Happy Thursday friends! Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in future fuels and vehicles trends over the last week:
At a C40 event this week called “Air’volution“, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (who is also chair of C40) announced a new initiative, the Clean Vehicle Checker program. Available this fall, consumers will be able to type in the model of the new car or van they are considering buying and find out more about its actual “on the road” emissions. The mayor’s office said this will:
Other cities are likely to follow London’s lead in the Air’Volution: several other C40 cities, including Seoul, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Moscow, Oslo and Tokyo have committed to work with the group to develop a global scoring system relevant and accessible to all citizens. In an op-ed, the mayors said:
“Research has also shown that current testing schemes conceal the true levels of toxic emissions. Some diesel cars that pass the EU’s highest environmental standards in laboratory test conditions, once on the road release more nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide than a modern heavy duty truck. The schemes will help our citizens make better informed choices about the environmental impact of the cars they drive and prevent car manufacturers from exploiting loopholes in laboratory testing methods.
The mayors are hoping to inspire many more cities to take similar measures on air quality. Several other major cities, including Seoul, Moscow, Mexico City, Milan, Oslo and Tokyo have already committed to develop a global scoring system that would be accessible to all citizens. Working through the C40 network that brings together 90 of the world’s great cities to tackle climate change, they will use the more accurate data to create sustainable transport policies on the streets of cities worldwide.”
The initiative is supported by The Real Urban Emissions (TRUE) Project, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the FIA Foundation (which also houses the Global Fuel Economy Initiative), and the Joshua and Anita Bekenstein Charitable Fund. This new undertaking will capture detailed information on pollutants from vehicle exhaust using remote-sensing equipment and portable emissions monitoring systems. The ICCT will be the lead technical organizational partner managing vehicle testing and data analysis in the TRUE Project.
ICCT says that even though the European Commission’s impending Real Driving Emissions (RDE) regulation will address the issue of excessive NOx emissions in Europe, “the phase in will be slow and effectiveness limited.” The RDE will only be fully in place by January 2021, and “[i]n its likely final version, real world NOx emissions are still expected to be more than twice the regulatory limit, and three times higher than for gasoline vehicles.” as the figure below shows.
And, while labeling schemes, such as the Crit’Air program in Paris, certify vehicles’ environmental class based on pollutant emissions, are helpful in incentivizing the cleanest vehicles and banning those that emit more air pollutants, it is not enough on its own given the gap between laboratory tests and real-world emissions. ICCT notes:
“The diesel vehicle ban recently announced by Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City, along with measures to provide for public disclosure of real-world testing data on an ongoing basis, is a logical next step to bring about a needed rapid improvement in air quality.”
Meantime, TomTom recently published its annual ranking of the world’s most congested cities. London ranked #25; Paris #35. The #1 ranking went to Mexico City. Other cities in the top 10 included (in order): Bangkok, Jakarta, Chonqing, Bucharest, Istanbul, Chengdu, Rio de Janeiro, Tainan and Beijing. American cities (for those readers there who may be curious!) included: Los Angeles (#12), San Francisco (#30), New York (#49), Seattle (#53), San Jose (#65), Miami (#75), Portland (#82), Honolulu (#89) and Washington (#90). Some other European cities (for those readers there who may also be curious!) included: Marseille (#26), Rome (#27), Brussels (#37), Manchester (#39), Athens (#41), Warsaw (#42), Cologne (#56), Naples (#59), Hamburg (#62).
Returning to London, another report released in the last week by the UK’s the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recommended, among other things, that the mayor could better harness mobility services to combat air pollution and congestion. The group noted that:
And lastly, U.S. mayors aren’t about to sit on the sidelines as President Trump rolls back former President Obama’s climate agenda. Prior to Trump’s announcement of an executive order that among other provisions requires a review the Clean Power Plan, the mayors wrote a letter to Trump and in it, noted:
“As the ‘Climate Mayors’, we wrote to you during your transition asking that you work with cities on climate action — the nation’s first responders and economic hubs — and to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement commitment. Instead, we fear your Administration’s recent actions and today’ executive order will undermine America’s leadership on climate action, if not take us backwards.
We urge you to change course, and to join us. In the meantime, America’s cities will continue to lead the way in moving forward in protecting our residents from the disastrous effects of climate change, and creating a thriving 21st century economy.”
This week Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School and Michael Greenstone and Sam Ori of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago released a policy proposal discussing an alternative way of regulating fuel economy in the U.S. Read more about it here.
BETO this week released a report on the state of the alternative aviation fuels industry, noting that “biofuels are key to mitigating the growth constraints of the aviation industry. Biobased jet fuels also present a tremendous opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels towards domestically produced aviation biofuel that would further reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs, particularly in rural areas, and to advance the mission of BETO for the development of sustainable alternative fuels.” Read more about it here.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 146 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2015 to 5,259 MMmt, down 2.7% from 5,405 MMmt in 2014. This decline occurred despite growth in real GDP of 2.6% as other factors more than offset the growth in GDP. Energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015 were about 12% below 2005 levels. These factors included a decline in the carbon intensity of the energy supply (CO2/British thermal units [Btu]) of 1.8%; and a 3.4% decline in energy intensity (Btu/GDP). Of the four end-use sectors, only transportation emissions increased in 2015 (+2.1%).
Since the late 1990s, the transportation sector has produced the most CO2 emissions of the four major end-use sectors. These emissions were highest in 2007, prior to the recession, and have not returned to those levels, although they have increased since 2012. In 2015, the difference in emissions between the transportation and industrial sectors widened as transportation sector CO2 emissions increased while industrial sector CO2 emissions declined.
According to the EIA, the 2015 increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector was led by gasoline. The 28% decrease in gasoline prices (in nominal dollars) from 2014 to 2015, along with the continued economic recovery, led to higher fuel consumption. Transportation-related CO2 emissions increased by 38 MMmt (2.1%) in 2015. Gasoline accounted for 77% of the 38 MMmt increase in the transportation sector—30 MMmt, an increase of 2.8% from 2014 levels, as the figure below shows. Emissions from jet fuel, increased by about 5% (11 MMmt). Diesel fuel emissions, on the other hand, declined by 0.4% between 2014 and 2015.
NRRI and co-authors assessed changes to the landscape during initial implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) from 2008 to 2012 and found nearly 4.2 million acres of arable non-cropland converted to crops within 100 miles of refinery locations, including 3.6 million acres of converted grassland. Aggregated across all ethanol refineries, the rate of grassland conversion to cropland increased linearly with proximity to a refinery location.
Despite this widespread conversion of the landscape, recent cropland expansion could have made only modest contributions to mandated increases in conventional biofuel capacity required by RFS2. Collectively, the authors say these findings demonstrate a shortcoming in the existing “aggregate compliance” method for enforcing land protections in the RFS2 and suggest an alternative monitoring mechanism would be needed to appropriately capture the scale of observed land use changes.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Wisconsin and the National Wildlife Federation assessed satellite imagery and land classification data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine conversion rates from non-farmland into farmland in the years following passage of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. The research — funded by the National Science Foundation — found that within the 100-mile radius, wildlife habitat loss increased closer to the ethanol plant. Habitat loss decreased significantly as the distance from ethanol plants increased. The impact has been profound on populations of wildlife and birds, such as ducks and pheasants, but also pollinators such as butterflies and native, wild bees.
According to a report in Agweek, the study looked at the hotbed of ethanol plants across Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas, among other states. It found the highest conversion rates not near long-standing ethanol plants in Minnesota and Iowa but in areas where corn was a relatively new crop — generally south and west of the traditional corn range — in the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. A researcher told Agweek:
“Our analysis shows an undeniable connection between corn ethanol production and habitat destruction. This massive loss of wildlife habitat is happening under the radar of the public and many policy makers even though the impacts are enormous.”
Conversion of grassland to corn has even broader impacts than simply wildlife habitat, including global climate change. Undisturbed grasslands absorb carbon dioxide while intensive corn farming releases carbon into the atmosphere, according to the researchers.