California: Serious About Lowering Vehicle Emissions?

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In September of this year, Governor Schwarzenegger laid out the progress the state of California has made to reduce emissions since AB 32 was signed (3 years ago).   AB 32 was originally laid out as the world’s first comprehensive law to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  California wanted to set the standard for other states and nations across the globe.  And while there are various plans, standards and executive orders that have been approved in the last few years, is California really serious about lowering vehicle emissions? 

The governor did report that $6 billion in venture capital has been put into California’s economy making California the front-runner in clean energy investments and green jobs.  He also stated California is expected to more than double the power generated as a result of solar power installation.  But doesn’t a lot of that comes from individual businesses and consumers?   What about major results in getting air-polluting, high-emission vehicles off the road by providing state-wide green alternatives and infrastructures?

Individual cities in California, such as San Francisco, have taken some great steps.  I mean based on his actions alone, Mayor Newsom leaves no question as to where he stands on making San Francisco a more sustainable city and with $1 million recently approved for San Francisco’s Electric Vehicle Program, he’s on the way to achieving his goal of “…making San Francisco and the Bay Area the most successful electric vehicle market in the country”.  But what about the rest of the state? 

I was reading a great post the other day about how Better Place and DBS (Denmark’s state-owned passenger train company) had joined forces and were going to be offering a combination of sustainable transportation in Denmark.  Essentially they were offering door-to-door service for their passengers.  Once a train passenger arrived at their station, they could get their pre-reserved EV (already charged and ready to go) and drive to their intended destination.  It’s a smart plan for getting commuters off the roads and providing them with an alternative and more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation.

I then I went to the Better Place website to see if anything like that was going to be coming to California.  I was excited to find that on November 19th, 2008 (almost 1 year ago), a press release was published and announcement made that “Better Place and California Bring Electric Vehicles to the United States“.  The press release went on to state:

Today, the state has announced a historic private/public partnership for sustainable transportation infrastructure and ‘green’ job creation that once again serves as a model for economic and environmental innovation.

California has defined a plan for a sustainable transportation model in which state and local government are working in partnership with the private sector to move the state from greenhouse gas-emitting cars that run on fossil fuel, toward clean, electric cars fueled by renewable energy, supported by an open network infrastructure.”

Excitedly I checked around for an update on how things were progressing….but unfortunately I couldn’t find any update.   It’s almost a year later, there had to be an update.   After looking around for awhile, I finally called Better Place to see if they could give me an update.  What did I find?  No update…no further progress has been made in getting this brought to California.   I couldn’t believe it.  

Now I know Californians will continue to do what they’ve been doing – buy electric/hybrid vehicles, use public transportation (when and where available), use fuel additives to lower emissions, ride their bikes or walk, etc. but wouldn’t it be better to have more consumer-friendly options in place?  For example, an electric car ready for you to use when you arrived at the airport, a bike available for you at the train station, electric vehicle charging stations easily accessible up and down California, bike lanes so people feel more confident about safely riding their bike to work, etc, etc.   What do you think, without these in place is California (or your state for that matter) really serious about lowering vehicle emissions?

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