Adding More Transportation to the Climate Change Mix

7_6_09_climate_change.jpgU.S. greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2007.  Image: FHWA Global Warming Brochure

Nate Silver’s new analysis
of the state of play on climate change in the Senate makes a convincing
argument that a carbon cap-and-trade system can become law this year.

In fact, it raises the question of whether two senators ranked
as unlikely yes votes can be won over by beefing up the climate bill’s
treatment of transportation emissions beyond what was passed in the House.

Silver’s
analysis gives Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller
(D-WV) a 17 percent chance of voting for climate legislation, thanks to
his state’s red-tinged voting pattern and reliance on the coal
industry. But it’s hard to see Rockefeller opposing a climate bill that
includes his proposal
to reduce national  transportation-based emissions by 40 percent by
2030 — which would go a long way towards meeting overall targets for
greenhouse gas reduction.

And what about Sen. George
Voinovich (D-OH), who reminded fellow members of the Environment and
Public Works Committee last month that a new transportation bill would
go a long way towards reducing emissions?

Voinovich hails from an industrial state, and he supported a filibuster of last year’s Senate climate bill.
Still, he sounds susceptible to an argument from Democratic leaders
that in the absence of a broad federal transportation bill this year,
it’s important to tackle the issue during the climate change debate.

  • DJB

    That’s a great pie chart. I feel like it should be plastered all over the country. Since electricity is a bigger piece of the problem than transportation, I figure I’ll plug LADWP’s voluntary carbon offset program where you pay a bit extra to get your power from windmills and dams instead of the standard mix: (http://www.ladwp.com/ladwp/cms/ladwp001924.jsp).

    Something else I was wondering: does there come a point at which adding density to a neighborhood, which promotes walkability and better transit service, cancel out those benefits (environmentally speaking) through added elevator use? I was staring at a huge apartment building in South Park the other day and wondering if a thirty-story elevator ride to get a stick of gum really counts as “pedestrian oriented”?

    Anyway, just food for thought . . .

  • VIP

    Has anybody else noticed how, over the past 10 years, while new vehicle emissions have been reduced, their average fuel economy has gone down? Some of this can be attributed to the increase in average vehicle weight due to improved safety design, but I am curious to know how much of a negative effect emissions regulations on personal transportation have had on the environment due to the increase in fuel consumption, and ultimately, the increase in industrial emissions in order to produce, store, and deliver the fuel. When even 10 years ago, the exhaust emitted from new cars was cleaner than the air they consumed, I believed our focus on emission control was in the wrong area. I believe that, now, more than ever. As for all-electric cars, exactly how is that going to reduce emissions when the electricity that is needed to charge and recharge the battery most likely will be produced by “dirty” power plants?

  • DJB

    Very true, it’s a two-step process:
    1) Electrify cars
    2) Green the electricity

  • John Boucher

    I am amazed at how reasonably intelligent people have bought into this SB 375 BIA boondoggle. Open your eyes and answer this. How is the building of new high density housing in LA County going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Housing is pretty much on par with auto emissions when it comes to producing greenhouse gases. Throw in the electricity production and housing becomes the greater contributor. More people and more condos in LA is not going to anything about global warming. It is just going to make developers a pot load of money.

    This is nothing more to this than opening up already built out housing markets to additional development. That environmental issues are being used as cynically as they are will do no one any good in the long run.

  • Paul

    Even though electricity generations is a larger producer of green house gas, it is not as easy to change an electricity delivery system as it is to change what cars are powered by. Once the capital investment has been spent the live expectancy of these power pants are at least 50 years or more. Most cars aren’t built to last 10 or 20 years. So since the life expediency is so low for vehicle, it easier to change them then power plants. On another note. Since we do have the technology to produce electric vehicles that can meet the daily commutes of most people, we should produce them. Just because the power source isn’t clean doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop reducing emissions on the transport side.

  • DJB

    “How is the building of new high density housing in LA County going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?”

    Neighborhoods with more density can support more nearby jobs/shops and better transit (e.g. Manhattan). When the stuff you do is closer you don’t have to drive or if you do drive you don’t have to drive as far.

    That’s how density reduces GHG emissions on a per capita basis: by enabling people to get around without driving.

    In the suburbs most of what you do is too far away and you end up driving. Higher density housing is a critical and indispensable part of any effort to combat climate change.

  • David Galvan

    VIP said: “As for all-electric cars, exactly how is that going to reduce emissions when the electricity that is needed to charge and recharge the battery most likely will be produced by “dirty” power plants?

    Even with the current (mostly) “dirty” electricity generation, converting to electric vehicles STILL reduces greenhouse gas emissions, typically on the order of 20-30%.

    Take this example illustrated in the following Slate magazine article:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2179609/

    “Let’s compare the Toyota compact to the forthcoming all-electric Tesla Roadster, which promises 245 miles’ worth of travel per charge. The relatively fuel-efficient 2006 Corolla gets an average of 31 miles per gallon of gas, assuming it has a manual transmission. Over 100 miles, then, the Corolla will consume 3.23 gallons of gas, which in turn produces 63.11 pounds of carbon dioxide. (According to the Energy Information Administration, a gallon of gas produces 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide—yes, seriously.) That figure, of course, doesn’t include the energy expended to pump the oil out of the ground, ship it across the oceans, refine it, and get it to your local filling station.

    Now let’s look at the Roadster over that same distance. A recent analysis by Automotive Testing and Development Services found that for every 100 miles of travel, a Roadster needs to be recharged with 31 kilowatt hours of electricity. (Only about 70 percent of that charge goes toward creating motion; the rest is lost due to inefficiencies in the charging process.) Generating a kilowatt hour of electricity produces an average of 1.55 pounds of carbon dioxide, which means the Tesla vehicle emits 48.05 pounds of CO2 per 100 miles.

  • Voinovich is a Republican, though given the fact that he is practical, and a former big city mayor, he might just defect from party discipline and vote for this.

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