San Joaquin Valley could meet EPA’s newest ozone standard in 2037, if …

The Editorial Board of The Fresno Bee (in a Dec. 26, 2015 editorial) stated that for California’s entire San Joaquin Valley (all 24,000 or so square miles, presumably) to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest ozone standard – set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) of air (an improvement from the previous standard of 75 ppb) – this will require the whole region, transportation-wise, to become fully “electrified”; in essence, apparently, echoing a declaration originally made by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (air district). The Valley has until 2037 to meet the standard.

320px-Acela_Express_and_Metro-North_railcar[1]As to the “electrified” qualifier, what does this mean, exactly? What it means is that motor vehicles (cars, trucks, buses) plus tractors and trains must be all-electric or so it would appear.

And, whereas most other locales throughout the country from all indications will, by 2025, have nary any difficulty in complying with EPA’s updated rule, the Valley, on the other hand, is getting a reprieve in the form of an extension. Also according to the Editorial Board as presented in the Bee, the Valley has so far failed to meet the older, less-health-protective ozone standard. This doubtless is the reason for the pardon.

The Board in the op-ed then goes on to talk about incentives – mentioning that as much as $13,000 in grants can be had if used toward the purchase of a new fully-electric automobile (and, presumably, this applies to light-duty trucks too), this, for the typical consumer intending to purchase, that is. Meanwhile, for those whose incomes are low and who are driving what are referred to as “gross-polluting vehicles,” they may be able to quality for as much as $22,500 in federal, state and air district incentives, according to the Bee Board.

Noble as each of these incentives may be, keep in mind that currently, registered motor vehicles in California number around 32 million (a much more conservative estimate puts the number at 27 million).

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]As it relates, “Meanwhile, ‘Governor Jerry Brown issued an Executive Order in March 2012 calling for 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on California roadways by 2025,’ the [California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board] added,” as it appeared word-for-word in “Program helps lower-income families make less-polluting travel a more likely outcome.”

To paint a clearer picture of just what this means, say the number of in-state motor vehicles operating on state roadways in a decade is 30 million. One-and-a-half million vehicles represents but 5 percent of the statewide total. Making the assumption that the Valley’s share would be roughly 10 percent of that at most, then what we’re looking at is about 150,000 zero-emissions vehicles tops.

As for the other modes, starting with buses (school, transit, paratransit), sure, these could be comprehensively replaced as well, but at what financial cost and the money to fund such a changeover, from where is this going to come? The same for semi-truck-trailer tractor replacements. And, where rail is concerned? The prospect of fully electrified train travel in the Valley will likely be realized with high-speed rail, a fast train, it should be noted, that will be supplied by electricity from 100 percent renewable sources; that is, provided the entire 800-mile project goes the distance, to use an idiomatic expression. Oh, and not to be overlooked are all the farm tractors that are part of this overall equation as well. What about them?

Regarding the total-discontinuance-of-the-burning-of-fossil-fuels-from-the-transportation-sector-in-the-Valley-by-2037 premise, for the air district, a question: Seriously?!

Image at top above: Connor Harris

– Alan Kandel