Green Transportation

Green Transportation

It used to be that the nation’s largest climate impacts came from coal-fired power plants. But now that many of these plants have either closed, are announcing closure or are being converted, the transportation sector has now taken the lead when it comes to climate impact. Transportation now accounts for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by end-use sector. And within that sector, 43% of those emissions come from passenger cars. So the importance of increasing the efficiency of passenger cars, and converting the market from gasoline to electric for passenger vehicles, is increasing in importance.

Current issues affecting Kentucky:
Volkswagen Settlement

In 2015, the USEPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to the German automaker, after it was found that their turbocharged direct injection diesel engines (TDI) were beyond US standards for NOx pollution limits (NOx is a key component of smog).

In a settlement from legal actions relating to this excess pollution, $2.7 billion will be available to states to control NOx emissions. The settlement can support programs that can transition states towards electric vehicles including EV charging stations, zero-emission busses, and more, including “electric ports” in shipping areas. Kentucky is anticipated to receive nearly $20 million of these funds.

Other issues: Mileage-Based Transportation, User Fees

For two sessions now, legislators in Kentucky have introduced bills that address alternative tax revenue targeting electric vehicles, since they would not be subject to a gas tax. (See HCR27 an HB317 from the 2017 session). There are some national organizations/lobbying interests who are also looking at these issues. More info:

States across the U.S. have been introducing legislation that would punish people for switching to electric vehicles. Georgia, formerly the state with the second most EV sales, used to offer a tax credit of up to $5,000, but replaced the program with a $200 yearly fee that led to an 80 percent drop in EV sales. However, A recent study commissioned by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy determined that Georgia would benefit from reintroducing a tax credit and lowering the user fee. Approving a new $2,500 tax credit, combined with a $100 user fee, would produce nearly 1,000 full-time jobs, $100 million in gains to the state’s GDP and $54 million in increased income, the study concluded.

What are states considering in a mileage-based fee process?

Washington State is currently running a pilot program, looking at 4 primary options for tracking mileage, (details here) such as:

  • A Mileage Permit concept, where you purchase a pre-selected block of miles
  • Quarterly Odometer Reporting to your Department of Licensing
  • Automated Mileage Meter, installed in your car to track miles driven
  • Smartphone app to track miles driven, verified with odometer photo

Key Considerations for Utility Investment in the Charging Grid include:

  • How much charging infrastructure is needed to support the anticipated level of electric vehicle penetration?
  • What transmission and distribution system upgrades and investments will be needed to accommodate electric vehicles?
  • How can regulators help ensure equitable access to charging infrastructure?
  • How should the costs and benefits of utility investment in charging infrastructure be assessed, and how can programs be designed to maximize the benefits?
  • How should utilities recover the costs of infrastructure investment?

A key question to explore is whether “ratepayer money” should be used to build out PEV charginginfrastructure. In other words, should utility regulators approve utility capital investment programs in which various elements of PEV charging infrastructure and alterations to the electric distribution system are placed in the rate base and the utility company is authorized to recover these costs and earn a rate of return on the investment? If so, what are the justifications for this approach: how should such investment programs be structured, how can regulators ensure more equitable access by all customers to charging infrastructure, and how should utilities allocate and recover the costs of investment?

What about Hydrogen Fuel Cells vs. Electric?

The carbon emissions associated with hydrogen-fuel production depend on the source of hydrogen (typically, natural gas or water), the process used to extract it, and the source of the energy driving that process.

Currently, most hydrogen is made by converting natural gas into hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen can be made either at a central facility and trucked to a filling station or, if natural gas is available on-site, right at the station.

However, hydrogen can also be produced from sources of energy that
are lower in carbon than natural gas. Electricity from solar or wind power,
for example, can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis. Another low-carbon source of hydrogen is methane gas from landfills and sewage treatment facilities, provided that methane leakage is minimized.

Union of Concerned Scientists Fact Sheet:
How Clean are Hydrogen Fuel Cells 

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