Energy Independence Now’s (EIN) primary objective is to catalyze the transition of California, and subsequently the U.S. and world, to a sustainable transportation economy as quickly as possible.
The benefits of a sustainable transportation are tremendous. Clean air. Clean waters. Undisturbed oceans. Economic security and stability. Local jobs that cannot be outsourced.
Think about the possibility of refueling your car at home with electricity or hydrogen, and never having to change your car’s oil or wipe the smell of gasoline off of your fingertips. The first rains of the year would flush dirt, not oil residue, off of our streets and into our waterways. Rather than send billions of dollars overseas to purchase oil, our transportation dollars would pay for locally sourced energy.
This is not an imagined future; it’s an attainable one. We have zero-emission technologies available today; we just need to deploy them.
To get there, California must be a leader, as it has been in many other industries, developing a renewable energy sector, using cutting edge 21st century technology. In doing so, we will create thousands of jobs for American citizens across multiple levels and industries. We will ensure that our society can meet our needs, without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
EIN focuses its efforts on the transportation sector, with a focus in California. Why? Transportation emissions account for approximately 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, the largest sector by far. On a global scale, transport consumes a quarter of the world's energy, and accounts for approximately 25% of total GHG emissions.1 This number is only expected to increase rapidly in the near future as developing industrial giants such as China and India rely more heavily on the automobile. Moreover, local and regional air pollution, congestion in urban areas, land use for transport infrastructure building and health effects are key problems.
Why should we worry?
The expected impacts of climate change, if we don’t act now, are potentially catastrophic. Glacier melt could leave millions of people without drinking water; rising sea levels could displace millions more. As we continue to emit greenhouse gases at an alarming rate, we can expect a greater frequency of violent storms, more forest fires, the geographic expansion of disease carrying mosquitoes, and a more acidic ocean.
California is particularly vulnerable to a warming climate: up to 65% of our water supply is conveniently stored as snow in the Sierra Nevada.2 Under almost all prediction scenarios, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is predicted to melt earlier in the year, and at a faster rate, making it more difficult to capture and store the water that supports our vast agricultural lands and otherwise dry cities through the summer. In addition, rising sea levels can cause an increase in salt water intrusion into coastal aquifers, contaminating fresh water supplies.3 Potential impacts, such as reduced water supply, more severe droughts, more winter floods, and drier growing seasons will affect California’s agriculture, the number one state in cash farm receipts, and a $36.2 billion dollar industry in 2008.4
These impacts can all be minimized if human civilization, especially the developed world, can make significant changes in energy generation and use, transportation, and land use. Specifically, we need to quickly phase out all greenhouse gas emitting activities and replace them with carbon-free options.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 2 million people die premature deaths each year due to poor air quality. The impacts are greatest in our children and elderly and can cause disease such as asthma, heart problems, and lung disease.
On a global scale, zero-emissions means reduced global warming potential. On a regional scale, it means breathing clean air, less asthma, and longer, better quality lives.
Dirty Oil, Environmental Consequences
As the BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us, the procurement and distribution of petroleum carries enviornmental consequences that reach far beyond poor air quality and global warming. As long as we continue to purchase gasoline, we can expect oil spills to occur, large and small.
What kind of spills are we talking about? Over the last five decades, approximately 546 million gallons of oil have been spilled by burst or broken down pipelines into the Nigerian delta. In comparison, the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska released 11 million gallons, and damaged more that 1300 miles of coastline. Not including the ongoing spills in Nigeria, at least nine major oil spills have occured since 1969, devasting a variety of habitats.
Even day to day oil operations carry significant environmental consequences. Hundreds of abandoned, un-lined waste pits installed to capture toxic waste associated with drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon continue to leach toxics into Amazon waters. In the US, there are over 611,000 underground storage tanks that store petroleum or other hazardous materials. Over 491,000 of these tanks (80 percent) have confirmed leaks, contaminating or threatening the groundwater supplies many of our communities rely on.
These spills are just examples. A clean, sustainable transporation energy system would eliminate the risk of major spills and the realities of daily operation of our petroleum based economy.
Each year, we send billions of dollars oversees to shaky governments to bring oil to our refineries and gas stations. This money could be spent here, paying for clean energy, creating jobs, and securing America’s position as a global leader. The days of abundant, cheap, conventional oil are over. It takes technological improvement, and increasing capital and energy to extract oil from deep waters and other non-conventional sources such as tar sands or oil shale. No only are these methods expensive, they pose significant risk to the environment, as the 2010 BP deepwater rig oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico showed us.
We do not need to invest our next American dollar in unstable political regimes, nor do we need to invest in technology to help us extract a dirty 19th century fuel. Our next American dollar needs to be spent on developing and deploying clean, safe, renewable energy that will never run out and will create a sustainable domestic energy source.
To gain to energy independence, we need a diversified energy portfolio. That means generating renewable electricity, creating hydrogen from renewable sources, and developing environmentally sustainable, high-efficiency biofuels. It means using a variety of platforms to harness and utilize these energy sources or carriers. At this point, no silver bullet solution exists, but a portfolio of solutions does.
Solutions through Economics and Policy
At EIN, we believe solutions that are good for the planet and for public health can and should also be good for business. For example, since California’s adoption of AB32 (Global Warming Solutions Act), it has become a leader in the clean energy economy with the greatest number of clean tech jobs (500,000 now with 1.2 million jobs forecast by 2020) in the country. It is home to seven of the nation's top 10 clean tech companies, according to the Wall Street Journal and got more than $2.1 billion in venture capital investment in 2009 – more than half of North America’s total. In fact, green jobs in California are growing faster than jobs in any other sector.
However, the history of transportation and energy tells a different story. As our society is currently structured, it remains more profitable for car companies to sell petroleum-burning cars, and oil companies to sell oil-based products at a fraction of their true cost. Who can blame them for fighting to maintain the status quo when they have investors to answer to?
Unless and until we are able to overhaul the incentives and rewards built into our transportation system, we can expect an uphill, antagonistic battle between car suppliers and government regulators as we move toward sustainable transportation. EIN believes that if we get the incentive structure right, business will be empowered to drive this transition.
California has played a vital role in many important human health and environmental issues, and has continued to set important precedents for action at the federal level. In a similar notion, we need California to serve as a trial ground to help achieve the economies of scale necessary to bring zero-emissions drive train prices down to reasonable levels. If we don’t develop zero-emissions transportations systems to meet California’s demands of today, we can’t expect to have zero-emissions solutions available to meet the demands of the developing world tomorrow.
That is why EIN works with California state agency staff, state legislators, transit operators and vehicle manufacturers to help ensure that state policies enable businesses and consumers to facilitate a rapid transition to a clean, renewable energy and transportation economy. Ultimately, however, as the voter and consumer, you are in the drivers seat. Legislative and regulatory progress cannot be made without public support any more than companies can sell clean cars without open-minded customers. Society needs you to Take Action whenever you can.