Friday, July 10, 2015

California 2030 Climate Goals: Transportation Fuel Use

More California greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation than any other sector.  The most recent inventory from the California Air Resources Board shows transportation emissions of over 172 million tons annually, accounting for 37% of the state total (data here).  90% of the transportation emissions come from on-road sources, with the remainder coming from rail, aviation, off-road and watercraft.

Cutting transportation related carbon emissions by 50% between now and 2030 was the subject of a workshop held by several California agencies earlier this week.   (Agenda and links to slides here) The 50% reduction will contribute to  Governor Jerry Brown's goal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  Topics covered included supply chain efficiency, light and heavy duty vehicle technology, clean fuels and smart growth.

There was general agreement that it will take a combination of aggressive but achievable actions to meet the 50% goal. Simon Mui of NRDC offered a scenario (illustrated below) involving deployment of 3.7 million battery and fuel cell vehicles, new vehicle fuel efficiency averages of 50mpg, improved medium/heavy duty vehicle efficiency/electrification, notable reductions in vehicle miles traveled and a 25% reduction in carbon intensity in fuels.  Jamie Hall of CALSTART said there is no "silver bullet" and that we need a combination of policy, regulations and incentives to encourage a variety of technologies.  He also said that there needs to be serious consideration of post 2030 issues and the interim technological steps that will be needed before 2030.

John German of  the International Council on Clean Transportation gave several examples of how many technology forecasts are overly conservative and showed that, in many cases, technology deployment has been faster, cheaper and more effective that projections suggested.  David Green of  the University of Tennessee Center for Fuel Policy gave examples of the quick deployment and expansion of the advanced vehicle market.  Green pointed out that only 15 years ago, car manufacturers abandoned electric vehicles and are now deploying them at a rapid pace.

Chris Sommerville of the U C Berkeley Energy Biosciences Institute said there are many promising developments in the area of biofuels, including recent breakthroughs on the efficient conversion of water to hydrogen fuel.  Some of these may not be commercially viable by 2030, but could contribute to the post 2030 carbon reduction needs.  For the shorter term, he touted ethanol as the most efficient current biofuel.  He suggested that every vehicle sold, including hybrids, should be designed for flexible fuel use so that more ethanol could be deployed (only about 4% of U.S. vehicles are currently flex fuel and there are limits as to the percent of ethanol that can be used in U.S. flex fuel cars).  He also said that Germany has made a much greater commitment to gas from digester technology and is deploy

Reducing vehicle miles travelled, promoting walking and bicycling, and pursuing smart growth strategies received attention.  Kate White of the State Transportation Agency said Californians have doubled their use of non-car transportation in a decade.  She discussed data showing that nearly 23 percent of California household trips are now taken by walking, biking, and public transportation. In 2000, that share was only 11 percent. This increase includes a dramatic increase in walking trips, which nearly doubled from 8.4 percent to 16.6 percent of trips.

Jeanie Ward Waller of the California Bicycling Coalition said that 50% of vehicle trips by car are for distances of 1 mile or less.  She and others discussed the new CalTrans goals of doubling pedestrian and transit trips, tripling bicycling trips and reducing vehicle miles traveled by 15% by 2020.  The goals are contained in the most recent CalTrans Strategic Management Plan here.

Implementation of "Smart Growth" and "Sustainable Communities Strategies" under SB375 and other programs is key to achieving the trip reduction targets.  Susan Lea Riggs of the state Department of Housing and Community Development described the new paradigms for implementing transit oriented development and infill projects, including density, distance to transit and development scale.

Denny Zane of MoveLA said that car-centric Los Angeles is demonstrating a desire to implement mass transit measures.  In 2008, over 2/3 of voters in Los Angeles agreed to a sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, including re-instituting a robust rail system throughout the area. His slides showed virtually no rail systems in the 1990s and a robust system that is being completed.

The California transportation system is going through a transformation in response to climate change concerns.  In a very short timeframe, efficiency, electrification and low/no carbon fuels will dominate motorized transit.  Smart-growth strategies and other measures to encourage walking and bicycling will reduce the demand for vehicle trips.  All of this will contribute California continuing to be at the forefront of low-carbon economies.

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