, the one that finally saves the day, is female?  Apparently I'm not the only person to have noticed this; there's a hot academic debate about whether the fact that the female engine is the one that carries toys to the children is sexist, or whether it's actually an example of "pioneer feminist lore." I prefer the latter, personally.  
If I were less sleep-deprived, I'd come up with a clever transition sentence here about steam engines, coal, and carbon emissions in the transportation sector… As readers know, I've been focused on transportation lately, and wondering how California is going to reach our climate goals given that over 90 percent of the sector is currently powered by petroleum. Plans like that just adopted by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which just voted unanimously to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, will depend on our finding a path out of our current oil dependence and toward a more sustainable transportation solution.
This week brings good news on that front: Just this morning, a broad coalition of environmental and public health groups launched Charge Ahead California, a campaign to put one million electric vehicles on the road in California within ten years. The campaign has a strong emphasis on low-income communities, and will focus on policies like EV car sharing, battery charging infrastructure in multi-family buildings, and stronger incentives for EV purchase. 
It's critical to focus in on working class and low-income Californians as part of a broader transportation strategy. On average, according to a 2004 PPIC study, low-income Californians spend nearly 20 percent of their household budgets on vehicle expenses. If these households could switch from gas-powered vehicles to EVs it would significantly reduce those costs: as I wrote this week in a blog for the Wall Street Journal, electricity is far cheaper per gallon than gas (just $1.65/gallon in California according to DOE's "eGallon" calculator).
But while EVs are a huge step forward, they're not the only answer. The fact is that despite major improvements in range, and steadily declining prices, EVs still aren't a realistic option for many low-income Californians. In particular, those families living in more rural parts of the state – many of whom have long commute times, little extra cash on hand, and poor or nonexistent credit – aren't going to be queuing up for EVs any time soon. We're planning to focus in on possible solutions for these Californians in the coming months, even as we enthusiastically applaud the efforts of the Charge Ahead campaign.
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