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Fast-Forward: What the New Fuel Economy Standard Will Mean to You

Talking turkey: 54.5 MPG = Another $17 in your pocket this weekend

Kimberly Ayers

This morning's commute, 405 North, Los Angeles

If we all were driving cars that averaged the newly announced federal standard for fuel efficiency, Californians would save $34.9 million this Thanksgiving weekend. At least, those are the numbers from a report released today In Culver City by Environment California. That $17 per family spells another four holiday pies or a few more lattes on the way home. Put that slice of information on your Christmas list — not for this year but for 2025. Even with the usual exemptions and provisions, the new standard announced by the Obama administration would still effectively almost double the average gas mileage for a carmaker’s fleet in those 14 years. Continue reading

California Stakes Out New Ground with its Latest Fuel Standard

The White House proposes a strict new national fuel standard, but California still leads the way

Craig Miller

On Wednesday, just as the Obama Administration proposed strict new fuel efficiency standards for 2017-2025-model cars and light trucks, the California Air Resources Board leapfrogged Washington with its own package of regulations designed to further reduce emissions from passenger vehicles.

The proposed “Advanced Clean Cars” regulations package has four components, including a greenhouse gas emissions standard that matches the new federal one, which isn’t surprising since California played a key role in drafting the new federal proposal. Continue reading

Central Valley Faces “Smart Growth” Conundrum

How “smart” is it if you can’t walk to the store…any store?

Jefferson Beavers

Reporter Sasha Khokha hits the road.

By Jefferson Beavers

When we decided to take a look at smart growth in the Central Valley, we wanted to see if the goal of compact, walkable living was a realistic option for the largely suburban, car-loving communities of central California.

So, Central Valley bureau chief Sasha Khokha decided to get out of her car, put on her walking shoes, and burn some shoe leather…almost literally.

As the story’s field producer, I first researched dozens of developments in Fresno and Madera counties. I looked for good examples of high-density housing and sustainable neighborhoods as defined by the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, the area’s land use and transportation planning process. Continue reading

Brown Praises Tougher Federal Fuel Standards

Craig Miller

Fifteen years from now, the average car in the United States must get nearly 55 miles to the gallon,  according to new fuel-efficiency standards proposed Friday by the Obama Administration.  That’s a sharp increase from the current requirement that vehicles average 34.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

California officials, environmental groups, and automakers are praising the new rules, which would require  a fleet-wide average for cars and light trucks of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

On a call with reporters today, Governor Jerry Brown called the new regulations, “probably the brightest light I’ve seen in Washington in many a month, if not years.” Continue reading

California Likely to “Suffer Most,” Says Study

Photo: Craig Miller

California is likely to suffer more than any other state from worsening air pollution due to climate change by the end of the decade, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report finds that in 2020, “climate change-induced ozone increases” could result in nearly half a million additional cases of “serious respiratory illnesses” and add more than $729 million to the state’s health care costs. Continue reading

What Shade of Green is Your Ride?

New Car Labels Emphasize Emissions and Savings

Coming to a showroom near you: a new fuel economy sticker for an electric vehicle. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)

Buy a gas guzzler and you might discover a new form of “sticker shock.”

Cars and trucks sitting on dealership lots will soon have a new fuel economy sticker in the window. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency released newly-designed labels that emphasize environmental performance for conventional and electric cars.

The label might seem familiar to California drivers. In 2008, the state released its own environmental impact sticker for new cars. It rates a car’s smog and greenhouse gas emissions on a scale of one to ten.

The new national label follows California’s lead and incorporates the same rating system. But for the first time, it will also display the annual fuel cost for a vehicle, comparing it to an average vehicle over five years. Continue reading

Tackling Greenhouse Gases from Cars

Photo: Craig Miller

California’s regional planning authorities need to find new ways to get people to leave their cars at home.

Passenger vehicles are the single largest source of greenhouse gases in California, comprising one third of all the state’s emissions.  Senate Bill 375, passed in 2008, is designed to chip away at those emissions by curbing sprawl and encouraging infrastructure that gets Californians to drive less — or at least, not as far.

This week the state Air Resources Board met a milestone (so to speak) in the implementation of the law by sending to California’s 18 regional planning organizations, greenhouse gas reduction targets for cars and light trucks .  Now it will be up to the regions to create their own strategies for linking land use and transportation planning in ways that lure Californians out of their cars. Continue reading

Linking Sprawl and Climate Change

Mark Strozier

(Photo: Mark Strozier)

Transportation is the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. So in a state where car culture rules, what will it take to get us out of our cars?

That’s the goal behind SB 375, a bill passed in 2008 that links greenhouse gases to urban sprawl. Under this first-in-the-nation policy, the state’s 18 regional planning organizations must reduce the emissions coming from vehicles through land use and transportation planning. This week, the Air Resources Board is expected to release the draft emission reduction targets that the agencies must meet by 2020 and 2035.

While the chances of getting Californians out of their cars completely are slim, the idea is to reduce the number of miles traveled through more public transit, more “walkable” communities and denser development. (Learn more about that in this Quest story about transit villages).

According to a report released today, that development approach can have some dramatic benefits, considering how California is expected to grow. By 2050, some projections put the population at 60 million, adding seven million new households.

The planning firm Calthorpe Associates looked at those housing needs and ran a number of growth scenarios, in a study funded by the California Strategic Growth Council and California High Speed Rail Authority. They compared a business-as-usual approach of low-density suburbs (30% urban and compact growth) to a “growing smart” scenario with more urban in-fill and transit-oriented development (90% urban and compact growth). While that last scenario may sound like the land of endless condos, according to Peter Calthorpe, it would still be 53% single family homes. Calthorpe calls it “a shift back to what California used to build–bungalows.”

Here are some of the benefits they found for the scenario by 2050:

  • Reduces the number of vehicle miles traveled  by nearly 3.7 trillion
  • Saves more than $194 billion in capital infrastructure costs
  • Saves 19 million acre-feet of water
  • Prevents the release of 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 25% less than business-as-usual
  • Saves California households $6,400 per year in auto-related costs and utility bills.

In-fill development can often cost more than low-density development and this report doesn’t take housing prices into account. Indeed, costs may be one of the biggest challenges for SB 375, since both the state and cities are facing budget crises  and a lull in the housing market.

Under the bill, state transportation funding will be prioritized for projects that meet the SB 375 goals. But according to Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments (one of the regional organizations doing the planning), financial incentives will be key to reaching the goals. “I think the biggest challenge is to find incentives to help cities, because cities want to do this, but they don’t have the resources to do it without help,” he said.