Air quality improvement at the Port of Long Beach: Yesterday, today and …

I first wrote about the Port of Long Beach (POLB) California air quality issues back on Nov. 7, 2012 in “Regarding air-pollution cleanup at the Port of Long Beach: A progress report” here.

Encouraging was the news then; it is even more so now.


253px Green flag port1 Air quality improvement at the Port of Long Beach: Yesterday, today and …“Between 2005 and 2011, POLB air-pollution clean-up gains have been impressive: nitrogen oxides have been reduced by 50 percent, sulfur oxides an astounding 80 percent, emissions of airborne diesel particulate matter experienced a 75 percent drop while greenhouse gas emissions declined 23 percent, although there was a 10 percent reduction in containerized port activity during this time, this according to the Port document, “Port Clean Air Programs Cut Pollution by 75%.”

So, what was behind the improvement?

In “Port of Long Beach, California clamping down in air pollution cleanup efforts,” in citing the POLB from its news story: “Port Eliminates 81% of Diesel Air Pollution: Report marks 6th consecutive year of air quality improvements,” I wrote: “‘The reasons for air quality improvement include bigger ships carrying cargo more efficiently, newer ships with cleaner engines, the Jan. 1, 2012 deadline for full implementation of the Clean Trucks Program, increasing use of shore power, and a new low-sulfur fuel rule for ships that started in August 2012.’”


So, what does progress at the Port today look like?

Crane BridgeShip 300x200 Air quality improvement at the Port of Long Beach: Yesterday, today and …Well, in a POLB news item dated Sept. 23, 2014, the Port gushes: “Diesel air pollution from ships, trucks, trains and other big machines at the Port of Long Beach has declined by 82 percent since 2005, a comprehensive air quality analysis has found. The report – which focus on 2013 – show seven straight years of steadily declining air pollution from goods movement in the harbor area.”

The POLB further stated: “In addition to the drop in diesel emissions, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides have been cut 54 percent and 90 percent respectively. Emissions from Port operations have plunged even as shipping activity has increased slightly, with containerized cargo up 0.3 percent since 2005.”

The gains are no less than noteworthy. In fact, praiseworthy is what they really are!

Besides the shift to larger vessels with more efficient cargo-carrying capacity, cleaner ship engines, the lower sulfur content of ship fuels, availability of ship-fed electricity supplied from on-shore sources which is otherwise known as “shore power,” there has been “increased utilization of on-dock rail,” declared the POLB.


Look for even further progress on this front in the days, weeks, months, years and decades ahead.

For more, see: “Air Pollution Continues Decline at Port of Long Beach: 2013 marks 7 straight years of improved air quality” here.

One air regulatory district works to lessen air impact from work commute

This week (Sept. 21st to Sept. 27th) on the Air Quality Matters blog content focused on air quality as it has to do with transportation. This is evident in “To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation” parts 1 and 2, both dealing with the aspect of freight or goods movement.

Part 1 has to do with trucks while the second part focuses on trains and planes.

Today, the spotlight is on still another aspect of transportation: the work commute and what is being done in California’s San Francisco Bay Area to lessen the commute impact on area air quality.

First-hand knowledge

363px San Francisco Landsat7 Lg1 181x300 One air regulatory district works to lessen air impact from work commute
Aerial view of San Francisco taken from space

I’m no stranger to traffic congestion. This phenomenon and I go way, way back; back to the late ‘70s, in fact, when I lived in Mt. View and worked in Sunnyvale, both Bay Area communities. Working in the electronics field, my work commute, one way, was all of six miles. Morning commute time: 30 minutes. Afternoon commute time: 45 minutes.

So, think about it: an hour-and-a-quarter on average to travel 12 miles. That’s all of 9.6 miles per hour – not exactly lightning speed. I could have biked to work and back faster. Also think back to seventies California, just after automotive catalytic converter systems were made mandatory in 1975 (I know the clunker I owned and drove then didn’t have one) and before the statewide implementation of the California Smog Check program in 1984. For more on this, see: “Key Events in the History of Air Quality in California” here.

Oh, how times have changed!

An innovative (carrot and stick, sort of) approach

In “Best air pollution control: A carrot or stick approach?” I asked what was more effective in mitigating air pollution – “by providing incentives or enacting laws requiring compliance and then seeing to it constituents comply through the work of law enforcement.”

Bike diamond lane1 One air regulatory district works to lessen air impact from work commuteWell, related to this is the (San Francisco) Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s (BAAQMD) “Commuter Benefits Program,” the provisions of which are described in its Mar. 26, 2014 press release: “Air District and MTC Approve Commuter Benefits Pilot Program.”

The pilot program goal “is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion by using the federal tax code to encourage employees to commute via alternatives to driving alone,” the BAAQMD noted. “The law is designed to give employers various options for compliance, including simply offering their employees the ability to pay for transit or vanpooling with pre-tax dollars, which can save both employers and employees money through lower taxes. The program was modeled on commuter benefit ordinances established in 2009 in San Francisco, Berkeley and Richmond, as well as at San Francisco International Airport.” The pilot program is due to become fully effective on Sept. 30, 2014, legislators to decide to continue or curb the program in 2017, according to Denis Cuff in the Contra Costa Times.

The BAAQMD in the release went on to stress, “[e]mployees are more likely to consider alternatives if they are encouraged by their employer,” and added: “Research shows that employers can reduce vehicle trips to their worksites by promoting alternative commute modes, such as transit, ridesharing, bicycling, walking and telecommuting.”

Who is affected, who benefits

According to Cuff, the 9,600 Bay Area employers having at least 50 workers who are employed full-time must comply. In the Bay Area, two-thirds of workers are single-occupant car commuters while a little over 1 in 10 rides public transit.

The four separate commuter benefits program options offered are:

  1. “Pre-Tax Benefit – Allow employees to exclude up to $130 of their transit or vanpooling expenses each month from taxable income,
  2. “Employer-Provided Subsidy – Provide a subsidy to reduce or cover employees’ monthly transit or vanpool costs, up to $75 per month,
  3. “Employer-Provided Transit – Provide a free or low-cost transit service for employees, such as a bus, shuttle or vanpool service,
  4. “Alternative Commuter Benefit – Provide an alternative commuter benefit that is as effective in reducing single-occupancy commute trips as Options 1, 2 or 3.”

(Source: “Air District and MTC Approve Commuter Benefits Pilot Program,” Bay Area Air Quality Management District, press release, Mar. 26, 2014)

320px Emeryville Amtrak station November 200511 300x103 One air regulatory district works to lessen air impact from work commute
Smart Growth, Emeryville, Calif., style

From this one effort alone, will the San Francisco Bay Area commute become less congested and encumbered than what is currently the case and if so, will air quality, which for all intents and purposes is already pretty good, improve even more as a result? I think there is promise here. Important to note also is that the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) rail commuter service is slated to be up and running (rolling, actually) between Santa Rosa and San Rafael and possibly to Larkspur by 2016, which should serve to provide even more benefit.

If successful, there is potential for the “Commuter Benefits Program” and other effective strategies to serve as models. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Image at top: NASA

To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 2: Trains, planes

In “To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: Trucks,” discussion was limited with a focus on California’s San Joaquin Valley. In Part 2, I have elected to keep content more general.

A brief review

What was presented in Part 1 is that in 2007 – just prior to the burst housing bubble and Great Recession – that 92 percent of all moving goods in the Valley whether “inbound,” “outbound,” “intra-regional” or “interregional,” is drayed – handled by truck, in other words. Stated alternately, what this means is, in California’s heartland, better than nine freight-tons-in-10 moved, traveled by truck. It follows then that this trend mirrors that of this nation’s as a whole. And it does.

Diesel smoke1 238x300 To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 2: Trains, planesThat California’s numbers in this regard resemble those nationally is not surprising. But, how cargo is moved and the relationship between the truck, train, plane and watercraft modes that are employed to satisfy that objective can make all the difference in the world in terms of the impact this could have on an area’s air quality.

Serving as a representative example, of all locations throughout the United States, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the ones most impacted by poor air quality. The region is in extreme non-attainment for both the national and California eight-hour ozone health standards of 75 and 70 parts per billion, respectively, and it is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air for both the national and state annual ambient air quality health standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution. For purposes of the Valley in meeting the daily health standard for PM 2.5, the standard is 20 micrograms per cubic meter. And the basis for my asking in Part 1 in concluding: “Can more of this freight be transferred to and hence moved by air or rail?”

The distribution pie

Domestically, in 2012, trucks moved 12.973 billion tons; trains 1.855 billion tons; and planes 3 million tons. Add in export and import lading, trucks carried 13.182 billion tons; trains 2.018 billion tons; and planes 15 million tons.1 This compares to the 12.587 billion U.S. tons transported by truck; the 1.745 billion tons by train; and the 3 million tons by plane five years earlier. Total hauled then with imports and exports added in is: 12.778 billion tons – truck; 1.9 billion tons – train; and 13 million tons – plane.2

Meanwhile, some pointed facts:

“In 2013, railroads moved a ton of freight an average of 473 miles on a single gallon of fuel,” emphasizes the Association of American Railroads (AAR) on its Web site.

Train 300x207 To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 2: Trains, planesBut here’s the kicker: “If just 10 percent of long-distance freight that currently moves by highway switched to rail, national fuel savings would approach one billion gallons a year and greenhouse gas emissions would fall by more than 10 million tons,” the AAR insists.

Keeping this in mind, should freight moving inside the U.S. be more evenly distributed? In other words, should trains and planes be afforded more modal share?

Working through logistical complexities

As much as I believe many of America’s residents health-wise would benefit from less of modal-share dominance by trucking, working through the particulars of putting more cargo on trains and planes is far easier said than done.

320px APM Terminals WJ Grimes1 300x208 To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 2: Trains, planesIn large part, containers and trailers that can be hauled by truck also can be shipped via train. But compared to truck moves, trailer/container transport by train has its limitations. Whereas a truck tractor-trailer operator can deliver door-to-door a trailer from shipper to customer directly, that same flexibility with regard to the transport of trailers or containers by train is not afforded many a locomotive engineer via a train move. On the other hand, direct door-to-door rail service can be had, but required would be a different rail-borne conveyance to do the trick, such as utilizing a coal-hopper car to get coal from loading facility to, say, for example, a utility where such would be unloaded.

Then there is the matter of railroad track capacity and right now things in this regard are tight. I wrote about this in: “Should American freight/passenger rail go their separate ways?” and “Cutting delay on track: Enhanced safety system could improve railway operations, air quality.”

Meanwhile, back on Nov. 27, 2013 I posted “West-to-Midwest rail refrigerated service kick-off set for 2014.” In that post I referenced the Dec. 2013 Vegetable Growers News edition and VGN correspondent Terri Morgan who related a number of key (insightful) points.

I went on to write: “Morgan opens the article as follows: ‘McKay TransCold and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) have joined forces to expedite refrigerated boxcar shipping from California’s Central Valley to the Midwest. The TransCold Express train service will begin running in early 2014 and will provide vegetable and fruit growers another option for transporting fresh and frozen product.’”

Two paragraphs later I related, “‘[a]nother option,’ of course, in this case being transportation that’s rail-based. Freight-lading transference this way will undoubtedly result in fewer over-the-road truck moves and that spells important and greater environmental benefits such as the reduction in air pollution coupled to the moving of refrigerated freight in question in this manner.

“‘Each boxcar is expected to hold 3.4 to 4.2 truckloads, meaning each train will have the capacity to transport about 200 truckloads of produce,’ Morgan reported.”

And certainly last but by no means least, in the next paragraph it was pointed out that there was discussion afoot, revolving around the potential of using compressed natural gas (CNG) powered trucks – an environmentally friendly way to ship – on both ends in the complete west-coast-hub-to-train-to-Midwest-hub produce delivery operation.

My presumption of the way the entire process would work is as follows:

Produce from the Central Valley farm field(s) in question would be trucked to an area hub for further processing. There the produce would be loaded into refrigerated trailers where a truck tractor powered by CNG would transfer that commodity to the appropriate rail yard in the vicinity where such would be off-loaded from the trailers and loaded into waiting refrigerated boxcars. Once this process is completed, a train of these boxcars would be expedited to the appropriate and corresponding Midwest rail yard where the identical process would be repeated; though in reverse order – the difference, of course, being that from the Midwest located hub, instead of the produce in question returning to the farm, it would be delivered to market making it available for purchase.

The key point here is that instead of the entire west-coast-to-Midwest move being accomplished via truck, the middle or long-distance portion of the haul is fulfilled by rail. There is therefore overall fuel savings and considerably lower emissions produced in the process.

Taking flights

When it comes to using aircraft to satisfy the intermediate move, I see the operation being little different. What is no doubt different is the freight moved. I see aircraft being more geared toward shipping packaged goods and less geared toward handling bulk commodities.

My take is for given tonnages of freight to be moved fewer airplanes versus trucks would be needed. And like in the truck-train-truck scenario above, there would be fewer emissions released into the air during the entire origin-to-destination shipping operation.

On balance

When transportation is looked at in its totality, what it all boils down to is getting the greatest return (read: “benefit”), using the least amount of energy expended. Each and every mode can play a pivotal part and has a role to play. It’s a matter of finding the correct formula. The economics must work out as well. This is how I see it.


  1. Freight Facts and Figures 2013,” U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “Table 2-1. Weight of Shipments by Transportation Mode: 2007, 2012, and 2040,” p. 3.
  2. Ibid

Bottom image above: William J. Grimes

To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: Trucks

In any area with pernicious air pollution, you would think those living with such would be moved to do what they themselves can do to help in its reduction. I live in such a region – California’s San Joaquin Valley – and I, among a cohort of conscientious, concerned and interested area denizens, are actively involved in finding and implementing remedies to combat this area’s dreadfully dirty and unhealthful air.

360px CBX Parkchester 6 jeh1 e1371323265825 To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: TrucksFor me, personally, I felt a good place to start was to become more informed by reading about the issue from a variety of sources; not just in the local newspaper when articles or special installments on the matter ran. On Oct. 25, 2008, I attended locally what was called the “Transportation Energy and Fuels Forum” at Fresno City College, of which a principal topic of discussion was air pollution. Add to this the step I took to lower my own impact on air: trading in my air-polluting, gas-powered lawn mower for an electric model equipped with a rechargeable battery. Related to this, I wait for days when air is relatively clean and temperature relatively cool to mow. The two often go hand-in-hand.

The Valley, home to more than 10 percent of the Golden State’s 38,000,000-people population and covering an area of over 24,000 square miles, is, in effect, a bowl, bounded by mountains on the east, south and west. When there is wind it typically blows in from the northwest often carrying in it dust, dirt and other debris – pollution, in other words. The San Joaquin Valley (SJV), because of its unique topography and meteorology, makes it an ideal ozone (smog) and particle-pollutant trap. It is important to note asthma in this region is especially problematic with at least one-in-six children being affected.

According to SJV air-basin officials, mobile sources contribute 80 percent of the area’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Transport is a major contributor to air pollution in the region.

Understanding this, I seek to know more about the makeup of transportation in the Valley and for good reason, as in: If the mix of transportation – especially as it pertains to the movement of goods – can be altered in such a way so as to significantly reduce NOx and other harmful emissions while not compromising in any way, shape or form local economies, then shouldn’t such effort be pursued? I, for one, think such should be absolutely.

So, where did I look? A couple of places.

What I found.

For starters, just for NOx alone, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in its Board Meeting Minutes for June 21, 2007 on page 3 stipulated: “With mobile source emissions constituting 80% of the Valley’s total NOx emissions, the bulk of the necessary emissions reduction must come from state and federal control measures for mobile sources. These measures will include more stringent tail-pipe standards for new on-road and off-road mobile sources, and regulations designed to accelerate the deployment of newer, cleaner engines.” Again, this was back in 2007.

So, for relevant perspective, in 2007, what was freight movement in the Valley like? For this, I consulted the “San Joaquin Valley Interregional Goods Movement Plan, Task 4: Commodity Flow Profile Technical Memorandum.”1

What I learned.

That year, a total of 425,306,232 tons of freight was moved by truck that either originated or terminated or both originated and terminated (an “intra-regional” movement) in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.2 The breakdown: 90,785,933 tons were “outbound”; 109,783,686 tons were “inbound”; and 224,736,613 tons were “intra-regional”.3

Moreover, in total freight distribution terms for the Valley in 2007, a total of 463,198,141 tons of freight was moved by all modes (i.e. truck, rail, air and water) that originated, terminated or that both originated and terminated in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.4 The breakdown: 101,742,937 tons were “outbound”; 136,408,919 tons were “inbound”; and 225,046,285 tons were “intra-regional”.5 Left over – or about 36,801,859 tons of freight in the Valley in 2007 – was through freight. In all in the Valley in 2007, close to 500 million tons of inbound, outbound, intra-regional and through freight total was transported.6

Meanwhile, rail accounted for roughly eight percent; water and air representing less than 1 percent each.7

As plain as day based on the numbers presented, it is clear to see that the bulk of the freight moving through, or either originating or terminating or both originating and terminating in the eight-county Valley is via truck. That much is clear.

Can more of this freight be transferred to and hence moved by air or rail? This aspect is to be explored in Part 2.


  1. “San Joaquin Valley Interregional Goods Movement Plan, Task 4: Commodity Flow Profile Technical Memorandum, prepared for San Joaquin Valley Regional Transportation Planning Agencies, prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc., with The Tioga Group, Inc., Fehr & Peers, Jock O’Connell,” June 2012
  2. Ibid, “Figure 3.4 Inbound, Outbound, and Intra-regional Truck Commodity Distribution (Percentages are of Non-through Flows) – 2007,” p. 3-6
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid, “Figure 1.2 Tonnage Distribution in the SJV by Direction (Non-through Flows), 2007,” p. 1-3
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid, p. 1-1
  7. Ibid, “Figure 1.1 Tonnage Distribution in the SJV by Mode, 2007,” p. 1-2

The Valley’s newest wood-burning rule: more health-protective or what?!

In approximately six weeks, according to Mark Grossi in The Fresno Bee, a new, more healthful particulate matter standard is going to be implemented in California’s eight county San Joaquin Valley.

Lowering the standard to 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air and making it more protective of human health; that, right there, is fantastic news! Or, so it would seem.

Lowering the 24-hour or daily fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) standard to a more healthful 20 micrograms per cubic meter, you would think, is a good move. That’s a full 10 micrograms down from the prior Valley standard. But as it were this so-called “standard adjustment” comes with its own set of conditions.

The rule is complex, according to Grossi. And what with the San Joaquin Valley’s fine particulate matter problem being among this nation’s worst, for me, personally, I am not so sure this new rule makes sense. I’ll explain.

If you remember from my earlier post “Tighter restrictions on wood-burning in Valley could make for cleaner winter air,” I spelled out the specifics as to how the rule could work.

“The air district may decide to tighten wood-burning restrictions making it illegal to burn wood in either a fireplace or woodstove whenever PM 2.5 concentrations are expected to rise above the 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter-of-air level. The exception: for those with federally certified wood-burning appliances and for residents whose living spaces lack a connection to a natural gas line and therefore rely on a wood-fire for heat instead, for both, under the proposed new rule, via a special permit, wood-burning above the daily 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter level up to 65 micrograms per cubic meter inclusive would be allowed. Above 65 micrograms, all burning would be prohibited.”

I also mentioned that “In the Valley during wintertime … as much as 30 percent of fine particulate pollution can be tied to wood-burning activity.”

It is helpful to know just what source is contributing what amount of Valley PM 2.5.

To learn this I consulted the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s “Report to the Community 2013-14 Edition.” In the Valley, 13 percent of annual PM 2.5 emissions comes from “fireplaces and woodstoves” while an additional six percent comes from “cooking including charbroiling.”1

Okay, let’s look at this new rule in the practical sense. In “More on AQI and daily Valley wood-burning standard up for vote,” I brought to bear that the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM 2.5 (particulate matter pollution smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. I also pointed out that when Air Quality Index for fine particulate matter reaches a level of at least 101, the standard is exceeded, at which point the result is unhealthy air quality.

It is not too difficult to imagine at least one potential outcome.

Case in point: Should there be days when the NAAQS for PM 2.5 reaches 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air, a level that is unhealthy for sensitive groups or individuals and therefore results in an exceedance, not only would the new 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter standard for PM 2.5 be exceeded, but so too would be the Valley’s former daily threshold of 30 micrograms as well as the federal standard. Understanding the health implications, it is still okay to fire up the Valley air-district-registered, federally certified wood-burning appliance?! Excuse my asking, but what is the air district’s thinking behind establishing a more stringent PM 2.5 standard that is more protective of public health, but then to give the so-called compliant certified wood-burning appliance owners license to skirt the new rule – up to a point, that is (in this case the 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air limit) – what’s up with that?!

Those going the way of the far cleaner-burning appliances, when these are in use and assuming their use is in place of the far more commonplace fireplaces and woodstoves, won’t they still be producing and releasing into the air soot, specks and chemicals, albeit in microscopic amounts, but still?

In fact, Grossi in no uncertain terms seemed none-too-hesitant to point out that based on study findings, of 800 Valley-based early mortalities attributable to polluted air, most are PM 2.5-caused. I presume the referenced figure, in this case 800, is an annual premature-death statistic.

It is difficult for me to comprehend why, much less accept the notion that, under the new approach, Valley residents owning the aforementioned less-polluting appliances will not be bound by the same wood-burning restrictions as their counterparts who burn wood in the far more widespread and commonly practiced way; that is, by fireplace or by woodstove. If what prompted the revised ruling is the goal of reaching attainment of the annual national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter pollution of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air and then maintaining that standard or even besting it, in adopting the version of the new rule that was adopted, I mean, does this even make sense?! To me, the thinking behind this move is counter-intuitive to say the least.


  1. Sources of Pollution, Annual PM2.5 Emissions, “Report to the Community 2013-14 Edition,” San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, p. 43

Reducing transport emissions could boost health, save trillions, study finds

A new study – A Global High Shift Scenario – from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) finds that by significantly reducing reliance on traditional motor vehicle use and substituting that with more air-friendly means of transport; namely, walking, biking and public transit, such associated benefits as saving money, curbing pollution and saving lives could be had.

Human respiratory system NIH1 340x226 Reducing transport emissions could boost health, save trillions, study findsThe ITDP and UC Davis in its “New Study: Global Shift from Cars to Mass Transit Can Save More Than US$100 Trillion and Eliminate 1,700 Megatons of CO2 Pollution by 2050” Urban Transportation Systems an Emerging Priority Ahead of UN Climate and Sustainable Development Meetings press release insist “More than $100 trillion in cumulative public and private spending, and 1,700 megatons of annual carbon dioxide (CO2)—a 40 percent reduction of urban passenger transport emissions—could be eliminated by 2050 if the world expands public transportation, walking and cycling in cities, according to a new report released by the University of California, Davis, and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy,” and then went on to assert, “Further, an estimated 1.4 million early deaths could be avoided annually by 2050 if governments require the strongest vehicle pollution controls and ultralow-sulfur fuels, according to a related analysis of these urban vehicle activity pathways by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) included in the report.”

Also in the study, calculated were 2050 CO2 levels under both “business-as-usual” and “High Shift” scenarios, according to information brought forward in the release.

“Business as usual” is just what it implies – a status quo, unchanged scenario. But, the ITDC and UC Davis in the release noted “where governments significantly increased rail and clean bus transport, especially Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and helped urban areas provide infrastructure to ensure safe walking, bicycling and other active forms of transportation,” such as through increased divestment in road-based infrastructure improvement projects in addition to those that promote automobile use; for example, parking facilities, this is some of what is involved in the referenced “High Shift” scenario.

Moreover, the study partners explained, “Under this High Shift, not only would CO2 emissions plummet, but the net financial impact of this shift would be an enormous savings over the next 35 years, covering construction, operating, vehicle and fuel-related costs.”

Key also is sustainable transportation as an economic development engine.

“‘Today and out to 2050, lower income groups will have limited access to cars in most countries under almost any scenario; improving access to modern, clean, high-capacity public transport is crucial,’ said report co-author [and UC Davis, Institute of Transportation Studies’ NextSTEPS program co-director] Lew Fulton.”

But it goes beyond just this as ITDC and UC Davis in the release further relate that over 3.2 million annual premature mortalities are directly linked to air pollution. “Exposure to vehicle tailpipe emissions is associated with increased risk of early death from cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer, as well as respiratory infections in children. Car and diesel exhaust also increases the risk of non-fatal health outcomes, including asthma and cardiovascular disease.”

For more, go here.

Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

More on AQI and daily Valley wood-burning standard up for vote

CAPCOA (the California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association) explains Air Quality Index in “Appendix A – Understanding the Air Quality Index,” in its California’s Progress Toward Clean Air – 2014 report.

Firstly, as CAPCOA notes, “The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool for reporting daily air quality levels.” A variety of colors (typically green, yellow, orange, red, purple and maroon – going from good to moderate to unhealthful for sensitive individuals or groups to unhealthful for everyone to hazardous), are employed to denote air quality condition. The AQI is an index that also makes use of a numerical scale that incorporates numbers ranging from 0 to 500. “The AQI focuses on health effects that may be experienced within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.”

Further, “[f]or particulate matter, an AQI value of 101 or higher corresponds to the 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] of 35 micrograms per cubic meter [of air] (or higher). For ground-level ozone, an AQI value of 101 or higher corresponds to the 8-hour ozone NAAQS of 75 parts per billion [parts of air],” CAPCOA emphasized.1

The way I view the above indicates to me that at an AQI level of at least 101, whether this be for PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) or ozone (O3), unhealthy air quality (or air pollution) levels (depending upon one’s point of view), have been reached. Put differently, at that level or threshold, the health standard has been exceeded.

Next, CAPCOA in the same report also brought to light “[t]he winter of 2013 was the driest year on record in California and with it came prolonged periods of air stagnation. …Three northern California Air Districts experienced an uncharacteristically large number of days in which fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) concentrations exceeded the national standards.”2

The San Joaquin Valley among a referenced three Air Districts that also include the (San Francisco) Bay Area and Sacramento, had by far, the most exceedance days – 38, as compared to the Bay Area’s 12 and Sacramento’s 15.3

And, related to this, CAPCOA added, “In December 2012, the U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] made the annual PM2.5 standard more stringent, reducing the standard from 15 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The only air basins in the state that do not meet this new annual standard are the South Coast AQMD [Air Quality Management District], San Joaquin Valley APCD [Air Pollution Control District], and Imperial County APCD.”4

Thirdly, with winter and PM 2.5 from wood-burning activity in mind, one air district (San Joaquin Valley) is contemplating adopting a more strict daily PM 2.5 standard.

Fireplace Burning1 More on AQI and daily Valley wood burning standard up for vote  As it relates, not even a month ago, in “Tighter restrictions on wood-burning in Valley could make for cleaner winter air,” I remarked: “In the Valley during wintertime, and being that as much as 30 percent of fine particulate pollution can be tied to wood-burning activity, still, as of this writing the decision to tighten wood-burning restrictions to the more healthful 20-micrograms-per-cubic-meter standard is still very much up in the air. The 30-micrograms-per-cubic-meter-of-air standard (a Valley air district standard), is applied on a 24-hour basis.”

Well, tomorrow, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is scheduled to take up the issue at its Sept. 18th Governing Board Meeting. This is reflected in Item No. 7 on the Governing Board Meeting Agenda. Discussion gets underway at 9 a.m.

Will a more healthful daily PM 2.5 standard be adopted?

I plan to report back with an update soon.


  1. California’s Progress Toward Clean Air – 2014, “Appendix A – Understanding the Air Quality Index,” California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association (CAPCOA), p. 34
  2. Ibid, “The Climate Change Challenge,” p. 3
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid, “Tougher Air Quality Standards,” p. 6

Can, will California’s GHG emissions drop to 1990 levels by 2020?

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) in the document: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition)” proclaimed: “The California Legislature and Governor took significant steps to address the concerns raised about climate change, with the passage and signing of the Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, 2006).” The ARB went on to state: “AB 32 set a target to reduce California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by year 2020. In addition, the Governor signed Executive Order S-3-05 to further require California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below the 1990 levels by year 2050 (EO, 2005).”1

In the ARB staff report: “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” meanwhile, released to the public Nov. 16, 2007, in section III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, the agency pointed out: “The statewide 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level of 427 MMTCO2e [million metric tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent] is based on the net amount of greenhouse gases emitted to and removed from the air. The gross statewide emissions in 1990 were 433 MMTCO2e with forestry sinks offsetting approximately 7 MMTCO2e, resulting in net emissions to the atmosphere of approximately 427 MMTCO2e.”2

A few facts

Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information data reveals that in 1990, California’s population was 23.6679 million and in a grand total of 16.8731 million motor vehicles, 15.6687 million Golden State motorists racked up 156 billion miles.

Meanwhile, in 2010, the same source shows California’s population to be 37.3494 million people, and of that total approximately 64 percent – or 23.7534 million – drive. In addition, indications are there were 31.0141 million registered California motor vehicles and vehicle travel miles totaled 322.849 billion. In two decades, while the number of in-state drivers increased by almost 66 percent, vehicle travel miles more than doubled.

So, this brings this discussion to GHG emissions comparing years 1990 to 2010 and 2012.

In-state-produced GHG emissions by sector (in percent):

  • Transportation – 35
  • Industrial – 24
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 14
  • Agriculture – 5
  • Residential – 7
  • Commercial – 3

(Percentages above for 1990)3

  • Transportation – 38.4
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 10.4
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 7.9
  • Residential – 7.1
  • Commercial – 4.7

(Percentages above for 2010)4

  • Transportation – 37.3
  • Industrial – 21.9
  • Electricity generation (in-state) – 11.2
  • Electricity generation (imports) – 9.6
  • Agriculture – 8.3
  • Residential – 6.9
  • Commercial – 4.8

(Percentages above for 2012)5

Finally, regarding state gross per-capita emissions, the trend overall since 2000 has been negative.

“Per capita emissions from industrial, transportation and electricity generation (in-state) have decreased from 2000 to 2012, with a 22 percent decrease in the 2012 in-state electricity generation per capita emissions from 2000. The per capita comparison is a useful metric for emissions evaluation because it shows that emissions have not grown consistently with population, indicating that energy conservation may have led to significant emission reductions,” the ARB noted.6

Please understand that gross greenhouse gas emissions went from 453.1 MMTCO2e in 2010 to 458.7 MMTCO2e in 2012 – an increase.7

On the horizon

To reduce California’s GHG emissions output to 1990 levels of 427 MMTCO2e from 2010 and 2012 levels would result in a reduction of 26.1 MMTCO2e and 31.7 MMTCO2e, or a decrease of 5.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

All things considered, can and will California achieve the 2020 target of 427 MMTCO2e? Based on current trends, it won’t be impossible but whether or not it happens, remains to be seen.

Stay tuned.


  1. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 1
  2. III. Overview of the Development of the 1990 Emissions Level, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 2
  3. Figure 2. 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, “California 1990 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level and 2020 Emissions Limit,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Nov. 16, 2007, p. 6
  4. Table 2. Recent Trends in California Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Inventory Economic Sectors, “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 12
  5. Ibid
  6. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012 (2014 Edition),” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, p. 25
  7. Ibid, p. 9

On the move: A quarter-million electric vehicles and growing

So … since Sept. 15th to the 21st this year is “National Drive Electric Week,” I decided I wanted to investigate electric vehicle numbers and operation in the broader context of total vehicle numbers and operation.

In my previous post: “Thoughts on ‘National Drive Electric Week’,” and echoing what Plug In America had first so-declared in its Aug. 26, 2014 press release: “Record Number of Cities Observe 4th Annual National Drive Electric Week,” what I wrote was: “‘… Just as U.S. plug-in vehicle sales are expected to reach their first quarter-million mark, cities will offer one-day activities or observe the celebration’s entire week, organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.’”

And, lo and behold, just 15 days after the group released its Aug. 26th release, a more recent press release making a Sept. 10, 2014 debut, in effect announced the sale of the two-hundred-and-fifty-thousandth electric vehicle (EV).

That it is what it is, at the end of the day and in the grand scheme of things, what does a quarter-million EVs on America’s roads or one-tenth of one percent of all on-road motor vehicles really tell us?

In looking at the amount of annual fuel required to provide for in excess of 2.97 trillion yearly vehicle travel miles, assuming an arbitrary average 17 miles per gallon (mpg) vehicle fuel economy rating, and using a per-capita yearly vehicle miles traveled average of 9,363, the two multiplied together yields an average per-annum, per-vehicle gasoline consumption rate of about 550 gallons. So, with 253 million motor vehicles logging in a single year close to 3 trillion miles, this more or less means a whopping cumulative total 174.71 billion gallons of fuel that autos and trucks traveling America’s highways and byways are sipping and gulping each year.

Now imagine a nationwide average auto mpg fuel economy rating of 22.5 (effectively a 33 percent improvement). This would result in annual net fuel consumption weighing in instead at 132 billion gallons, a savings of roughly 43 billion gallons.

Considering a nationwide average per gallon fuel price of $3.47, at that cost, over a year, gas collectively would cost American drivers $458.04 billion.

EV use by the numbers

Besting that, of course, is an EV’s fuel economy rating. To determine fuel-consumption equivalency, using my own cost for electricity or an average of $0.17 per kilowatt-hour ($0.17/kWh) based on my charges from Jul. 12-Aug. 12, 2014, say, for example, that to go 100 EV miles requires 25 kWh worth of battery charge (an estimate) and, providing I drove an EV, my cost would be $4.25.

Now, also, say, for example, the fuel-economy rating of the vehicle I do drive is 22.5 mpg, to go a hundred miles this would require 4.44 gallons of gasoline. At a cost of $3.47 per gallon, to drive that same distance would set me back $15.41 – nearly four times as much. If I were the typical driver, and to drive the average 9,363 per-capita vehicle travel miles, over a year’s time my car would consume 416.13 gallons of gas and my expenditure just for that alone would be $1,444.00, assuming, of course, that that per-gallon of gasoline price held.

On the other hand, an EV that requires 25 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles, in driving at the average annual per-capita rate, provided I performed the math correctly, my total capital outlay for purchased electricity would come to just short of $398.00 and that’s for an entire year!

So, you can see the cost savings, although according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Office of Transportation & Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at, the typical driving range for most EVs is from 100 to 200 miles, that is, on fully charged batteries.

Fuel cost is but one factor. But being vehicle purchase cost is another matter entirely, it is important to note different discounts, rebates, tax incentives, etc. regarding EV purchases are available. And there is more on this here.

EV reality

It may be a few years yet before the number of EVs on the road reaches a million. But, their ranks are swelling and are no doubt making their presence felt. Charging stations are becoming more and more and all this is encouraging news.

Whoa, Nelly!

Before I get too excited too quickly, without a commensurate increase in roadway capacity, whether accomplished via more pavement and/or improved technology and/or enhanced traffic management, more motor vehicles is more motor vehicles and absent sufficient capacity increase this could mean further traffic snarling and often tied to that, additional delay.

Emissions-free motoring is good; that and truly balanced transportation or mobility is even better.

EdisonElectricCar19131 On the move: A quarter million electric vehicles and growing
Electric car from Edison

Thoughts on ‘National Drive Electric Week’

Beginning Sept. 15th, and all throughout “National Drive Electric Week,” motorists are invited to take an electric-car test-drive.

But wait. Don’t those in charge know that there are in the U.S. a quarter-billion motor vehicles and that those 250 million (autos and trucks) – roughly three motor vehicles for every four citizens – on average, are idled (parked) 23 hours a day and that those planning to take one (or more) purely electric vehicles (EV) out for an emissions-free test spin will show up in, what else?!, gas-gulping, smoke-coughing driving machines?

And, just what is the point of this now time-tested endeavor?

Here is what Plug In America in its Aug. 26, 2014 “Record Number of Cities Observe 4th Annual National Drive Electric Week” press release made clear:

“A record number of cities—over 115 in 35 states and abroad—will observe National Drive Electric Week, Sept. 15-21, 2014. The annual event is designed to showcase the fun, convenience, clean-air benefits and cost-savings of electric vehicles through ride-and-drives and related activities taking place from Hawaii to Vermont.

“National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day) has quadrupled in size since its 2011 launch. It is expected to draw at least 35,000 attendees this year. Many cities are participating for the first time and others are going on their fourth consecutive year. Just as U.S. plug-in vehicle sales are expected to reach their first quarter-million mark, cities will offer one-day activities or observe the celebration’s entire week, organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association.”

Today, as I see it, “National Drive Electric Week” is, at its very core, an electric-vehicle-driving promotional plug. Tomorrow, who knows how broad and to what extent the promotion will be.

Aiming to get people behind the wheel and at the controls under the direction of existing EV owners, “National Drive Electric Week events target people who have never driven EVs and offer ride-and-drives in every plug-in on the market. Events—all of them free—take place in nature centers, at air quality management districts, state capitals, town squares and other venues,” Plug In America explained.

For much more on this week-long event, go here.