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Saving Oil and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through U.S. Federal Transportation Policy

This white paper is a follow up to the report Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation

 

Saving Oil and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through U.S. Federal Transportation Policy

February 2011

Authored by: Cynthia J. Burbank and Nick Nigro

Executive Summary:

The United States consumes over 10 million barrels of oil per day moving people and goods on roads and rail throughout the country. Surface transportation generates over 23 percent of U.S. anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Transportation is the primary cause of U.S. oil dependence with its attendant risks to U.S. energy security. Contributions from this sector will be necessary in any effort to maintain a sustainable and secure economy in the future. There are many opportunities to save oil and reduce GHG emissions under existing federal law and possibly in the next surface transportation reauthorization legislation in the U.S. Congress, while increasing the mobility of people and goods in the
U.S. economy.

This paper identifies opportunities possible in transportation reauthorization legislation and using existing legislative authority that will save oil and reduce GHG emissions. The strategy focuses on five key elements: vehicles; fuels; vehicle miles traveled (VMT); system efficiency; and construction, maintenance, and other activities of transportation agency operations.

Download the full white paper (pdf)

 

About the Authors:

Cynthia Burbank is Vice President of Parson Brinckerhoff (PB). She joined PB in 2007 as National Environment and Planning Practice Leader. She provides strategic and tactical advice to PB’s clients on planning and environmental issues, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), air quality, and global climate change (GCC).This includes advising transportation clients on climate change strategies, analyzing greenhouse gas (GHG)-reduction potential of alternative transportation strategies, reviewing state climate action plans, and developing GHG reduction scenarios for transportation.

Cindy joined PB after a 32-year span with the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) that encompassed key roles in highway, transit, aviation, and national transportation policy and legislation. Cindy served as Associate Administrator for Planning, Environment, and Realty for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). She also served as FHWA’s senior executive with responsibility for FHWA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) for transportation, NEPA policy, environmental streamlining, metropolitan transportation planning, statewide transportation planning, and international transportation planning. Prior to joining the FHWA in 1991, Cindy held positions in the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, and the U.S. Navy.  A member of the FHWA Senior Executive Service since 1991, she was designated in October 1998 as one of five core business unit leaders for FHWA.

 

Nick Nigro is a Solutions Fellow at the Pew Center.

Cynthia J. Burbank
Nick Nigro
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Make an Impact: Working with Businesses to Save Energy, Save Money and Save the Planet

Make an Impact is featured in Environmental Leader's 2011 Insider Knowledge Report, which provides lessons learned from corporate environmental, sustainability, and energy decision-makers.

Below is one of the two articles on the program in Environmental Leader.

 

Make an Impact is a unique employee-focused energy efficiency program of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and three corporate partners. Founded by Alcoa in 2006, the partnership now includes Fortune 500 companies Bank of America and Entergy Corporation and reaches more than 350,000 employees worldwide. A clear program benefit is the opportunity for collaboration, innovation and best practice sharing.

Successful employee engagement in sustainability efforts differs for each corporation, but there are a few constants: 

  • Leadership from the top and a strong implementation team are critical.
  • Employ multiple engagement strategies. Make an Impact includes a customized website, workshops with experts and local advocates, community volunteering, and a best-in-class carbon calculator that provides a personal analysis and recommendations to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Scale globally, implement locally. Use local experts and services to ground the program in the community; this also increases the opportunity for behavior changes.
  • Successfully reinforces business relationships with community stakeholders.
  • Back it up with data.  Employees like to know their efforts are meaningful.  Make an Impact provides corporate partners the ability to track engagement in a variety of ways.
  • As part of its commitment to address climate change, Bank of America introduced MAI to associates in the US and UK in 2010. In its first six months, the program has attracted more than 2,400 visitors to the website and identified 5 million pounds of potential carbon savings by employees. In 2011, the company plans to introduce the program to employees in additional markets and double potential carbon savings and calculator usage.
  • Entergy Corporation uses the program to engage both customers and employees and has customized the program so that it offers benefits to local non-profits and disadvantaged consumers. Entergy has also added an offsets component to its program - including a commitment to double pledges made through its website.
  • Alcoa has a goal to reach 50 percent of its workforce with the program by 2012; to date it has introduced the program in 16 states and two countries and this year will launch a community/schools engagement module in five states, roll out in two additional countries and five additional states.
  • Employee engagement is a key component to corporate sustainability efforts. One Alcoa employee attending a workshop in Washington was inspired to suggest improvements to plant operations that saved the company nearly $120,000 in auxiliary power costs. When employees make the efficiency connection, the results can be unexpected and significant. Visit http://makeanimpact.c2es.org  and learn more.

To receive a full copy of Environmental Leader's 2011 Insider Knowledge Report, click here.

 

Download a copy of our ads from Environmental Leader's 2011 Insider Knowledge Report

Make An Impact advertisementBusiness Innovation Project advertisementBELC advertisement

--Appeared in Environmental Leader, February 2011
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C2ES's Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) was created at the Center’s inception with the belief that business engagement is critical for developing efficient, effective solutions to the climate problem. We also believe that companies taking early action on climate strategies and policy will gain sustained competitive advantage over their peers.
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Climate Change 101: Overview

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Climate change is happening and it is caused largely by human activity. Its impacts are beginning to be felt and will worsen in the decades ahead unless we take action. The solution to climate change will involve a broad array of technologies and policies—many tried and true, and many new and innovative.

This overview summarizes the eight-part series Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change.

Science and Impacts discusses the scientific evidence for climate change and explains its causes and current and projected impacts.

Adaptation discusses these impacts in greater depth, explaining how planning can limit (though not eliminate) the damage caused by unavoidable climate change, as well as the long-term costs of responding to climate-related impacts.

As explored in greater depth in Technological Solutions, a number of technological options exist to avert dangerous climatic change by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions both now and into the future.

Business Solutions, International Action, Federal Action, State Action, and Local Action describe how business and government leaders at all levels have recognized both the challenge and the vast opportunity dealing with climate change presents. These leaders are responding with a broad spectrum of innovative solutions. To address the enormous challenge of climate change successfully, new approaches are needed at the federal and international levels, and the United States must stay engaged in the global effort while adopting strong and effective national policies.

For more information, be sure to listen to our Climate Change 101 podcast series

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Climate Change 101: Business Solutions

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The response of business leaders to the problem of climate change is undergoing a major transformation. Just over a decade ago, the corporate sector was almost uniformly opposed to serious government action on the issue. But increasing certainty about the science of climate change—and an ever greater understanding of the risks and opportunities it presents for businesses and society—have contributed to a willingness among corporate leaders to help shape solutions. In addition to acting on their own to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and explore new, low-carbon market opportunities, a growing number of businesses are calling on the government to provide investment certainty through clear climate policy.

 

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Climate Change 101: Cap and Trade

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There are a variety of policy tools to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. This installment of the Climate Change 101 series explains how a cap-and-trade program sets a clear limit on greenhouse gas emissions and minimizes the costs of achieving this target. By creating a market and a price for emission reductions, cap and trade offers an environmentally effective and economically efficient response to climate change.

 

 

 

 

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EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: What are the Facts?

With EPA’s recent announcement of timelines for additional regulation of greenhouse gases (utility and refinery sectors) and the arrival in town this week of the new Congress, the shouting about EPA’s regulatory actions has already begun. Many of these claims are clearly political posturing – the facts are that schools, churches, and libraries will NOT be subject to regulations, there will NOT be a moratorium on all new industrial facilities for at least 18 months, and new coal plants will NOT be banned. But it is also true that regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) has the potential to substantially impact our economy and is critical to reducing the risks and costs associated with climate change. The critical challenge facing EPA is how to properly balance the costs of reducing GHG emissions against the benefits of limiting climate change. How EPA balances these interests demands a serious discussion. In an effort to lower the volume and better inform future discussions about EPA’s use of its regulatory authority, the following are key factors that should be considered.

1. EPA is not overreaching by regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act but is doing so in direct response to the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in Mass. v. EPA.

Some have incorrectly claimed that EPA has overstepped its authority in regulating greenhouse gases and is attempting to regulate GHGs even though Congress failed to pass climate legislation last year. In fact, it is the Supreme Court in 2007 that clarified that EPA had the authority to regulate GHGs under the existing Clean Air Act. EPA had denied a petition by some states and environmental groups calling on it to begin regulating GHGs under the existing Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court rejected EPA’s claim that the Clean Air Act does not apply to GHGs and held that these emissions meet the definition of an “air pollutant” under the Act. The court held that “under the Act’s clear terms, EPA can avoid promulgating regulations only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.” Based on its extensive review of the scientific evidence in its endangerment finding, EPA reached the only conclusion that the evidence supported – that GHG emissions cause or contribute to air pollution, which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare and, therefore, are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

2. EPA’s regulations will not require unproven technologies, impose excessive costs at a time when our economy is hurting, or harm small and previously unregulated sources.

There are legitimate concerns that the Clean Air Act was not developed specifically with GHGs in mind and these emissions are different in fundamental ways from traditional hazardous and criteria pollutants covered by the Act. As a result, EPA has gone to great lengths to “tailor” its regulations -- for example, with respect to new source permitting -- in such a way that only the largest sources of GHGs are covered. This tailoring rule has been challenged in courts (along with all other GHG regulations). If it is overturned, Congressional intervention would likely be necessary. But the Clean Air Act includes many provisions that minimize compliance costs, and many of its fundamental requirements apply equally well to regulating GHGs. For example, the Act requires that technological feasibility and costs be considered in setting emission performance standards and allows for different requirements for new and existing sources. In its guidance to states on what constitutes “best available control technology,” EPA has focused on energy efficiency technologies as a means to achieve both reductions in GHG emissions and cost savings to firms. The agency has also made it clear that the use of coal as a fuel can be continued under its guidelines. While EPA regulations will impose some costs on firms, based on guidance to date, those costs are likely to be modest and will result in far greater benefits than costs to society.     

3. Delaying any EPA regulatory actions would be bad for business and bad for the climate.

Delaying regulations by EPA will allow some firms to avoid compliance costs in the near term but will increase overall costs over the longer term. For firms in states already facing GHG requirements (e.g., utilities in 10 northeast and mid-Atlantic states, large emitters in California), any delay in EPA regulations are not likely to alter the requirements they face. For firms in other locations that are planning facilities with long lifetimes, some are likely to install the same technology that would be required by EPA in an effort to avoid more expensive retrofits in the near future. These firms would prefer the certainty of knowing what regulatory requirements they must meet prior to making large capital investments. Finally, delay in reducing GHG emissions will result in greater economic harm throughout our society as families and communities face the costs associated with increases in extreme weather (droughts and floods), impacts from sea level rise, limits on the availability of water resources, and other climate impacts.

4. EPA’s regulatory actions are not a form of backdoor cap and trade or an energy tax.

Congress rejected a comprehensive cap-and-trade approach to regulating GHG in its last session. EPA’s approach does not rely on a cap-and-trade regime and is far from comprehensive. EPA’s regulations focused first on the transportation sector with the issuance of widely supported standards for light-duty vehicles and proposed standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. On the stationary source side, EPA first targeted the largest new sources and major modifications of existing sources and recently announced plans to develop new source performance standards for the electric utility and refinery sectors. Such standards are the traditional approach used under the Clean Air Act and are generally implemented through state programs.The regulations are being developed on a timeframe consistent with Clean Air Act requirements covering other pollutants to allow covered sources the flexibility of developing compliance plans that cost-effectively meet a comprehensive set of requirements.

5. EPA is not attempting to meet the same reduction requirements that were rejected by the last Congress.

The House-passed climate change bill called for reductions in GHG emissions of 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020, increasing to reductions of over 80 percent by 2050. EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act is not likely to produce emission reductions of the magnitude or in the timeframe set forth in the legislation proposed last year.

6. Important questions do need to be addressed in moving forward.

EPA’s initial set of regulations represent an important beginning in addressing the risks associated with climate change but also raise important issues. In moving forward, several questions will need to be addressed:

* How will EPA’s regulation be implemented in a manner consistent with current and future state actions?

* Given market forces driving utilities toward increased use of natural gas, the regulatory uncertainty that currently exists, and the age and fuel mix of the current utility fleet, what is the likely future role of coal in this sector?

* As EPA moves forward in regulating stationary sources through the use of emission performance standards, how might it be able to provide flexibility to regulated sources to achieve cost-effective reductions?  

* How might EPA regulatory actions specific to utilities interact with possible Congressional interest in a clean energy standard?   

Steve Seidel is Vice President for Policy Analysis

Solutions in Steps, Not Leaps: The Year in Review and a Look Ahead

By Eileen Claussen
December 20, 2010

2010 was a year of highs and lows.

On the high side were global temperatures; 2010 will mark the hottest year in recorded history. At the start of the year, there was also the short-lived high of thinking we might be on the precipice of meaningful action in the U.S. Congress to protect the climate. Finally, at year’s end the climate talks in Cancún delivered (surprise!) tangible results in the form of agreement on key elements of a global climate framework.

But alas, the lows won out for most of 2010 as a trumped-up email controversy, continuing economic unease, and growing anti-government sentiment in the United States undermined the effort to forge lasting climate solutions at all levels. 

Congress. Until quite recently, the Pew Center and many others were actively supporting cap and trade as the number-one climate policy solution. After the House passed a fairly comprehensive energy and climate bill in June 2009 that had a cap-and-trade system at its core, we actually thought that it might become the law of the land.

Before long, however, it became eminently clear that the Senate would not be able to pass a similar bill. The 2010 U.S. elections, which brought more doubters of climate change into the halls of Congress, only made it clearer that comprehensive climate action is off the table for now.

EPA. With Congress unable to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, attention turned to what EPA might be able to do under existing authorities. And it turns out that EPA can do quite a lot by taking reasonable steps that have garnered critical support from the business and environmental communities. In late October, for example, the agency announced a sensible proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. This was followed by a November announcement that will go a long way to making sure that new industrial facilities use state-of-the-art technologies to boost efficiency and reduce emissions.

Of course, opponents of these and other EPA regulations will surely raise a ruckus, and there will be loud cries in Congress to delay the regulations and even cut funding for the EPA. But the possibility remains that the agency could conceivably begin to chip away at U.S. emissions in the months and years ahead.

State Actions. Looking beyond Washington, state capitals were the focus of creative thinking and leadership on the issue of clean energy in 2010. Massachusetts, for example, set a statewide energy efficiency standard in 2010 supported by $1.6 billion in incentives. Meanwhile, California voters upheld the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law by defeating Proposition 23. This marked the first direct vote on addressing climate change in the United States, and it won in an overwhelming fashion.

But the overall story regarding climate action in the states was more mixed. While several regional climate initiatives continued to push forward, the November elections brought to the nation’s statehouses a group of new leaders who adopted strong stands against climate action in their campaigns. We will stay tuned to see how their campaign rhetoric translates into governing.

International. The agreement reached by international negotiators in Cancún in December closed out 2010 on a positive note. The Cancún Agreements import the essential elements of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord into the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, including a stronger system of support for developing countries and a stronger transparency regime to better assess whether countries are keeping their promises. The Cancún Agreements also mark the first time that all of the world’s major economies have made explicit mitigation pledges under the Convention.

Of course, the ultimate goal of the continuing international talks should be a legally-binding climate treaty, but in Cancún we saw countries agreeing on incremental steps that will deliver stronger action in the near term and lay the foundation for binding commitments down the road.

Looking Ahead. Looking ahead, I believe 2011 holds promise only if those of us who support climate action can learn from what happened in 2010. In recent years, domestic and international efforts largely centered on a “big bang” theory of trying to achieve everything at once. Instead, it’s instructive now to take a cue from Cancún and accept that a step-by-step approach to building support for climate solutions offers our best shot at progress. 

Calling on the new Congress to pass cap and trade or similarly comprehensive solutions will be a nonstarter, for example.  But there may be an opportunity on Capitol Hill for less sweeping steps to reduce U.S. emissions.  

Supporters would do well to spend the next several months laying the groundwork for incremental solutions by strengthening communications with the public. We need to do a better job of helping people understand both the risks and the opportunities presented by climate change. In the same way we buy fire insurance to protect against an event that has a statistically small chance of happening but would result in severe damage, acting now to cut emissions reduces our vulnerability to severe events that are likely to become more common in a warming world. And the success of the “No on Prop 23” campaign in California suggests that there remains a healthy appetite among the general public and in the business community (which provided substantial support for the effort) to back well-framed climate solutions. 

After a year of highs and lows, we still must aim high in our efforts to address one of the greatest challenges of our time. But we should also heed the lessons of the past year and work for more modest victories now that can keep us on the path to longer-term solutions. 

by Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change-- December 2010
Eileen Claussen
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BACT guidance

On November 10, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released guidance to be used in implementing “best available control technology” (BACT) requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from major new or modified stationary sources of air pollution. Under the Clean Air Act (the Act), major new sources or major modifications to existing sources must employ technologies aimed at limiting emissions from these sources.

Under the Act, the BACT requirements for a given facility are to be established in a way that addresses the specific conditions of the facility and reflect the maximum degree of emission reduction that has been demonstrated through available methods, systems, and techniques, while accounting for the economic, energy and environmental considerations of the facility. In most states, the state environmental agency, rather than US EPA, will be issuing the permit to the facility.

The use of BACT to limit emissions of regulated pollutants from facilities has been part of the Clean Air Act for decades. Its first application to GHG emissions occurred in February 2010, when Calpine Corporation voluntarily agreed to an air permit that included a BACT determination for GHGs at a new power plant in California. The approved power plant included a slightly more efficient generation unit than had been initially proposed.

The new EPA guidance itself is technical in nature. Most importantly, under the guidance, covered facilities will generally be required to use the most energy efficient technologies available – much as was the case with the Calpine facility – rather than be required to install particular pollution control technologies. Among other things, carbon capture and sequestration technology will not be considered BACT except in extremely rare circumstances, such as when a facility is located next to an operating oil field whose operator wants to purchase carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. Nor will the guidance require that specific types of fuels be used. In particular it does not require that proposed coal burning power plants switch to natural gas. The guidance also includes particular guidance for biomass facilities, stating that biomass itself could be considered BACT. EPA has indicated that it intends possibly to pursue additional rulemaking next year that may eliminate biomass burning facilities altogether from this permitting process. Overall, the BACT guidance maintains the same steps for individual BACT determination for GHGs that have long been used for BACT determination for traditional air pollutants. 

In an earlier rulemaking, EPA established the threshold limits for which major new or modified sources would be required to meet BACT requirements. In its “tailoring” rule, EPA specified that beginning January 2, 2011, only sources that were already subject to BACT for “criteria” air pollutants (such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) and had emissions of GHGs that exceeded 75,000 tons per year would have to meet BACT for GHGs. In July 2011, these requirements will be extended to apply also to any new source with GHG emissions above 100,000 tons per year and any modified source that increases GHG emissions by more than 75,000 tons per year.

 

More information from C2ES:

Frequently Asked Questions about the EPA and GHG Regulations
Sequence of Events Leading to EPA Regulation of GHGs

Other information: 

Clean Air Act Regulation for Greenhouse Gases overview from EPA
BACT Guidance from EPA
Fact Sheet on Proposed Rules on Clean Air Permits from EPA

The Days After

For many of us in the climate world, these days feel a bit like being in the movie The Day After, where nuclear winter had descended and John Lithgow was on the HAM radio calling out, “…Is there anybody out there? Anybody at all…?”

OK. So it’s not quite that bad.  But as we all know, Congress has been reshaped, and some long-time supporters of climate action (and coal) such as Rick Boucher (D-VA) are out, while others who ran ads literally shooting a rifle at a cap-and-trade bill, are in. And the number of actual climate deniers walking the halls of Congress has also increased.

So with the picture seemingly so bleak, and the chances of comprehensive climate legislation highly unlikely in at least the next couple of years, it would be natural for many in the corporate community to relax and think that they no longer have to think about climate change.

I think this would be dead wrong.  And lest you wonder about my grasp on reality, let me explain why.

First, let’s look to California.  Voters forcefully rejected Proposition 23, a measure that was a full-frontal assault on the nation’s most aggressive climate bill.  They also rejected a gubernatorial candidate who had promised to postpone AB32 for at least a year, and instead elected a governor who campaigned on aggressively implementing the same law.

California is the world’s 8th largest economy and typically leads the nation in environmental protection. The fact that it will soon be implementing a cap-and-trade system and other aggressive measures to reduce GHGs should be an indication that the issue is not going to quietly disappear into the night.  It is also remarkable that much of the financial support for the “No on Prop 23” campaign came from the venture capital and tech industries, which understand the market opportunities that clean energy and energy efficiency provide.

And while the political landscape may have changed this week, the businesses' case for taking climate action has not.  Leading companies should continue to keep climate and sustainability as an element of their core corporate strategies, and in my conversations over the past few weeks, they are. Regardless of whether federal climate legislation is adopted, “climate change” is a proxy for a number of critical operational issues such as energy, water, waste, and supply chain efficiency.  Companies that have a comprehensive plan to reduce their impacts in these areas realize not only bottom-line benefits, but reputational benefits as well.

And finally, let’s not forget the climate science.  The reality is that regardless of the state of policy, the climate continues to change, impacts are already being felt in our own backyards, and by not acting we continue to load the dice in favor of deeper floods, longer droughts, and bigger wildfires.  While politicians move at one pace, nature does not react to polls or get voted out of office.  And as one of my favorite cartoons of the last year points out, even if this were all just an elaborate hoax, the biggest risk of investing in clean energy, energy efficiency, water and waste management is that we would have created a healthier, safer world all for “nothing.”

Tim Juliani is Director of Corporate Engagement

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