NJ Must Reduce Global-Warming Pollution in Transportation Sector

Tom Johnson | October 25, 2016 | Energy & Environment
Getting low-carbon vehicles on the road is imperative, but the roadblock remains the lack of charging stations for electric cars and trucks

electric car (charging)
The state should focus its priorities on reducing global-warming pollution in the transportation sector, particularly by using electric vehicles to move people and goods, according to clean-energy advocates.

With transportation the biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, a report released yesterday by Environment New Jersey urged putting low-carbon options at the front of the line for public financing, including shifting funds from highway spending to public-transit alternatives.

In New Jersey, transportation accounts for 53 percent of global-warming emissions. But the state currently spends $840.73 per capita on highways, with only $42.70 per capita on transit, according to the report written by the Frontier Group.

The report is the latest in what have been a series of studies focusing on the need to be more aggressive in curbing pollution, including carbon dioxide, from gasoline-powered vehicles. The studies come at a time when the transportation sector has eclipsed power generation as the biggest contributor to climate change.

“Our daily commutes are cooking the planet, but they don’t have to,’’ said Marc Katronesky, global warming organizer for Environment New Jersey. “America’s transportation system is climate enemy No. 1.’’

For many clean-energy advocates, the easiest and quickest way to cut emissions in the transportation sector is to transition to electric vehicles from gasoline-fueled cars and trucks. To do so, New Jersey needs to move forward more quickly in building the infrastructure for electric vehicles, they said.

There are roughly 400 charging stations at fewer than 200 locations in New Jersey, based on data kept by the U.S. Department of Energy. Saying the state is falling behind other states, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said it is critical that the next gubernatorial administration leads the transition to a cleaner transportation system.

“Persuading the world in 2016 that EVs don’t work is like persuading the world in 1916 that horses are the future of transportation,’’ said Michael Thwaite, president of Plug In America, a nonprofit promoting electric vehicles. “Policymakers need to move quickly to create statewide travel corridors.’’

The report makes 50 policy recommendations for transforming the transportation sector to produce less carbon pollution. Some promise to be controversial, such as phasing out carbon-intensive transportation with zero-emission vehicles and through stronger fuel-efficiency standards.

Others are more behavior-oriented, such as supporting the creation of climate-friendly communities by increasing access to public transit, biking, and walking.

“We have solutions, now we just need the right policies to make it happen,’’ Katronesky said.

A new coalition is forming to try and make it happen, focusing on what needs to be done to fundamentally alter the state’s approach to transportation policies, focusing on electric vehicles. The issue is also being explored by lawmakers, although no consensus has been reached.