CAFE by the numbers: rising CO2 emissions [INFOGRAPHIC]

You can’t just add half a million barrels of oil to our daily consumption and not expect there to be consequences. At exactly the time when we should be coming up with ideas on how to reduce CO2 emissions from the energy sector, the Trump administration’s proposal on the CAFE standards for goes in the opposite direction.

By its own estimates, here’s what the proposal says we’ll see:

You can help improve the proposal: Sign our petition urging the government not to roll back progress on fuel economy standards for cars to be sold in the U.S. in model years 2021-26.

Letter from a soulmate — Religion, oil and alternative fuels

FrancisDear His Holiness Pope Francis:

I have been impressed with your tenure as Pope. You have literally taken the road less traveled (Robert Frost) in the Catholic Church. You have succeeded in opening up the hearts and minds of many in your flock. For non-Christians, like me, your words have suggested great love for the diversity among people and a strong concern for the future of humankind and the quality of life in the world.

You have made religion meaningful for millions. Your willingness to raise concerns about the visible degradation of the environment, because we have not been good stewards, has granted new energy to environmental reformers in and out of governments around the world. Your courage in acknowledging our collective role in increasing GHG emissions, because we have regarded the air above us and the ground below us as free to use and misuse, public commons has stimulated a vigorous debate among leaders, religious and otherwise, and their constituents.

I am grateful for the policy and behavioral link you have made between environmental, GHG emissions, and poverty issues. Failure to aggressively respond to pollution and pollutants, as well as failure to significantly reduce GHG emissions, as you have indicated, will lead to a bleak future for our children and their children, etc. In this context, as you have indicated, it is the least advantaged among us who bear the heaviest burdens. Their low incomes and lack of mobility limits choices concerning living space, clean air and water, healthcare, work and recreation. It is the poor in many nations who most (and must) often live next to GHG- and pollutant-spewing industrial plants and utilities, as well as emissions from congested, dirty, auto-filled roadways. It is the poor, particularly in poverty-stricken nations, that also must live next to unregulated landfills, untreated sewage, polluted streams, ponds and lakes.

Your Holiness, you have put us all on notice that if we continue to behave as we have in the past, we will risk global calamity and increased human suffering. Here my own theological beliefs as a Reconstructionist Jew match your Catholic or universal view of our obligations to each other. There is a part of God in us, and our role in life is to bring out the Godliness. Paraphrasing the Jewish scholar Hillel, if not us, who, and if not now, when?

By your words, you have accepted the fact that none of us is perfect but that we all are perfectible. I suspect that this is how we must look at policy and behavior responses to GHG emissions and environmental crises. Permit me, in this context, to focus my words on something the nations of the world and their citizens can do relatively quickly to make the world a better place.

Right now the world produces nearly 90 million barrels of oil every day. In my own country, the United States, oil accounts for 95 percent of all energy used by transportation every day. One of oil’s derivatives, gasoline, provides the fuel we use to power most of the vehicles used by industry, commerce and households.

Gasoline is a dirty fuel, meaning that it generates GHG emissions and other pollutants. Alternative fuels either that exist or are on the horizon (like ethanol,  batteries for electric vehicles, fuel cells, biofuels and natural gas) could reduce the oil and gasoline dependency for many nations and simultaneously lessen emissions that despoil the lands we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The expanded use of alternative fuels could also reduce the need to go to war to protect oil supplies and transit, thus making the world safer for both secularists and non-secular families and children. Finally, their increased use could reduce the costs of travel for low-income folks and help extend their means to acquire needed basic goods and services.

Please forgive me for using the word agnostic, but I believe we must be fuel agnostic and grant a range of alternative fuels status as long as each one on the fuel spectrum can provide cheaper, safer, environmentally better power for vehicles than gasoline.

For God’s or people’s sake, we can do better! You have begun to stimulate our minds and hearts. Your recent encyclical on climate change, while controversial and provocative, provides each of us with the normative guidelines to make a difference with respect to securing a healthier planet for future generations. While your criticism of capitalism and free markets is very severe, and while I must confess disagreement with its implication that market mechanisms should not and cannot be used to impede global warming and GHG emissions, I applaud the encyclical’s implicit (if not explicit) support of actions to reform market systems.

Your Holiness, I would hope that religious leaders led by you would encourage reform and, as with alternatives to gasoline, accept perfectibility, not perfection. If we don’t, the enemy of the good will be the perfect. Certainly, if the church, under your outstanding leadership, secured the support of other organized religions, as well as secular leaders from many countries, including the U.S., and the group subsequently urged oil companies to open their gas station franchises to a range of alternative fuels, the results could provide a big step in the journey toward GHG emission and pollutant reduction and a better world. Similarly, if the group urged the world’s auto manufacturers to both produce more vehicles able to run on alternative fuels and support development of innovative ways to convert existing cars to flex-fuel vehicles, the impact would provide consumers, including the poor, lower-cost fuel choices and reflect another step toward healthier people and a cleaner planet.

You have opened the door to increased ecumenism among religious faiths and a positive dialogue between the very religious, less religious and non-religious institutions and people concerning social welfare and environmental problems. I suspect that you find sympathy for the writings of one of my favorite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “I do not find that the age or country makes the least difference; no, nor the language the actor spoke, nor the religion which they professed, whether Arab in the desert, or Frenchman in the Academy. I see that sensible men and conscientious men all over the world were of one religion of well-doing and daring.”

Thank you!

Lawmaker discusses far-reaching California climate bill

Sen. Kevin de Leon, president pro tem of the California state Senate, is not only confident a climate-change bill will pass the Legislature and be signed into law. He fully expects the rest of the nation to follow California’s lead.

“Leadership does matter. That’s why we will not wait,” de Leon said last week during an energy discussion in Sacramento.

The lawmaker went on:

“We have never waited for Washington, D.C. To be honest with you, while Washington, D.C., dithers on this issue, between members who are negative, climate-change deniers altogether when the empirical data is there … We’re not waiting for that. We’re not gonna wait for Washington, D.C. We never have; we never will. We are the state of California, and we are the leaders nationally. And they’re gonna have to follow, and they will eventually follow what is done here.”

Senate Bill 350 passed the Senate on June 3 and now goes to the Assembly. If it’s approved there and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the state will have achieved an ambitious plan that could have a huge impact on transportation and power generation in the state, and could affect the state’s economy long into the future.

The bill sets three goals to be achieved by 2030: cut petroleum use by 50 percent; increase the amount of renewables in electricity generation by 50 percent; and boost efficiency of buildings by 50 percent.

To discuss the measure, the group Diesel Technology Forum sponsored a gathering called “50/50/50 by 2030: Transportation and the California Energy Challenge. Carl Cannon, the Washington bureau chief of the website Real Clear Politics, moderated the event and interviewed de Leon.

De Leon said that if SB350 passes, it will save consumers money from “better fuel efficiencies” as well as reduce smog. “Air pollution knows no boundaries of political ideologies,” he said. The Democrat called the network of freeways in his Los Angeles district a “serpent that chokes the air out of a young child’s lungs.”

The bill was among several related to climate change passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature. “These measures together represent the most far-reaching measures dealing with climate change, not in the history of California or the history of the country, but I would go a step further and say in the history but the world.”

De Leon said he’s looking forward to a “vigorous debate on the merits of the measure itself. … I think it’s going to be fun.” Democrats easily outnumber Republicans in both houses of the Legislature (26 out of 40 in the Senate; 52 out of 80 in the Assembly), but de Leon said that some Republicans had said to him privately that they “concurred that something must be done about this issue. Politically, that’s another issue altogether. But privately, I’ve heard on numerous occasions that ‘I agree with you, but it’s extremely difficult for us to do anything about this.’ ”

Watch the interview here:

And watch a panel discussion, with energy expert Amy Myers Jaffe and others: