2021 Energy Independence Summit Wrap Up

April 2, 2021

Virginia Clean Cities and Coalition Stakeholders recently completed a successful round of meetings with Virginia’s Congressional delegation.

Virginia Clean Cities Staff and Stakeholders meeting with Virginia Representative Ben Cline during the 2021 Energy Independence Summit

The Coalition is asking Virginia’s delegation to support the following legislative priorities that will expand the nation’s use of domestically produced alternatives to petroleum:

1. Extend the tax incentives for alternative fuels, vehicles, and infrastructure through 2030.

2. Increase federal funding in FY 2022 for the Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities alternative fuel deployment program and the U.S. EPA Diesel Emission Reduction Grants.

3. Preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

4. Include funding for clean vehicles and fueling infrastructure in federal infrastructure legislation.

5. Ensure that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding for clean vehicles and infrastructure in a timely fashion.

6. Authorize the DOE Clean Cities Program.

These policies will stabilize gasoline prices, improve Virginia’s air quality, and create stable, good paying jobs.

Speakers at the 2021 EIS included Senator Ron Wyden, (OR) who is pushing to streamline the 44 individual tax credits into several tech-neutral incentives for clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency. The Clean Cities program has many strong proponents in Congress, included Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia. Important legislation that will include clean transportation policies will be the LIFT America Act and the Surface Transportation Reauthorization. All of this legislation will require 60 votes to pass the Senate. Fortunately, many components of transportation funding are bi-partisan. Coalitions are waiting on the appointment of a new FHWA Administrator who can be approached to rectify the issues with Buy America requirements in the CMAQ program.

Key points of many of these discussions included environmental justice and rural communities.

Clean transportation is a matter of environmental health, environmental justice, and economic and energy security. Supporting clean transportation and alternative fuels such as electricity and biofuels can advance environmental justice for overburdened communities. These communities are often hit the first and worst by climate change and local air pollution. The impacts of transportation emissions and the high costs of energy disproportionally impact low-income communities and communities of color. A study published by Argonne National Laboratories late last year revealed that nationally, an average of 21% of household income is used on transportation expenditures. These expenditures impact lower-income households the most. Nationally, the transportation energy burden in households with incomes at or above $125,000 is approximately 2.2%, while households that earn $20,000 or less are subjected to a burden of 6.5%. This is an increase of almost 3 times the burden on lower-income households.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans live in rural areas. Ninety-seven percent of the nation’s landmass is rural, meaning that as we make efforts to make clean transportation available to all people, rural communities will need to be a major focus. In Virginia, we import all of the petroleum we use, but there are many opportunities for clean alternative fuels such as biodiesel to be produced domestically in the Commonwealth. In addition to increasing environmental equity, prioritizing clean energy in Virginia has the potential to bolster employment and create jobs across the state. From biofuels to propane to clean electricity, Virginia and its rural communities have great potential to contribute to and benefit from a focus on clean transportation.

Implementing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard would also boost clean energy efforts and reduce air pollution. There are currently two states in the U.S. that have implemented an LCFS, California, and Oregon. The goal of the LCFS is to reduce carbon emissions by reducing the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels compared to their conventional petroleum counterparts. This involves the use of alternative fuels such as natural gas, biofuels, and electricity. The LCFS encourages alternative fuel production and use is through a credit system. The approach grades each fuel on its carbon intensity and assigns a credit amount. In California, the standard works through a combination of regulation and emissions trading through market mechanisms allowing producers and refiners to reduce their emissions while responding to consumer demand. Producers must report the fuels and their carbon intensity through a system of credits and deficits where each credit is equal to one metric ton of Carbon Dioxide reduced. Deficits result from fuels that exceed the standard’s carbon intensity, and credits result from the use of fuels that are below the standard’s carbon intensity. Producers can bank and trade their credits within the LCFS market to meet standards and decrease deficits. Low Carbon Fuel Standards are fuel neutral, which allows a great space for a number of alternative fuel industries, technologies, and even agricultural practices to expand and innovate clean energy solutions.