California has just taken another step toward polishing its reputation as a state at the forefront of fighting pollution. Last month, the state’s air regulator established Emission rules for heavy vehicles and locomotivesincludes a requirement for all cargo trucks entering seaports and rail yards to be “zero-emissions” by 2035.
The plan reflects the contradictions that have long characterized California’s aviation policy. The state seems to be at the forefront of speed-setting regulations – but it pursues those because it has bad air. This year American Lung Assn. report LA is the most smoky urban area in the country, a title we’ve held except for one in the last 24 years. We were able to issue new rules because the federal Clean Air Act made California the only state allowed to set its own motor vehicle emissions standards, in recognition of the challenges Our special awareness of air quality: more sunlight produces more ozone, and the geography of mountains and valleys traps particles released from combustion, allowing them to accumulate.
California’s air has improved in recent decades. The San Joaquin Valley, known for having some of the worst air in the country, fewer days of violating the federal ozone threshold in 2005 than in 1995; 2015 was still better, with about half as many bad days as it was in 1995. But such poor base conditions mean that even with improvement, in 2015 the valley is still there are 55 days when ozone is harmful to health — a little more than one day per week.
Now we are also increasingly dealing with fire smoke: Eight of California’s 10 biggest fires was in past decadeundermine recent progress and send fog level up again. Our more intense, more frequent fires increase pressure on California to get more serious about fighting deadly pollution.
New truck and train regulations answer part of this call. But we will need more expansive solutions to ensure that people’s health and mobility take precedence over moving goods in search of cleaner air.
Freight, including trucks are used to move most goods in and through the state, responsible for about 50% air pollution. Fits wider models of environmental injustice, freight transport concentrates pollution in specific neighborhoods. Coastal communities tend to be in or closer to pollution limit. Corridor connecting the LA gate. And Long Beachdowntown LA and the Inland Empire – currently the dominant area for distribution warehouses – see many more days of severe violations of those limits, with some worst atmosphere in the nation. The Central Valley has similarly bleak conditions.
To reduce these harmful emissions, it is necessary to promote electrify everything, a transition that will apply to heavy vehicles and locomotives to the new California standards. For some ground vehicles, electrification offers numerous benefits. It’s ideal for lighter vehicles taking short trips, being able to charge between shifts. Last-mile delivery (such as USPS and Amazon) can be done by electric truckdelivery golf carts or even lighter cargo bikes.
Long distance and heavy cargo is harder. Remove diesel oil And dirty transport fuel they currently rely on is needed to meet emissions targets. But Heavy trucks request large battery (while carrying heavy goods) and they take longer charge on long trips. There are prototypes for alternative fuel vehicles, including hydrogen trucks, that will refuel more quickly and conveniently than electric vehicles. But hydrogen fuel is likely to be derived from fossil gas.
Besides, even if it’s practical for all vehicles, electrification is there is no panacea. About 40% of California’s electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, which means electric vehicles are only “zero-emissions” in the exhaust, not overall. (And tires, not only burn, but also release significant toxic particles near the road.)
All of this indicates that swapping out new fuel sources alone will not be enough to reduce emissions. healthy level. We need to rethink options at the system level and come up with new solutions. Instead of just thinking about how to make new technology exactly replicate the transportation system we have, California should think again. economic dependence about moving goods with current mass, distance and speed, at the cost of human health.
This mentality can be instructive for other state-mandated environmental changes. For example, starting in 2024, California has banned the sale of new products gasoline lawn mowers and leaf blowers (running a commercial leaf blower for one hour emits pollution equivalent to new passenger car driver about 1,100 miles). But existing machines are allowed to operate as long as they can be serviced, meaning it could be another decade before the emissions involved are significantly reduced. Why not encourage raking instead of blowing leaves, besides planting trees drought tolerant and native plants require less water, absorb carbon and small particles, and are more resilient to increasingly severe climate stress than high-maintenance lawns?
Instead of just pushing people to switch to electric car – while allowing serious private aircraft pollutes — why don’t we retool our infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling and public transport? These are more democratic and less dangerous forms of mobility that use less fossil fuels and less electricity. Even people with cars will benefit from having better alternatives to driving. Reducing dependence on gasoline will also make implementation easier California’s retrogression law banning oil exploration near homes, schools, playgrounds and parks, controversial although widely known state resident.
Given California’s challenges, officials may be tempted to repeatedly grant “exception status“permits, which allow industries to cross the pollution threshold. But we are in a new normal, not an exception. The people of California, our governing body, and our elected officials must not only stick to ambitious rule to replace fossil fuels, but also envision ways for us to use less energy.
Christina Dunbar-Hester is a professor of communication at the Annenberg School of Media and Journalism at USC, a current member of the Institute for Advanced Study, and the author of “Oil Beach.”