Politics

Gas2 Week in Review, January 14: Green Legislation and Policy

green legislation

Green legislation continues to be on the minds of lawmakers in state legislatures across the US, as hundreds of bills relating to clean energy have been proposed over the last year. The final tax bill President Trump signed in December contained several tax incentives for renewable energy, including the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit. Of course, countries around the world have much more appealing EV subsidies than the US as part of goals of zero auto emissions.

According to the Department of Energy, 3.38 million Americans were employed in the clean energy sector, which is 10% more than the 2.99 million employed in fossil fuels. A confluence of agencies and initiatives are tackling green legislation for transportation and other energy sectors, whether the Trump administration admits the need or not. So this week on the “Gas2 Week in Review,” we look at some of those efforts and the consequences they’re likely to have over the next few years on our transportation and energy consumption.

green legislation

US Cities Sue Major Fossil Fuel Industrial Polluters

New York City, which is the largest US city, is suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, arguing that these companies are directly responsible for climate change as the world’s largest industrial polluters. The lawsuit claims, additionally, that these companies lead public relations strategy for the entire fossil fuel industry in downplaying the risks of climate change and promoting fossil fuel use despite the risks. “This lawsuit is based on the claim that a corporation that makes a product causing severe harm when used exactly as intended should shoulder the costs of abating that harm,” the city said in the complaint. Several California municipalities — San Francisco, Oakland, San Mateo, Imperial Beach, and Marin — previously filed suits against the oil industry over the environmental impact of fossil fuels.

Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pledged to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by growing the clean energy economy.

“Defendants are collectively responsible, through their production, marketing and sale of fossil fuels, for over 11 percent of all the carbon and methane pollution from industrial sources that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution,” lawyers for the city said in the complaint. On the same day the new lawsuit was announced, New York City  declared it will divest from fossil fuel stocks in its $200 billion pension fund within 5 years. New York State is also striving to accommodate more than 30,000 plug-in electric vehicles in 2018 and 1 million by 2025 through Charge NY.

Norway’s Prime Minister Offers Pointed Rebuke to Trump about Business Potential of Paris Agreement

green legislationUS President Donald Trump was questioned about the US intentions regarding the Paris Climate Agreement during a visit this week with Norway’s Prime Minister.  The #fakepresident uttered what some are suggesting is a weakening of the US decision to withdraw as a signatory of the historic Agreement.

Trump: “Frankly, it’s an agreement I have no problem with but I have a problem with the agreement that they signed… So we conceivably could go back in.. I feel very strongly about the environment. Our EPA and our EPA commissioners are very, very powerful in the sense that they want to have clean water, clean air, but we also want businesses that can compete.”

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg offered a pointed response.

Solberg: “There are business opportunities in this.. As we talked about… because we have strict regulations on [how] to reach our Paris targets, that means that we have very strong policies for environmentally friendly and climate-friendly technologies, which is a small part of why the United States now have a surplus in the economy towards Norway. You should never miss up on a good environmental opportunity with good environmental standard.”

Norway, although a major oil exporter, offers generous incentives that make electric cars cheaper to purchase and provides additional benefits once the vehicles are on the road. PHEV sales in Norway exceeded vehicles propelled by fossil fuels last year. About 52 percent of the new cars sold in the country last year ran on new forms of fuel, according to data released by Norway’s Road Traffic Advisory Board, OFV. That data boosted the country to the remarkable position as world role model for green legislation to restrict vehicle emissions. “This trend will only increase,” Oyvind Solberg Thorsen, OFV’s director, said in a statement. “This is good for both road safety and the environment.”

How long will the Trump administration stay stuck in a position that privileges combustion engines? It’s cognitive dissonance as the rest of the world turns to clean energy transportation business models.

Trump Fortified China’s Position as Global Leader in Clean Energy with Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

green legislation

Chinese EV manufacturers

A January, 2018 report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) titled, “China 2017 Review: World’s Second-Biggest Economy Continues to Drive Global Trends in Energy Investment,” states that China further positioned itself in 2017 to dominate in new energy technologies such as batteries and electric vehicles. The report says that the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement” led to China’s quick reaffirmation of its emissions-reduction pledge that allows it to further project itself globally as a responsible major power while addressing its domestic air pollution concerns and building world-leading capacity in new energy markets.

China’s electric vehicle approach involves the building-up of a domestic market for EVs through inexpensive financing combined with subsidies and government policy. The Chinese government is working on producing a timetable that would phase out sales of internal combustion-engine cars, a move that will see China join France, Norway, and the U.K. in establishing such a deadline. China’s aggressive rollout of EV technology is driven by motivations that include reducing air pollution and enhancing national energy security through reduced dependence on oil imports. China also sees a clear opportunity to dominate the EV value chain globally.

But didn’t Trump say that green legislation unfairly hurts businesses? Hmmm.

California’s Green Legislation Sets the Standard

green legislation

Graphic courtesy ca.gov

California has allied with nearly a dozen other states to enforce stricter emissions and fuel economy rules than the US government wants, which would prefer that all states adhere to a single, federal level law. Of course, last year Ford CEO Mark Fields complained how expensive it would  be to meet the Obama-era 56.5 MPG CAFE mandate for 2025, which fueled (pun intended) the Trump administration’s drive to weaken those goals. California, however, continues to move ahead as a role model for the US. For example, DriveClean.ca.gov is a web site of the California Air Resources Board developed as a resource for car buyers to find clean technology vehicles.

California also has proposed green legislation that would ban the sale of new cars and trucks powered by fossil fuels in 2040. “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill’s author, said. The vision is all new passenger vehicles sold in California would be zero emission vehicles. California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program requires automakers to sell electric cars and trucks in California and 9 other states. The exact number of vehicles is linked to the automaker’s overall sales within the state. The program’s objective is to ensure that automakers research, develop, and market EVs, which generate fewer global warming emissions than gas-powered cars.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) manages the ZEV program. By directly requiring that automakers invest in clean technology, the ZEV program is considered one of the nation’s most forward-looking climate policies and is a driving force behind an expanding market.

Green Legislation on the US and Global Federal Level

Green legislation rose to its highest levels ever by the end of 2017. When leaders from around the world gathered to commemorate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, 327 major corporations from 50 countries and 70 sectors, worth net worth of $6.5 trillion, had committed to matching their emission reduction plans with the Paris goals. An additional 864 companies voiced their intentions to comply within 2 years. US companies comprise 20% of the total and have contributed significant climate commitments to date, despite uncertainty surrounding the US government’s participation in the Paris accord.

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” report showed how US renewables increased by 14.6% during the first 10 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 and provided 17.7% of US electrical generation. For the first time, solar exceeded 2% of US electrical output while wind exceeded 6% percent. Hydropower accounted for 7.6% of total generation while biomass contributed 1.6% and geothermal 0.4%.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $1.87 million for seven projects to advance innovation in US manufacturing through high performance computing. Part of DOE’s High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program, two of the projects will be co-funded by DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office.

Caterpillar, Inc. will partner with ANL to increase efficiency and reduce emissions on optimizing heat transfer in diesel engines through simulations of piston and spray geometry in a project titled “Heavy-duty Diesel Engine Combustion Optimization for Reduced Emissions, Reduced Heat Transfer, and Improved Fuel Economy.” General Motors LLC will partner with LLNL to reduce cycle time in composite manufacturing in a project titled “Computational Modeling of High Pressure Resin Transfer Molding (HP-RTM) for Automotive Structural Carbon Fiber (CF) Composites.”

Both will focus on new public private partnerships to enable greater collaboration between DOE national labs and the US manufacturing industry.

Upcoming Green Legislation and Policy Discussions

The Renewable Energy Law, organized by the The University of Texas School of Law Continuing Legal Education, will take place January 29-30, 2018 in Austin. The conference will cover green legislation areas like economics, technology, finance, tax and regulatory policy and is aimed at industry participants, legal and financial advisors, and key legislative and regulatory policymakers and staff.

Let’s hope some of the Trump inner circle will be present.

Photo by woodleywonderworks on Foter.com / CC BY

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Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+