California Needs to Plug-in–Seriously

Sustainable Transportation Requires More REAL Support for Industry:
Politicians Posture, But ‘the Industry Sees Something Entirely Different’

If you read the news you might think California cares about the environment. Governor Jerry Brown has both a Zero-Emission Vehicle Action Plan and a Sustainable Freight Plan. Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León spearheaded work on SB 350, a landmark climate bill last year. California’s leadership on environmental causes was recognized last year with Governor Brown’s high profile talks with the Pope on climate leadership.

And yet, the industry sees something entirely different.

In 2015 there was a $260 million budget shortfall between what the California Air Resources Board investment plan said was going to be allocated to Low Carbon Transportation, and what was actually allocated by the legislature. This year, all of the 2016–2017 funding for the same program was pulled out of the budget altogether, leaving shovel-ready project applications at CARB in limbo.

Budget Gap

This budget gap hurts consumers and industry, freezing heavy-duty pilot projects which include millions of dollars of partner match funds, effectively stopping both public and private investment statewide until awards are made. This hurts industry growth, job stability, and the trajectory towards clean air.

Pilot projects with CARB represent a huge opportunity if funded. When the Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Solicitation was announced with $23 million, the industry responded with requests for $290 million in projects. This over subscription to the program reflects an optimism and commitment from the industry, where hopes for effective public-private partnerships brought together air districts, commercial fleets, municipal fleets, technology providers, manufacturers, and community stakeholders in multi-stakeholder projects.

These projects rely on huge amounts of match funding, labor, in kind equipment use — and every day delayed hurts an industry that’s not on the cutting edge, but the bleeding edge of transforming our economy to a carbon neutral and sustainable future.

This zero-emission shuttle bus was a part of a multi-stakeholder pilot demonstration of initially four, subsequently expanded to six battery-electric shuttle buses for the City of Mountain View with daily operation funded by Google, technology developed by Motiv Power Systems, research funded by the California Energy Commission, administered by CALSTART, deployed by ABC Companies on routes developed by Altrans. Operation began in January 2015. Projects like these are multi-million dollar investments which businesses and communities much collaborate on.

Health Is at Risk

During such delays Californians are breathing in harmful emissions. Diesel particulate matter from heavy duty vehicles is estimated by CARB to be responsible for 70% of total known cancer risks related to air toxins in California. The production, refining, and use of petroleum is responsible for almost half of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of smog forming pollution.

Furthermore the economic benefits of investing in zero-emission electric vehicles remain unrealized. According to an economic assessment of Plug-in Electric Vehicles Deployments, a dollar saved at the gas pump and spent on household goods and services creates 16 times more jobs than a dollar spent on refined petroleum products. Money saved by driving vehicles fueled by electricity is spent largely in the state economy creating diverse, bedrock local jobs — and that money continues to circulate in the local economy.

The first All-Electric School Bus in California was deployed in Kings Canyon Unified School District. Kings Canyon Unified is within one of the worst non-attainment regions for air quality in the nation. Student surveys have indicated that as many as 1 in 6 students must carry an inhaler to school to assist with breathing.

‘The Investment Signals Are Not Aligned’

While California’s political leadership claims to care about the environment, public health, and economic growth, the investment signals are not aligned. Until our Governor and Legislators appropriately prioritize funding and recognize the urgency of sustainable funding for proposed programs, these plans are not worth the paper they’re printed on and will remain unrealized fantasies.

If you value clean air and a sustainable future, call your state representatives today and remind them that funding delays are unacceptable, and you support fully funding California’s sustainable transportation plans.

AmeriPride has invested in sustainable initiatives including zero-emission walk-in vans to attract and retain customers, be stewards of the environment, and improve business operations. These trucks improve driver satisfaction by reducing noise, vibrations, and harmful diesel emissions.

Originally published in Fleets & Fuels.