Environment Forum

The other plan to cut car pollution? Drive less

May 21, 2009

The feds are taking on California’s plan to limit tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases and discussing the idea of low carbon fuel, but California has one other major idea to curb vehicle pollution, says the state senator who pushed through the tailpipe emissions law, Fran Pavley. The idea: drive less.

“No matter what we do on the clean car regs, with the gross of the state… and the sprawl out into the suburbs and the rural areas, we are going to be going in the wrong direction. And that’s something the federal government hopefully will eventually look at — land use,” she said by phone, when asked about next steps for vehicle pollution.

2008′s Senate Bill 375 by Darrell Steinberg set up targets for coordinated planning of transportation, land use and housing with regional reduction targets for greenhouse gases. At the time the bill passed, California was expecting its population to rise to 46 million by 2030 from 38 million.

Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

Comments
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I agree! Drive less. I live in New England and I understand during the winter you can’t bike or walk anywhere cause of snow piles. But for half the year, so many unnessary trips to place could be walked or biked. People are just lazy. I watch this lady every morning drop her kid off at school and then turn around and go back home. Distance from her house to school is like 200 YARDS! And yes its a safe nieghborhood with side walks.

Posted by Ryan | Report as abusive
 

“And that’s something the federal government hopefully will eventually look at…”

Um…how about having the entire population of California look at these issues instead?

Their excessive driving not only adds to pollution that the geography of the area traps (like as with Denver), it drives up demand, and just as I resented paying $4 a gallon to fuel my small car while the van and SUV on both sides were pumping away to help create the demand had owners smiling away in stupid bliss, I’m sick of even hearing about their self induced troubles.

Throw in water shortages thanks to having to divert so much water from other areas to a few mega cities no sane person would have located in desert areas for a population that size, having electric utilities out of state send them their needed electricity (while they have the nerve to complain if the plant emits anything from its stacks but marshmallows and steam).

Until they’re willing to address their own complicity in the situation, they should just be happy the feds can’t enforce a California ONLY tax on the things in life we all directly or indirectly subsidize for their wasteful ways.

Posted by Brian Foulkrod | Report as abusive
 

I have a hard time trying to explain to some folks how I can be a conservative and hate the Republican party. The easiest way to explain it to them is to say “Look at California”. CA and Michigan are union strongholds, and the over-inflated, geo-specific industries they spawned are bailing left and right. Not to different states, but to foreign countries. The left-leaning residents will point to all the tax revenue they generate. I will point to the fact that I never asked for your help. Remember that real conservatives just want everyone to take care of themselves. If CA wants to pay people to be lazier, by all means do so – if you can afford it. So now, they act like Pakistan, and say the US gov’t owes them something, while constantly fueling the consumerist zeal they demonize to stay afloat? Maybe we do owe CA something…like a bill for putting up with Pelosi! I wonder if we can charge Texas for Bush? Hmmm….

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive
 

Thank you State Sen. Fran Pavley. Let’s repeat that,
“L-A-N-D U-S-E”.
All the much beloved and cherished concepts held by believers of some Greener America are pie-in-the-sky wishes if they don’t address land use. Which means imposing more limitations and more restrictions on what private owners of land can and can not do.
It makes no sense to elect people afraid to impose greater limitations on owners of private land who plan to build developments that are auto-centric and pro-sprawl. This is the biggest psychological, social and political impediment to a greener and more environmentally-sound and financially-sustainable conservative Old South (I’m in North Carolina), which may be why here they embrace the politically non-threatening fairytale of some magical hypothetical sweeping ‘technology’ solutions to our problems.

Posted by Greg in NC | Report as abusive
 

Patrick, you say “real conservatives just want everyone to take care of themselves.” Would you care to expand on that?
Humans are predators. Money = Power. Power breeds greed and corruption and more power. That generally evolves into an aristocracy that evolves into dictatorships or a government (of any classification) dedicated to more money and more power. Then sooner or later, the peons will rebel. Ever read about the French Revolution (one of many over human history) and what happened to the ruling class. Chop! Then the rebels became the oppressors.
Methinks it’s much better to have a government that’s really of, by and for (all) the people that will, at least in small degree, share the wealth because if not done voluntarily, it will be done involuntarily and that has the capacity to destroy the fabric of any nation.
So IMO, people will always take care of themselves sooner or later but the methods used may not be very desirable or peaceful. History does not lie.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive
 

Thanks, Senator Pavley, for giving us a, um, “glimpse of the blindingly obvious.” And I mean that sincerely. I’m very, very supportive of green initiatives in general, though it’s distressing that the less sexy methods — of which driving less is one — don’t get as much attention as, say, solar and wind power. (Though, I hasten to add, I support both those.) Ditto using lights only in the room one’s in, unplugging “energy vampires” such as cellphone chargers when they’re not in use, etc. A parger one, perhaps, at least in warmer settings, is to throw open windows and doors to get a breeze going — instead of firing up the airconditioning. (I live in nearly-always hot, sticky Bangkok, and I do this a *lot.* Those of us old enough to remember President Carter’s administration will recall his suggestion that when it’s cold and when we’re indoors, rather than crank up the thermostat to put on a sweater (or whatever) instead. That drew cosndierable mockery at the time (which I never understood; it’s just common sense), but for those in the higher latitudes (including in the southern hemisphere during its winter), it works, if within limits.

I’d like to mention another aspect that this article doesn’t, but it’s directly relevant, so merits bringing up here, though it is being discussed all over the map: taxes. We already see federal and state transportation agencies’ revenues declining, and if we expect transportation agencies to maintain our roadways, railroads, etc., then we’re going to have to let them fund themselves another way, probably through higher fuel taxes.

I personally feel there’s a more palatable way, though it would impact lower-income people more than higher-income ones — but bear with me. How about a national sales tax on both the wholesale and retail sale of any physical product, but a very small one. I’m thinking maybe .5% for any such purchase up to, say, a million dollars, above which it could drop by half to .25%. As for lower-income people, their purchases are small, of necessity, so the impact would be minimal, even for them. And yes, that would apply to the sale of gas, diesel, natural gas, hydrogen, whatever to power a vehicle.

I have no idea what kind of revenues this would generate; I’m not an economist. Maybe the range I mentioned above would fall so short as not to be worth the political and social debate that surely would surround such a proposal. On the other hand, maybe my suggested percentages are much higher than need be to offset the red ink the transportation agencies are now trembling over as their bean counters look at the bottom line.

If there *is* any validity to my suggestion, I wonder why I haven’t heard a peep about it as one possibility? Of course, if my idea is patent nonsense — which it well may be — then those in the know would dismiss it anyway.

Posted by Mekhong Kurt | Report as abusive
 

Conservation of fuels and land. Right on the money. Now how about a stimulus package that heavily subsidizes public transportation instead of highways?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

Affordable electricity is an essential part of protecting consumers and American businesses. During the America’s Power Factuality Tour, our team traveled all over the country to document the places, people and technologies involved in producing cleaner electricity from domestic coal. We went to Council Bluffs, Iowa, home of the Walter Scott Energy Center – one of the most efficient coal-based plants in America. This facility generates more than 1,600 megawatts of affordable electricity, which has a positive long-term economic impact on the region—one that includes a Google data facility.

Take a look at the plant in action and meet the people who keep it running: Factuality Tour

 

Or they could drive vehicles sized to the task. Do we really need 4000lb cars to move 200lb rear?

Why don’t we have 2000lb pick ups? We did in the 70′s and they were great carrying 1/2 ton!! And they got 40-50 mpg.

My EV MC gets 600mpg cost equivalent and my 100+ mile range, 80mph EV sportswagon gets 250mpge. Both can tow a trailer to carry anything needed like lumber, furniture, ect. Sadly the only way I got mine as most EVer’s is build my own.

My service car size EV trike MC only cost me $150 in scrounged parts. New would cost around $4k if mass produced. Why are they not made?

Jay Leno’s 1911 Baker Electric has a 110 mile range and some of the original batteries. Why can’t we get EV’s now ?

WE need to build jobs where people live. I stopped regular working as it cost too much, Now with home paid for and low transport, other costs I work out of home building custom EV’s in my garage.

Posted by jerryd | Report as abusive
 

Factuality Tour, you forget to mention the environmental destruction strip mining does to habitat. More to the point, absent EPA enforcement the area is left a barren desert when the coal is all extracted.

If we can dig tunnels miles deep into the mantel to sequester CO2, then why can’t we dig the same tunnels to heat water into steam and drive turbines and generators with? I think the process is called geothermal electric generation.

12 million Americans are out of work and 1

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

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