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Western States Lead the Way On Emissions
Erica Barnett, 10 Jan 08


There are some great state and local ideas in the works to reduce transportation emissions in the United States, and they're moving forward, increasingly, without the help (or, in some cases, cooperation) of the federal government. (See also: The US Mayors Climate Protection Initiative). In the Western United States in particular, where more than half of all fossil fuel emissions originate with transportation (compared with only 26 percent from electricity production), it's absolutely critical that we focus on transportation-based emissions as part of an overall greenhouse-gas reduction strategy. Here are a few ideas that are floating around in this part of the country.

• Include transportation emissions in any cap-and-trade system adopted by the western states.

The good folks at Sightline Institute are advocating for transportation emissions to be covered as part of any economy-wide fuel cap down at the Western Climate Initiative meetings in Oregon. The Western Climate Initiative was formed by the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington (and now includes Utah--hellooo, Nevada?) to identify strategies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the Western United States. Sightline's proposal: Require fuel handlers to track fuel volumes at various "choke points" along the fuel supply chain, and make them pay for all the carbon that will be emitted when that fuel is burned. They suggest taxing the carbon either when it leaves the hands of oil refiners and importers, or at the "terminal rack" where fuel is delivered to trucks, trailers, or rail cars. Oil companies will pass the cost on to consumers; demand for oil will decrease; and emissions will go down, too. Seems smart to us.

• Adopt higher emissions standards than the federal government's Clean Air Act allows, then sue to enforce those standards.

Higher-than-federal-level emissions standards--known in the Western US as the Clean Car Program--seem like a no-brainer to us, but they've proved remarkably controversial within the Bush Administration, whose Environmental Protection Agency has blocked efforts by 16 states to sign on to California's tough emissions standards. (The ambitious California standard would give automakers several years to cut emissions, with a goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and by 30 percent by 2016.) Western governors sued the feds, and several are predicting victory.

• Share more, drive less.

We've written before about both carsharing and bike-sharing, but now it looks like bike-sharing is finally making its way in earnest to the US. Setting the pace are two West Coast cities, Portland and San Francisco. Portland's bike-sharing program is still in its nascent phases, but the city council in San Francisco (where they also have valet parking for cyclists, by the way) is preparing to vote on a contract with Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. that would set up a bike-sharing program in exchange for advertising rights on San Francisco transit shelters.

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