When we talk about the intersection of transportation and the environment, we’re often talking about greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm our climate. However, the combustion of fossil fuels also releases co-pollutants – like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter – that form ozone and smog and make air unhealthy. Unlike greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change no matter where they’re released, co-pollutants have the biggest impact in the communities close to where they’re emitted.
There is so much happening these days it’s hard to track everything, but if you haven’t heard much about the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), you will soon. It’s an idea that could result in a compact of 11-states (plus D.C.) in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to address transportation emissions. It would do so by setting a cap on emissions, a cap that declines over time.
In January 2020, Governor Raimondo signed an Executive Order setting a goal of meeting Rhode Island electricity demand from 100% renewable sources by the end of the decade. Back in January, we wrote that we’re skeptical that another study will result in the action we need. Over six months later, where does Rhode Island stand on 100% renewable electricity?
On Wednesday, September 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued an executive order that announced California would require all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state to be Zero-Emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035.
It’s imperative that we all switch from internal combustion engines to electric cars for several compelling reasons. The most important is that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to save the planet depends upon it. But what’s particularly exciting is: we can magnify the benefits of EVs by managing when we charge them.
Last month, we predicted that summer temperatures might drive high demand — high enough to cause a peak day! Indeed, despite the depressive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional electricity demand, weeks that saw 90+ degree days across New England were enough for us to call peaks on July 20th, 27th, and 28th. A peak electricity demand day is a day on which extreme weather (usually hot temperatures) leads to a spike in electricity demand; these spikes are associated with more expensive and polluting electricity than usual.
It is mid-June 2020 and another day of unrest in America. As I scan the news, I learn that the environment has been under attack. Again. President Trump recently signed an executive order to dismantle the process requiring environmental reviews of large infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines. I also learn that the administration is proposing restrictions that would further weaken air pollution controls. As I dig more, I find out that it could get a lot worse for clean water too.
Sadly, I am not surprised. It has been 4 years of chipping away at environmental protections; it’s a long list covering everything under the sun, from vehicle efficiency standards to wildlife protection. I shut down my laptop and step outside. I need fresh air.
Last month, we covered some of the impacts that COVID-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders have had on our electric grid. This month, the pandemic has continued to drive low electricity demand and record low electricity prices. Even better, low demand and higher than ever solar production has led to a greener grid. But as temperatures rise and stay-at-home orders relax this summer, can we expect low demand, prices, and emissions to continue?
For over one hundred years, the fossil fuels we’ve spewed into the sky have wreaked havoc on the planet. We can say with equal certitude that for over four hundred years, institutional racism has wreaked havoc on people of color.
Tags: Climate change
Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Electric Vehicles
In a recent post, we refreshed the notion of why driving an electric car is a better choice for the environment, even in areas that rely on fossil fuels for most of their electricity generation: in one word, efficiency. An electric vehicle is 3-4 times better at converting energy to miles driven compared to a combustion engine. In New England, the average electric car emits 73% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than a gasoline car on a per-mile basis. The emission reductions are even greater in the Massachusetts communities – and soon Rhode Island communities – that have adopted the model of green municipal aggregation.
Furthermore, a recent European study has concluded that electric cars are a better option for climate in 95% of the world already on a lifecycle basis, which includes manufacturing and end-of-life processes. While battery production certainly has environmental impact, there is a growing number of applications to give batteries a second life, turning a conundrum into opportunity, further reducing waste.