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New greenhouse gas report highlights successes, challenges, and opportunities for Sonoma County and California

Ann Hancock, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION

The Center for Climate Protection just released the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Sonoma County for 2016. The good news is that emissions from electricity have gone down since the inception of Sonoma Clean Power, the region’s Community Choice Energy program. The reduction of emissions in electricity was so significant that Sonoma County’s overall GHG emissions were lower in 2016 than they were in 1990 even though the County’s population increased during this same period.

Emissions shown in millions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide (eC02). (www.climateprotection.org)

As other communities throughout California consider Community Choice Energy, Sonoma County’s GHG report offers them powerful proof that Community Choice Energy works to lower GHG emissions.

The report also reveals that Sonoma County, similar to other communities, is challenged to reduce emissions produced by transportation. This sector now accounts for about 70% of Sonoma County’s emissions.

Read more at https://climateprotection.org/updated-greenhouse-gas-inventory-highlights-successes-challenges-and-opportunities-for-california/

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This miracle fuel has a few problems

Chris Martin, BLOOMBERG NEWS

In the space of an hour on a recent evening, a couple dozen cars refilled their gas tanks at a Valero service station just off the Redwood Highway in Mill Valley, a northbound stop on the way into California’s Marin County. During that time, the only pumping station that sat mostly unused was the cobalt blue one supplying hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen pump received only three visitors: two of the 3,800 hydrogen-powered sedans on California’s roads, each looking for a quick fill-up, and one old station wagon that parked there for a few minutes. An attendant who’s worked at the Valero for three years says that’s a pretty busy day for the hydrogen pump, which usually fuels one car per hour.

That’s not much of a return on the roughly $100 million California has spent over the past several years to build fueling stations for hydrogen vehicles. Each of the 31 hydrogen pumps around the state cost at least $2.5 million and was heavily subsidized with funds from the public and from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and other automakers. Demand, however, remains so low that even with subsidies, they aren’t busy enough to turn a profit. (A typical fill-up costs customers about $45, but that’s heavily subsidized, and most lessors cover fuel costs.)

At Governor Jerry Brown’s direction, the state is spending more than $2.5 billion in clean energy funds to accelerate sales of hydrogen and battery vehicles. That includes $900 million earmarked to complete 200 hydrogen stations and 250,000 charging stations by 2025. A larger hydrogen network will help make the market more sustainable, the thinking goes—part of a kitchen sink approach to reducing carbon emissions alongside electric cars. Brown’s office referred requests for comment to the California Energy Commission, which said in a statement that the governor aims to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030, and that hydrogen is a part of that calculus.

Read more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-05/california-should-focus-on-electric-cars-not-hydrogen-fuel

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California lawmaker wants to ban gas car sales after 2040

Alexei Koseff, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

France and the United Kingdom are doing it. So is India. And now one lawmaker would like California to follow their lead in phasing out gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

When the Legislature returns in January, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of new cars powered by internal-combustion engines after 2040. The San Francisco Democrat said it’s essential to get California drivers into an electric fleet if the state is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, since the transportation sector accounts for more than a third of all emissions.

“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way,” Ting said. “At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.”

California already committed five years ago to putting 1.5 million “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids, on the road by 2025. By that time, the state wants these cleaner models to account for 15 percent of all new car sales.

But progress has been modest so far, as consumers wait for prices to drop and battery ranges to improve, or opt for large trucks and SUVs that are not available among electric offerings. Slightly more than 300,000 zero-emission vehicles have now been sold in California, and they accounted for just under 5 percent of new car sales in the state in the first half of the year.

Read more at: Ban on gas car sales proposed by California lawmaker | The Sacramento Bee

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California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines 

Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Get ready to scrap your gas guzzler. And your gas sipper, too.California’s chief air-pollution regulator said this week the state is considering a ban on cars fueled by internal-combustion engines.

While the ban would be at least a decade away, Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said putting California motorists in an all-electric fleet would help the state meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Tailpipes generate more than one-third of all greenhouse gases, according to state data, and so far only a small fraction of California’s motorists drive electric vehicles.

Nichols made the comment in an interview with Bloomberg news, saying Gov. Jerry Brown has been asking her about a ban on gas- and diesel-powered cars announced recently by China.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” Nichols told Bloomberg.

Chinese leaders said earlier this month they plan to phase out internal-combustion cars at some point, although they haven’t set a date. The United Kingdom and France said in July they would ban such vehicles by 2040.

Read more at: California Air Resources Board eyes future ban on gas-powered engines | The Sacramento Bee

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California has a climate problem, and its name is cars

David Roberts, VOX

In 2006, California passed its groundbreaking climate legislation AB 32, which put in place a target for greenhouse gas reductions and set in motion a cascade of regulations, subsidies, and performance standards that has continued unabated ever since.

Three years after that, in 2009, a nonprofit advocacy organization called Next 10 teamed up with the research firm Beacon Economics to track the state’s progress in a detailed annual report called the California Green Innovation Index.

The ninth edition of the CGII has just been released, and it offers a good opportunity to reflect on how California has done so far and, more importantly, to grapple with the big challenge that lies just ahead.

To put it as simply as possible: California’s experience shows that decarbonizing the electricity sector is both possible and profitable, but to reach its ambitious carbon targets, the state will now have to decarbonize transportation — which brings a whole new and daunting set of difficulties.

As has so often been the case, California is a few steps ahead of the rest of the country in this, offering a preview of things to come. The state’s biggest decarbonization problem — cars — will soon become the nation’s.

Read more at: California has a climate problem, and its name is cars – Vox

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New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

How about a shiny new electric car for less than $10,000?

Price has long been a concern for motorists interested in ending their relationship with petroleum, and Sonoma Clean Power, the not-for-profit public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is bringing the cost of electric vehicles down to clearance-sale levels.

The second year of the agency’s Drive EverGreen electric vehicle (EV) incentive program — on now through Oct. 31 — offers deals on nine models sold and leased by seven local dealers, ranging in base price from a $51,095 BMW i3 down to a Volkswagen e-Golf listed at $28,995.

The e-Golf, a hatchback with a 124-mile range, comes with a $7,000 dealer credit and a $2,000 Sonoma Clean Power incentive for the average utility customer, plus the possibility of a $2,500 state rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit. The incentive package, which totals $19,000, slashes the price to $9,995.

“It’s a smokin’ deal,” said Cordel Stillman, director of programs for Sonoma Clean Power, which delivers electricity to 600,000 customers in the two North Bay counties.

But it can get even better for power customers who live in the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which offers an additional $3,000 incentive in a parallel program called 3-2-1 Go Green. The district covers about 60,000 residents in western and northern Sonoma County.

For Sonoma Clean Power customers who qualify for all the incentives, including a full federal tax credit as well as low-income bonuses, the cost of the e-Golf sinks to $4,495.

Read more at: New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen | The Press Democrat

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California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars

David R. Baker, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

California has far more electric cars and plug-in hybrids plying its roads than any other state — about 300,000 so far. But they’re still just a tiny fraction of auto sales.

Now, legislation in Sacramento is designed to juice the market, just as a new generation of long-range electric cars hits showroom floors.

A bill from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would revamp and expand California’s existing rebate program for people who buy electrics or plug-in hybrids. The bill, a version of which has already passed the Assembly, would devote $3 billion to clean car incentives. The money would come from the state’s cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

The new rebates would start big — how big has yet to be determined — and then shrink over time, as plug-in cars become more common and affordable. Eventually, the rebates would disappear altogether.

It’s the same approach California used 10 years ago to kick-start sales of rooftop solar arrays. That rebate program helped create the state’s solar industry.

Even in eco-conscious California, sales of battery-powered cars have not accelerated as quickly as state officials wanted, due to relatively low gasoline prices and the limited range of most electric vehicles.

Read more at: California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars – San Francisco Chronicle

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Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

EV report: Beyond combustion in Sonoma County

Meeting Sonoma County’s climate protection goals will require putting 138,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and effectively ending sales of fuel-burning cars, a local environmental group said in a report due for release this week.

“We must now begin to create a future beyond combustion,” said the report by the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.

Advocating a dramatic shift in consumer preferences and current automobile industry sales, the report said electric vehicle (EV) sales must grow by 30 percent a year for the next 13 years to meet the county’s goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sonoma County has an estimated 4,500 EVs rolling now, the center said in its report, “Beyond Combustion: Electric Vehicle Trends, Goals and Recommendations for Sonoma County.

”Sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars, both considered in the EV category, accounted for nearly 5 percent of the state’s new car market during the first three months of this year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association’s latest report.

EV sales have grown steadily from 2.5 percent of the market in 2013 to 3.6 percent last year, the association said.

Read more at: Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

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End of the road for diesel?

David Welch, BLOOMBERG

…diesel will probably be relegated only to a hard-working class of vehicles. While hybrid electric cars can save fuel as effectively as a diesel sedan, and Tesla’s electric cars can offer plenty of zip for motoring enthusiasts, no technology gives the towing power needed for big work trucks like diesel.

It’s easy to imagine diesel will die in America. The troubles that started almost two years ago with the emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG just keep rolling on and on. With General Motors Co. now confronting a class-action lawsuit over 700,000 diesel trucks, there’s growing sense across the auto industry that the days of diesel cars are numbered, at least in the U.S.

GM calls the allegations of emission-test cheating baseless, and the lawsuit stops short of claiming a breach of clean-air regulations. But increasingly, analysts are wondering who will be willing to buy diesel cars and trucks given that many in the industry have been accused of fudging pollution standards. More to the point, how many carmakers will be willing to keep making them?

“This is accelerating the demise,” said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “We were never into them anyway, and with alternatives like hybrids and electric vehicles, there just isn’t much of a reason to sell them.”

GM is just the latest automaker to face a civil lawsuit claiming that its diesel engines use software to meet clean-air rules while the engines pollute at higher levels. The law firm suing GM, Hagens Berman, has also sued Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen, which must pay $24.5 billion in government penalties and consumer givebacks for cheating on diesel emissions.

Read more at: GM Suit Digs a Deeper Grave for Diesel – Bloomberg

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Strong surge in solar in county

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County shared in the U.S. solar industry’s boom times last year, with strong job growth reported here, a jump partly attributed to increased customer demand and a rush to take advantage of federal tax credits.

The county ranked 13th for 2016 among the nation’s metropolitan areas based on the number of solar-related jobs, according to a new report by the Solar Foundation of Washington, D.C. Employment in the county’s solar sector grew 44 percent from a year earlier to 3,476 jobs.

Some Northern California communities enjoyed even bigger growth rates.

The San Francisco/Oakland area, the top-ranked metro area in the United States for solar jobs, reported a total of 26,000 such workers last year, an increase of 67 percent from 2015.Sacramento, which ranked sixth, saw its solar jobs grow 99 percent, while San Luis Obispo, ranked 15th, had an increase of 137 percent.

In contrast, the nation’s solar workforce grew by 25 percent last year. That compares with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent for the previous three years.“California is obviously the leading market in terms of solar in the U.S.,” said Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s president and executive director.

Santa Rosa has distinguished itself for encouraging solar by becoming one of only 21 communities in the nation to receive the top-ranked SolSmart Gold designation, Luecke noted. The recognition is part of a U.S. Department of Energy program that is administered by the Solar Foundation.

Read more at: Sonoma County solar industry ranks 13th in nation for job numbers | The Press Democrat