In The Fight For Greater Solar Access, California Can Be A Guiding Light

Solar Industry
By Noemi Gallardo

More than ever before, states need to step up in the fight to save our planet. California is leading the charge to fill this void, but we can – and should – do more.

Thankfully, Californians are starting to take action and show what it means to be good, responsible global citizens. Earlier this year, state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown approved a package of laws that seek to continue California’s climate leadership.

We are also a national leader for energy innovation and clean energy choices. As a state, we have committed to obtaining at least 50% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030, and state leaders had even proposed increasing that number to 100% by 2045.

But this isn’t enough. We know that climate change will continue to disproportionately impact minority and low-income communities. One clear way to make a difference is by increasing access to affordable clean energy to our most vulnerable populations. Our state has a great chance to lead this charge and show our country a path forward.

Empowering low-income Californians to participate directly in the clean energy economy will not only help our planet, but also boost local communities and diversify our companies. It will open the door for more good jobs with pathways to sustainable careers to the people who need them most, as well as enable folks to serve and represent the communities they live in.

For example, solar jobs represent a significant segment of the American workforce. According to The Solar Foundation, solar jobs have increased at least 20% per year for the past four years, and such jobs have nearly tripled since 2010. In 2016, there were over 260,000 solar jobs in the U.S., and industry leaders estimate a 10% growth in the coming year. California alone accounted for more than 100,000 of those jobs.

No more “greenwashing”! We must create a groundswell and make California’s movement toward 100% clean energy about empowering people and communities, providing clean energy choices, and creating more jobs.

This opportunity is why I’m excited to be chosen to serve on The Greenlining Institute’s board of directors while taking on a role as senior public policy manager at the California-based national solar energy company Sunrun. As a former Greenlining Leadership Academy fellow working with the organization’s energy policy team, Greenlining inspired me to break down economic barriers on a variety of issues, including energy.

At Greenlining, it’s our mission to amplify the voice of low-income communities and communities of color. We want to defend energy consumers in these underserved areas and advocate for programs that will expand access to renewable energy choices, while making them affordable.

Greenlining works with a coalition of nonprofits like GRID Alternatives and Rising Sun, as well as private-sector companies like Sunrun to enable more clean energy options to more people. We want to bring together communities and uplift their voices so that policymakers listen to their needs. Access to clean air and affordable energy is not a luxury; it is a human right.

The solar industry is already making progress. In California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts alone, estimates suggest that there are now more than 100,000 lower-income solar households – or families who make less than $45,000 annually.

But, again, there’s still a long way to go. We plan to collaborate with stakeholders from across the industry and, most importantly, with the communities themselves to empower families with clean, affordable, reliable energy that will lead to brighter days for everyone.

California can’t change what happens in Washington, but we can set an example for the nation to follow.

 

We Need More Women Physicians Of Color

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

We’ll not only have a better health care system, we’ll have a healthier, more equitable society.

In an increasingly diverse America, patients of all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds urgently need physicians who understand them and can relate to their situation. Unfortunately, they don’t always get what they need. In one study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “racial and ethnic minority respondents are more likely to perceive bias and lack of cultural competence when seeking treatment in the health care system overall than whites.” That, in turn, can lead to lower quality care.

So we should be troubled that the most recent figures available show that women of color – nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population ― make up just 11.7 percent of active M.D. physicians. Recently, the health policy team at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with the Artemis Medical Society to try to better understand why, interviewing 20 women physicians of color from around the country and exploring their experiences in great detail. What they found, documented in our new report, “Breaking Down Barriers for Women Physicians of Color,” should disturb anyone who cares about quality health care.

The doctors our team interviewed faced consistent barriers throughout their education and training, often starting in childhood. Forty percent recalled at least one high school or college counselor who tried to discourage them from pursuing a medical career. Some were told that medical school would be too difficult for them, and some were pressured to abandon their dreams of a career in medicine and start a family instead. Nearly half told us that a lack of access to science and math education left them at a disadvantage.

Too often, educators seemed to operate based on stereotypes and unwarranted assumptions. “The challenge with being a little brown girl is that when you tell people it’s your aspiration to be a doctor, they don’t believe you can do it,” one physician told us. “They try to push you into nursing or something else where they have seen someone like you.”

Cost also works to keep women of color out of medicine. While scholarships and other financial aid may help with the cost of college, prospective medical students face thousands of dollars in expenses that they must cover on their own. These include exam preparation courses, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) registration fees, application fees for medical schools, and travel to and from multiple interviews. While these fees apply to applicants of all races, the racial wealth gap means they hit students of color harder: In the latest figures available, for every dollar of wealth a white family owns, the median Asian-American family has 68 cents, the median Latino family has 10 cents and the median black family has just 8 cents. For those on the wrong end of that wealth gap, thousands of dollars in application costs can be a deal-breaker.

Once they get to medical school and residency, many students experience racism and sexism. One Latina physician recalled that her male co-residents circulated a vulgar and derogatory video demeaning Latina doctors: “The other residents were laughing as they shared the video with each other even though I was in the program, and even if I was in the room while they watched,” she remembered. “Moments like that made me feel like program faculty didn’t care about me. Even though I reported these incidents, there were no consequences.”

For these women, sexism reared its head in multiple forms. Some felt discrimination and harassment for starting or wanting to start a family. More than one third recalled instances during medical school and residency in which male students were encouraged to voice their opinions while women were more likely to be silenced.

All of these pressures – and many more laid out in our report – keep the numbers of women of color in medicine artificially low. That’s bad for patients as well as these aspiring doctors. So what can we do?

For one thing, medical schools can diversify their faculties. Institutions training physicians for a diverse nation should not be an “old white boys club.”

Second, residency programs – which more often lack the detailed rules about discrimination and sensitivity training for faculty that most colleges and universities have – need to get serious about curbing discrimination. Among the doctors we interviewed, 40 percent said that at times they felt unclear about how to report offensive or inappropriate behavior during residency. Of those who understood the reporting system, many felt uncomfortable filing a report because they did not believe their work environment would support or understand their grievance.

On a more basic level, we need better access to math and science education for girls and young women of color. And colleges and medical schools must do more to provide support structures and mentorship for diverse students – something that nearly everyone told us they didn’t get enough of.

If we start doing these things, we’ll not only have a better health care system, we’ll have a healthier, more equitable society.

Opinion: Uber’s Not Coming, What Did We Learn?

Oakland Post

In August, Uber announced that it’s probably not coming to Oakland after all and will likely put the former Sears building back on the market. Since the issues of gentrification and displacement that caused The Greenlining Institute and others to form the No Uber Oakland campaign haven’t gone away, this might be a good time to ask what we’ve learned, and how we move forward.

When Uber announced its initial plans that would likely move 2,000-3,000 highly paid tech workers into downtown Oakland, we were alarmed about the impact on Oakland’s residents, workers, small businesses, nonprofits and artists. We’ve all seen what happened when San Francisco rolled out the red carpet to big tech companies: Skyrocketing housing costs left even families with six-figure incomes struggling to find adequate housing, while soaring commercial rents priced out nonprofits – and all of this badly undermined the city’s diversity and character.

Much the same continues to happen in Oakland, where the average one bedroom apartment currently rents for $2,025 per month  – making it the country’s seventh most expensive rental market, according to Abodo, an apartment rental listings website. That’s just not viable when Oakland’s median household income is $54,618.

We launched No Uber Oakland only after months of unsuccessful efforts to meet with Uber’s leadership and have a serious dialogue about the company’s plans for supporting Oaklanders. While the company made some token gestures, it became clear it was never really serious about listening to Oaklanders or being part of our community. On the No Uber Oakland site, we laid out a 10-point platform that Uber could adopt if it was really serious about working with the Oakland community.

Meanwhile, Uber continues to struggle with bad press, declining market share, questions about whether it will ever be profitable, and leadership struggles. Arrogance and insularity don’t constitute a long-term growth strategy. For tech companies to truly succeed, they must embrace good corporate governance and responsibility, and uplift – rather than just exploit — the local communities that surround them and make up their customer base.

That also means opening up good tech jobs and leadership positions to all of California’s diverse population. Right now, tech remains a fortress where Latinos and African Americans are drastically underrepresented and leadership remains overwhelmingly white and male.

But we’ve also learned that companies won’t reform on their own. Local governments, including Oakland’s, must look at the broader picture when any big corporation – not just tech – wants to move into town. Of course we want companies to grow and invest in Oakland, but no good will come from pretending there won’t be downsides in a town where working families, artists and community groups already struggle to keep a roof over their heads. In the future, city leaders must work with the community to make sure companies act responsibly and that the rising tide of corporate investment doesn’t drown ordinary Oaklanders.

Trump’s Pardon of Arpaio a Continued Affront to Nation’s Latino Community

San Francisco Examiner
By Paulina Gonzalez, Luis Granados, Bea Stotzer, Guillermo Mayer and Orson Aguilar

On Aug. 25, President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County from 1993 to 2016. This pardon is inherently immoral.

This executive action comes on the heels of Trump’s odious statement about recent events in Charlottesville, Va., with him equating counter-protesters, who were touting inclusivity, with armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis chanting hate-filled comments.

What does this pardon and his comments on Charlottesville say about Trump’s views on race? What is his moral compass for the administration? Most importantly, what will we do to ensure that views on race in this country are much more inclusive, harkening back to our country’s aspirational value that all people are created equal?

The now 85-year-old Arpaio was once the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but he should have been called “America’s Most-Criminal Sheriff” due to his continued enforcement of Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigration law even after it was largely stuck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Arpaio actually formed a thousand-strong, racially motivated immigration posse: Citizens were recruited to assist county deputies in frequent workplace raids and illegal traffic stops, even when there was no evidence a crime was, or had been, committed. This was a direct attack on Latinos and immigrants.

These illegal tactics were the catalyst for lawsuits filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU and the Department of Justice.

Despite this background of immoral acts and an egregious flouting of the law, Trump recently called Arpaio “a great American patriot.”

The law and the public disagree.

Arpaio failed in his re-election bid last November, after serving six terms, losing by some 10 points because of the Latino voter turnout. This was a stunning rebuke of the once-popular face of racist, draconian immigration policy.

In July, Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor for criminal contempt by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. The justice wrote, “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”

This pardon of Arpaio is an insult to Latinos and stands as a stark symbol of the continued assault on the rights of immigrant communities across the land — an assault that has only intensified since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015.

As organizations that for decades have stood up for the rights of immigrants, we have seen countless stories of Latino newcomers succeeding. They work hard each day. They create businesses and jobs. They send their children to college.

Trump’s views on race forebode and all-the-more uncertain future for all of us who believe in equality, and particularly for people of color in this country.

If you deem these un-American values, we urge you to contact your federal and state political representatives to express concern at the racist tone of the administration. On a local level, please support immigrant-owned businesses. Additionally, always counter the negative discourse by expressing that equality based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is neither a liability nor an outdated concept: It is one of our nation’s greatest values and strengths.

Spending Cap-and-Trade Funds: Give Priority to Most Vulnerable

Capitol Weekly
By Alvaro Sanchez and Chelsea Tu

Now that it’s reconvened, the state Legislature faces critical decisions about where and how to spend over $1 billion raised by the state’s cap-and-trade program to fight climate change. Those decisions will affect the lives, health and jobs of millions of Californians, and will have an outsized impact on those facing pollution and poverty.

Before their summer break, legislators passed and the governor signed into law key but imperfect pieces of climate change legislation, including AB 617 to improve air pollution monitoring and AB 398, which extends cap-and-trade to 2030. Now, the Legislature is tasked with spending over a billion dollars of cap-and-trade revenues on projects that will further reduce pollution and benefit the public. This includes directing crucial dollars in ways that will reaffirm the mandates of earlier laws, SB 535 and AB 1550, that direct a fair share of these dollars to projects that benefit underserved communities.

This is the moment for legislators to stand up for the most vulnerable in California. They can do so by continuing to prioritize investments that include building affordable housing located near transit, helping low-income families weatherize their homes and save energy, planting trees in barren urban areas that now feel the worst effects of rising heat and pollution, and operating transit systems that get people to where they need to go with minimal emissions.

Programs like these can make lives better while helping to cut emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases as well as the toxic pollution that damages lungs and shortens lives. They can also create good jobs in communities that urgently need them.

If additional revenue becomes available, the Legislature must also make investments in adaptation projects that can help communities cope with the daily impacts of climate change many Californians are already starting to experience, like increasing heat, drought and flood risks. Our representatives can also help ensure a just transition to clean energy, a transition that makes sure those who’ve made their living in fossil fuel industries don’t become roadkill as our economy shifts to clean power.

State leaders must also avoid the temptation to raid these greenhouse gas revenues for other uses, even when those uses are worthy. For example, the funds to implement AB 617’s ambitious air quality improvements must not come from raiding cap-and-trade moneys that could be improving the lives of Californians. Legislators can and should find other ways to fund AB 617.

And finally, state leaders must listen. The frontline communities struggling with pollution and poverty have too often been shut out of decisions that affect every aspect of their lives.

Legislators must make room for a genuine dialogue and fund projects that truly meet the needs of these communities. The state must also listen to concerns and warnings from local residents so that well-intended investments do not inadvertently further harm community members.

California has chosen to lead America’s fight against global warming. Now, we have to get the details right.

Uber and Lyft’s Effort to Disrupt Public Transportation Will Hurt the Environment and Screw the Poor

Alternet 
By Hana Creger

Transit-dependent poor communities will be the hardest hit.

A 15-minute Uber ride or a 30-minute transit ride? For affluent city dwellers who increasingly prefer comfort and convenience, this choice is a no-brainer. However, this choice is a privilege that remains out of reach for those who live in transit-dependent low-income communities, who face many barriers to accessing ride-hailing services.

Uber competing with taxis is old news, but many now worry that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft compete with public transit for riders. Not only can ride-hailing service be incredibly convenient, nowadays it can be dirt cheap, increasing the appeal of simply opening the mobile app. This trend may come as no surprise to cities with limited and inefficient transit that are losing their poor, transit-dependent riders in droves to gentrification.

However, a 2017 study shows that even in New York City, Lyft and Uber ridership is increasing, as subway and bus ridership declines. When ride-hailing services threaten even the best public transit network in the country, you know we have a major problem. The graphs below show the changes in ridership by mode from the baseline of the previous year.

This drop in ridership and revenue indicates has made it harder for some cities to invest in public transit. Given this reality, cities may rely more heavily on shared mobility services such as bikesharing, carsharing, luxury commuter shuttles and ride-hailing services to replace public transit trips. Some public transit agencies are already testing this idea, and are providing subsidies to ride-hailing companies as a substitute to transit.

So who will be most harmed by less public transit service? Well, everyone who breathes dirtier air or sits in clogged traffic as transit use declines will be hurt, but transit-dependent low-income communities of color will suffer most. And city leaders can’t just ask these riders to replace their usual bus routes by downloading a ride-hailing app. Lyft and Uber don’t work for all demographics, especially those in rural areas, and those without access to banks or smartphones.

And while ridesharing fares have become cheaper over time, generally they are still much more expensive than public transit. While Lyft and Uber have vague “anti-discrimination” policies on their websites, there are no specific procedures to prevent discriminatory practices such as drivers going offline to avoid requests in lower-income areas.

A study showed that African-Americans faced 30 percent longer wait times and were twice as likely to have their ride cancelled as their white counterparts. Before cities open the floodgates to shared mobility services—Uber and Lyft in particular–they must take smart steps to reduce the harm to transit-dependent communities of color.

San Francisco recently began taking proactive steps to address potential harms of shared mobility services by approving a set of Guiding Principles for Management of Emergence Transportation Services to be used in all decisions and policies relating to these shared mobility options, including ride-hailing, microtransit, bike and carsharing, etc. The principles cover ten categories, including equitable access, sustainability, congestion, fair labor practices, and the need to complement as opposed to competing with transit. This marks a step in the right direction in reigning in the shared mobility industry and ensuring equity and sustainability are meaningful parts of their business models.

While the shared mobility industry can play an important role in our transportation system, it must not be allowed to completely replace biking, walking, and clean public transit. Lyfts and Ubers contribute to congestion and pollution, and failure to regulate them enables the automobile addiction of cities worldwide. A report from New York City shows ridesharing companies have caused a net increase of 600 million vehicle miles traveled, resulting in a 3 to 4 percent upsurge in traffic. Duke University released a report concluding that a single-occupancy vehicle emits 89 pounds of CO2 per 100 passenger miles, while a full bus emits only 14 pounds.

Meanwhile, the rapid growth of electric buses and other clean technologies will only further increase the efficiency of public transit—strengthening the argument that public transit is cleaner and more efficient than Lyfts and Ubers, and therefore should be a top priority in transportation planning. That’s one of the reasons the No Uber Oakland campaign has made working with—and not undermining—public transit one of its demands of the ride-hailing giant.

Greenlining’s Mobility Equity Framework seeks to ensure that the business objectives of shared mobility companies do not eclipse investments in clean forms of transportation such as walking, biking, and public transit. Low-income communities of color need greater access to clean, affordable transportation options that serve as connectors to economic opportunity. This framework will prioritize clean transportation options that align with equity and sustainability goals, before hastily rolling out the red carpet for the shared mobility industry.

Can California Protect Frontline Communities From Climate Change?

Alternet
By Sona Mohnot

Poor people will be hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

In the last five years, San Jose has seen severe drought followed by the worst floods in a century, and to top it off, record-breaking temperatures. These extreme weather events are not unique to the Bay Area, but are happening all around California as well as the U.S. and the world. Climate change makes them more common and more severe.

Although California is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it won’t stop global warming. We can slow down extreme weather events like those in San Jose, but communities will continue to feel the impacts of climate change no matter how much we curb emissions.

The weather conditions brought on by climate change—like flooding, heatwaves and wildfires—can affect everyday life for people. Californians face the increasing likelihood of power outages, displacement, increased costs for electricity and food, contaminated drinking water, worsened air pollution and increased asthma rates.

While climate change impacts will affect everyone, poor communities and communities of color will be hit hardest. These frontline communities already spend as much as 25 percent of their entire income on just food, electricity and water, which is much more than most Americans. They face a greater risk of heat-related illness and death.

And while air conditioning and transportation could alleviate extreme heat impacts, many people of color and low-income residents lack access to air conditioning or cars to escape hot days. Often located in areas with severe air pollution, these communities will also breathe even dirtier air as smog increases due to climate change.

So what is California doing to ensure frontline communities are prepared to handle the impacts of climate change and continue to thrive?

The state has developed a climate adaptation strategy called the Safeguarding California Plan. The plan covers 10 sectors, including energy, transportation, public health, water and forests. For each sector, the plan discusses what the state is currently doing to address climate adaptation, what must be done, and how the state plans to accomplish those goals. The plan covers a lot of ground, but focuses heavily on the vulnerability of built infrastructure (e.g. roads, highways and energy facilities) and natural systems like wetlands, forests and agricultural lands.

The plan does little to prioritize community vulnerability. For instance, are cooling centers available on hot days for communities lacking access to air conditioning? Are emergency evacuation routes available for people without vehicles? What is the emergency response system to warn people of extreme weather events in rural or hard-to-reach communities? What measures are in place to prevent displacement?

Recognizing the need to address these issues, the Resources Legacy Fund brought together several environmental justice, public health and climate equity organizations, including Greenlining, to create a Climate Justice Working Group. The working group provided recommendations to the state as it updated the Safeguarding California Plan earlier this year. We also just released a set of climate justice principles and recommendations that go beyond “Safeguarding California.” We believe the state should include the recommendations in all climate adaptation policies it develops.

Here’s an overview:

  • The state should prioritize the protection of essential facilities that provide health care, food, and emergency shelter; bring economic opportunities into frontline communities and avoid negative consequences such as displacement.

  • The state should conduct community vulnerability assessments to identify what make a community vulnerable. The assessments can inform strategies to build community resilience.

  • Importantly, the state should meet with and actively engage frontline communities to include their voice in all climate adaptation plans.

  • The state should identify at least $1 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2025 to accomplish climate resilience goals.

To hear what communities have to say about climate change, Resources Legacy Fund and EMC Research conducted a survey of 800 California voters of color. Sixty-one percent of these voters say climate change poses a major threat to low-income communities, and 85% want their elected officials to develop stronger policies to help their community prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The recently passed extension of California’s cap-and-trade program designates climate adaptation as a priority that must get funding from cap-and-trade revenue. Since climate adaption will get funding, this is an opportune time for the state to think about incorporating the Climate Justice Working Group’s recommendations into its policies—especially since voters of color want to see policies that address community vulnerability.

Officials must listen to the voices of the communities hit first and worst, and make sure that we build up the resiliency of those communities and don’t accidentally increase poverty and displacement.

Trump’s Cult of White Victimhood

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

In recent days, the Trump administration has removed all doubt about its desire to escalate a war on Americans of color while appealing to a cult of white victimhood.

As August began, word filtered out about a planned Justice Department attack on university affirmative action programs that supposedly discriminate against white applicants. The White House scrambled, and argued that the story was overblown. But there was nothing surprising about it. Indeed, the president’s press secretary stressed the White House’s determination to  “always review credible allegations of discrimination on the basis of any race.”

Let’s be clear: The limited use of race still allowed by the courts in college admissions at best barely makes up for the systemic advantages whites have because of America’s long history of discrimination and redlining.

African Americans and other minorities are more likely to attend underfunded, struggling schools, are less likely to have a parent or other close relative who’s been to college, and on and on.

The idea that these programs discriminate against whites is ludicrous. But it’s par for the course from a race-baiting administration that wants to crack down on legal immigration and has assembled a “voting integrity” commission that seems mostly interested in suppressing the votes of people of color and the poor. Trump’s team also appears bent on reversing police reforms intended to curb racist practices, even as the president recently seemed to encourage police violence against suspects, who tend to be disproportionately black and Latino.

Clearly, our president has staked his political future on stoking racial divisions so that he can emerge as the hero of “victimized” whites. Words barely exist to describe how dangerous this is, and how easily it could lead to more divisions in our country.

It’s also a complete fraud, an old trick long used by wealthy elites to keep working-class Americans fighting each other rather than taking on the big-business interests ripping them off.

It’s easy to forget now, but the South was not nearly as racially segregated right after the Civil War as it became in later decades. The race-baiting push for Jim Crow laws was consciously stirred by white business elites in reaction to populist movements in which working class whites and blacks began to come together for their own economic interests.

It worked, resulting in a South that was both racially segregated and economically backward, with severe poverty, low wages and a weak labor movement.

Now, Trump and his allies are again stoking racial tension, even as they seek to cut taxes on the rich by shredding health care for everyone else, dismantle protections for workers and consumers, and tear down environmental protections that stop wealthy corporations from poisoning our communities.

An Important Step to Clean Air and More Equitable Communities in Los Angeles

The Union of Concerned Scientists Blog 
By Jimmy O’Dea and Joel Espino

Tomorrow, LA Metro, the second largest transit fleet in the United States, will decide what types of buses to purchase through 2030. The decision will impact Los Angeles’ efforts to clean the air, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity. We applaud the proposal put forward by Metro staff last week to transition the entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

LA Metro can be a leader

Today, Metro’s 2,200 buses operate entirely on natural gas. While natural gas was a better option than diesel when Metro began switching fuels more than 20 years ago, it no longer deserves the “clean” branding seen on Metro’s buses. Advances in technology have made electric buses an even cleaner and viable option. It’s time for Metro to continue its leadership in fighting pollution and transition to the cleanest technology available today: electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a coalition of bus riders, labor groups, and public health groups launched a campaign urging Metro to be a leader and transition to an all-electric bus fleet powered by renewable energy. A central part of this campaign is that communities most affected by poverty and pollution should be first to reap the benefits of bus electrification, such as improved air quality and more high-quality, skilled jobs. Mayor Garcetti recently urged Metro to make this transition by 2030 and just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times expressed its support for Metro’s path to zero-emission buses.

Despite years of work and improvement, Los Angeles’ air still ranks among the worst in the country. Heavy-duty vehicles like buses are a major source of air pollution. Today, residents of communities like Wilmington or Bell Gardens, who live near highly trafficked roads and freight corridors, suffer the consequences of air pollution like increased risks of lung and heart disease and premature death.

Last fall we found that electric buses result in far lower air pollution and global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, cut global warming pollution, and create new jobs. They are better for bus riders, bus drivers, and communities with heavy traffic and severe air pollution.

Our analysis found the potential for good jobs in manufacturing of electric buses, construction of charging infrastructure, and maintenance. With the right training and hiring practices, this industry could bring an economic boost to communities most in need.

Electric buses are the cleanest

There are two types of electric buses Metro could purchase; both have significant benefits. Battery electric buses have 70 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Fuel cell electric buses have 50 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. That includes the emissions from producing electricity and hydrogen. Both types also cut smog-forming emissions in half compared to today’s natural gas buses. As we generate more of our electricity with clean sources like solar and wind, electric buses will be even cleaner.

Electric buses also have lower life cycle emissions than the newest “low-NOx” natural gas buses fueled with biomethane from waste sites such as landfills. Capturing fugitive methane emissions from sources of waste is an important strategy in reducing California’s global warming emissions and can help displace natural gas use in vehicles, yet the limited amount of biomethane available from sources of waste could meet just 3 percent of California’s natural gas demand. This resource should be used prudently across California’s economy.

The technology is here and ready

Electric buses fueled with hydrogen have had ranges over 200 miles for many years and battery electric buses recently passed this mark. With fewer moving parts and durable electric motors, maintenance costs are lower for electric buses. Electric buses can also accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel or natural gas buses.

Metro’s bus investment would boost the regional economy, including at least eight electric bus and truck manufacturers in the LA region, and spur job training in underserved communities, creating a workforce capable of accelerating electrification in other areas of transportation.

Metro can’t switch to electric buses overnight, but as it retires natural gas buses it should replace each with a clean, quiet electric bus. Nearly 20 transit agencies across the state have stepped up to the plate and begun incorporating electric buses into their fleets, many with significant, if not full, commitments to zero-emission buses. California and its poorest and most polluted communities depend on it.

An Important Step to Clean Air and More Equitable Communities in Los Angeles

Union of Concerned Scientists Blog
By Joel Espino and Jimmy O’Dea

Next month, LA Metro, the second largest transit fleet in the United States, will decide what types of buses to purchase through 2030. The decision will impact Los Angeles’ efforts to clean the air, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity. We applaud the proposal put forward by Metro staff last week to transition the entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

LA Metro can be a leader

Today, Metro’s 2,200 buses operate entirely on natural gas. While natural gas was a better option than diesel when Metro began switching fuels more than 20 years ago, it no longer deserves the “clean” branding seen on Metro’s buses. Advances in technology have made electric buses an even cleaner and viable option. It’s time for Metro to continue its leadership in fighting pollution and transition to the cleanest technology available today: electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a coalition of bus riders, labor groups, and public health groups launched a campaign urging Metro to be a leader and transition to an all-electric bus fleet powered by renewable energy. A central part of this campaign is that communities most affected by poverty and pollution should be first to reap the benefits of bus electrification, such as improved air quality and more high-quality, skilled jobs. Mayor Garcetti recently urged Metro to make this transition by 2030 and just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times expressed its support for Metro’s path to zero-emission buses.

Despite years of work and improvement, Los Angeles’ air still ranks among the worst in the country. Heavy-duty vehicles like buses are a major source of air pollution.  Today, residents of communities like Wilmington or Bell Gardens, who live near highly trafficked roads and freight corridors, suffer the consequences of air pollution like increased risks of lung and heart disease and premature death.

Last fall we found that electric buses result in far lower air pollution and global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, cut global warming pollution, and create new jobs. They are better for bus riders, bus drivers, and communities with heavy traffic and severe air pollution.

Our analysis found the potential for good jobs in manufacturing of electric buses, construction of charging infrastructure, and maintenance. With the right training and hiring practices, this industry could bring an economic boost to communities most in need.

Electric buses are the cleanest

There are two types of electric buses Metro could purchase; both have significant benefits. Battery electric buses have 70 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Fuel cell electric buses have 50 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. That includes the emissions from producing electricity and hydrogen. Both types also cut smog-forming emissions in half compared to today’s natural gas buses. As we generate more of our electricity with clean sources like solar and wind, electric buses will be even cleaner.

Electric buses also have lower life cycle emissions than the newest “low-NOx” natural gas buses fueled with biomethane from waste sites such as landfills. Capturing fugitive methane emissions from sources of waste is an important strategy in reducing California’s global warming emissions and can help displace natural gas use in vehicles, yet the limited amount of biomethane available from sources of waste could meet just 3 percent of California’s natural gas demand.  This resource should be used prudently across California’s economy.

The technology is here and ready

Electric buses fueled with hydrogen have had ranges over 200 miles for many years and battery electric buses recently passed this mark. With fewer moving parts and durable electric motors, maintenance costs are lower for electric buses. Electric buses can also accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel or natural gas buses.

Metro’s bus investment would boost the regional economy, including at least eight electric bus and truck manufacturers in the LA region, and spur job training in underserved communities, creating a workforce capable of accelerating electrification in other areas of transportation.

Metro can’t switch to electric buses overnight, but as it retires natural gas buses it should replace each with a clean, quiet electric bus. Nearly 20 transit agencies across the state have stepped up to the plate and begun incorporating electric buses into their fleets, many with significant, if not full, commitments to zero-emission buses. California and its poorest and most polluted communities depend on it.