The Top 5: London & Paris Mayors Start an “Air’Volution”

03.30.17 | Blog | By:

Happy Thursday friends!  Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in future fuels and vehicles trends over the last week:

  1. Tightening the Screws on Real World Vehicle Emissions: London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo are starting an “Air’Volution”, announcing the Clean Vehicle Checker program which will allow consumers 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 in London. Other cities are expected to follow. ICCT will be the technical lead on the project.
  2. A New Proposal to Tackle Fuel 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. The proposal would do three things: regulate expected fuel consumption/GHG emissions directly, use data to estimate a vehicle’s lifetime fuel consumption/ GHG emissions and create a robust cap-and-trade market to reduce compliance costs. Interesting proposal, but likely a non-starter in the Trump Administration.
  3. Alternative Aviation Fuels: U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (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.” The report discusses results and recommendations from a stakeholder workshop held last year.
  4. CO2 in the U.S. Decreased in All Sectors but Transport: According to the 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. Since the late 1990s, the transportation sector has produced the most CO2 emissions of the four major end-use sectors.
  5. Impact of Ethanol on Habitats: Millions of acres of wildlife habitat have been lost to corn production across America’s heartland in recent years and the damage is worst nearest ethanol production plants, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The study found nearly 4.2 million acres of habitat, generally prairie grasslands, converted to crops within 100 miles of an ethanol plant between 2008 and 2012 alone.

1. Mayor of London: Mayor Unveils New Cleaner Vehicle Checker Scheme

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:

  • Help people make an informed choice and minimize the number of ‘more polluting’ vehicles being bought and used in London.
  • Help consumers recognize the environmental benefits of switching to zero or ultra-low emission vehicles and encourage their purchase.
  • Encourage manufacturers to produce vehicles that conform to the EU’s full “real-world driving” emissions’ standards much sooner than when legally required by 2021.
  • Provide a free “health check” service to London fleet operators to understand how their current fleet performs and where significant improvements could be made.
  • Create a tool to allow the Greater London Authority Group and local authorities to lead by example and only buy or lease the cleanest vehicles.

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:

  • The mayor of London should incorporate a vision and framework for new transport technologies into the Mayor’s Transport Strategy in which shared transport and digital technology are able to realise their potential in driving positive transport outcomes. This framework should include:
    • An urgent audit of new mobility markets and their potential and future effects upon key transport-related outcomes.
    • A set of overall positive outcomes for London’s transport system, and how each new service and mode can contribute to support the uptake of more sustainable travel behaviours.
    • The rapid development of an explicit framework for new mobility markets, in collaboration with operators of new mobility services.
    • The provision of guidelines for public bodies and private operators on how to best gain from new mobility markets and work within the new market framework.
  • Car clubs should be a key part of the mayor’s vision for London’s transport system and so the Mayor’s Transport Strategy should include measures for how car clubs can help achieve key transport objectives.
  • Transport for London (TfL) (the city government regulatory body) and boroughs should work with operators to develop borough-by-borough agreements to enable car club development.
  • The mayor should mandate TfL to investigate the potential for a smart charging system and an integrated road pricing scheme in London.
  • The mayor should introduce a new market framework for EV charging networks in London, including regulation to ensure their proper functionality, ubiquity, interoperability and fair access to mobility operators and users.

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.”

2. The Hamilton Project et al.: The Next Generation of Transportation Policy

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.

3. U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO): Alternative Aviation Fuels: Overview of Challenges, Opportunities, and Next Steps

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.

4. EIA: U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2015

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.

5. Environmental Research Letters: Recent Grassland Losses Are Concentrated around U.S. Ethanol Refineries

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.