Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, March 30, 2018

US now a laggard nation when it comes to automobile emissions and efficiency

Many newspapers have reported on EPA's proposal to cut fuel efficiency requirements for automobiles ("EPA poised to scrap fuel economy targets that are key to curbing global warming — setting up clash with California," Los Angeles Times).

This is very interesting because it is counter to what is happening in other nations.

Another example that the US seriously lags best practice under the Trump Administration.

-- "Scott Pruitt's Dirty Politics," New Yorker Magazine

Norway, an oil producer, announced that by 2030, no gasoline or diesel cars can be sold (also see "Gas Stations Get Ready for the Electric Future," Bloomberg).  India set the same deadline of 2030 and the UK, 2040, and it is an oil producer too.

China has made a similar announcement, without a deadline, but in the meantime, to fight smog it has banned the future sale of more than 500 car models determined to be highly polluting ("China, Moving to Cut Emissions, Halts Production of 500 Car Models," New York Times).

The Netherlands, one of many European countries that taxes gasoline very highly, announced that effective in 2025, only electric cars can be sold.

Copenhagen plans to ban diesel and gasoline cars by 2019. Oxford by 2020 ("Oxford aims for world's first zero emissions zone with petrol car ban," Guardian).

The mayors of London, Los Angeles, Paris, Mexico City, Seattle, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Vancouver, Milan, Quito, Cape Town and Auckland ("The mayors of London, LA, Paris and Seattle pledge to ban gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2030," AP) have announced similar plans, with a deadline of 2030.

Oxford in the UK has proposed the world's first "zero emissions zone" in the city center, and will gradually roll out and expand the district, starting with six streets ("Oxford aims for world's first zero emissions zone with petrol car ban," Guardian; "Oxford city centre car ban - should it go ahead?," Oxford Mail).  It includes buses and taxis.

-- Zero emission zone, Oxford

Germany.  Meanwhile, Berlin and four other German cities are going to test the provision of free transit as an air quality measure ("Germany considers to fight pollution with free public transportation," Washington Post). And German cities are looking to ban diesel cars too, for air quality reasons, even though the country is a major automobile manufacturer ("Diesel cars can be banned from German cities, court rules," Reuters).

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At 7:12 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

No question the lasting damage from diesel gate the "ban internal combustion motors" is getting traction in europe.

I am not sure it is realistic. I can see hybrid cars meeting requirements by 2025 but not fully electric.

The charing requirements are off the charts.

Look at DC -- you'd need something like 250,000 chargers installed.

And it worse than gasoline station, sorry I buy my gas in Virginia but I am not charging my car there for 2-3 hours.

And I said before on a charging basis something like a a tesla will need 4-5 hours at a 220v charger on a regular basis. Not a problem if you live in the outer city but not feasible here in the inner city.

So I see a lot of virtue signaling and very little realistic proposals.

I've looked into getting chargers installed at my building -- say 4-5 chargers for 13 spots. price would be well north of 75K.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I just came across a blog called

On this, he makes the point that given a relatively no growth scenario in the developed countries, the right decision is to encourage mass transit and sustainable mobility.

He uses electric cars as an example, although he doesn't mention the # of chargers necessary issue, but about the energy required, the number of power plants, etc., and. how it's basically unworkable. (Let alone the materials issue as it relates to batteries.)

... it's not unlike the point the chair of one of the big CPG (Nestle, Unilever, I don't remember) made wrt energy from food. He made a similar point, that not only would it increase the cost of food and that the net energy produced isn't that great after the cost of inputs, but the cultivation requirements are enormous.

About 12 years ago writing about hydrogen vehicles, I titled a post "next generation asphalt nation."

I guess it gets at the point made by JJ when asked by someone "why aren't there enough roads?" and she replied, "you're asking the wrong question. The right question is 'why are there so many cars?'"

In a virtually no growth scenario, if people want to improve their state, live well, etc., they're going to need to be more parsimonious. Using sustainable mobility makes that a bit easier.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Well, yes and no.

So I agree with your sentiments.

Two issues:

1. I think you can make a very powerful argument that the Paris accords are what are keeping global growth rates (ex China) down. Growth is basically energy use, and using ineffictive sources (Germany "giving" up coal, Japan giving up Nuclear), and various carbon initiatives are giving up 2% growth.

Maybe that is good in the big picture but anemic growth rates is what gives us Donald Trump. Not sure about the payout there.

2. Again we need growth to pay for debt; slow growth rates have benefits and if you don't my Paris accord/GPD argument that larger point is we are not able to paper over a lot of problems. China is -- 6% growth covers up a lot.

Rather like DC, where we are willing to not look at problems if it means a 10% annual growth in RE prices.

Larger point - slow growth brings out the ugly.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I hadn't thought about that as a driving force for slower growth. I can see it being key.

I can't claim to have enough technical knowledge, but see the addition of solar and wind and other sources and the reduction of use of coal being able to "have your cake and eat it too." E.g. the example of wind power on the Texas power market.

That being said, prematurely shutting down coal or nuclear like Germany or Japan is a different story, one I don't agree with. Hey, I wasn't even particularly "against" the Keystone pipeline. It's not like not building it was going to mean that source wouldn't just be diverted to another base of customers somewhere else.

But yes, you need growth to pay for stuff like pensions, new investments, etc.

That's another justification for more intensive development.

But elected and appointed officials (at least around here) seem to be inchoate when it comes to making such arguments, along with arguments on how development--at least if it is done right--can improve quality of life, add to housing supply in the face of rising demand, etc.

Instead they make tone deaf arguments about problems caused for developers.

We are discussing this on the HistoricWashington e-list. I wrestle with the thought that I am just a tool of the growth machine...

someone mentioned a show on Kojo with smart growthers arguing for redoing parts of ward 3 with apartment buildings.

Sure, but doing that without conceding the need for protections, design review, etc. is not only tone deaf, but guaranteed to diminish those qualities that make DC an attractive place to live to begin with.

(That being said, I believe in "reasonable" intensification, as you know.)

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

that being said I ascribe slower/no growth to a greater capture of income or at least "money"/the benefits of growth by the 1%.

It's a classic example of the failure of trickle down economics.

Combined with austerity policies for govts.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

If you look at China right now, as I said they are basically doing the "New Energy Economy" that some advocates wanted with the Obama admisnstaion:

1. Solar+Wind energy
2. Nuclear
3. More electric cars
4. Subways
5. HSR

The price they are paying is an enormous amount of debt; the benefits they are getting are immediate pollution reduction -- and I think it is open question on whether any of this is moving the economy to a better place.

But yes it is a part of a elephant, and other things are causing this. But my point is slow global growth is endemic in the developed world, and the only two things that have been positive are vehicles sales (massive rebound to where they would have been prior to GFC) and shale gas in the US.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Hmm. Obviously, shale has been a game changer. Even now, post the Saudi attempt to drive shale out of business.

You raise a great point about China and what Pres. Obama wanted to do.

I was cleaning and tossing a bunch of clippings from years ago. A lot on HSR.

I hadn't really thought this through enough, but I see the point. We're at a much later stage of growth compared to the massive infrastructure development of (1) WPA etc. Great Depression; (2) post-war development of the military economy especially big bases across the US; (3) interstate highway system.

So could a focus on rail and transit made that much difference? The reality, probably not, because it is so hard to repattern development once it's already extant.

The thing with the "riots" and the resuscitation of DC is that for most areas, it took a good 40 years after the riots to see impact outside of the CBD. And that was maybe only because of the impact on DC being an attractive place to live post the 9/11 growth of the federal govt.

So maybe my thinking about infrastructure as a long term investment is somewhat flawed. Sure, it will have long term ROI, but probably not in the same way as in the immediate postwar period.

... e.g., my argument about the sprawl paradigm is that while people think it's "natural law," really it's "merely" a construct of the postwar period of growth and wealth and having lots of money to burn, and that it wasn't sustainable -- not just "environmentally" but economically. It only worked in a period of massive growth.

Not unlike my point about systems of finance for local govt. A property tax based system only works in healthy economies and a climate of constant growth. Otherwise it doesn't work too well, especially in severe contractions.


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