Taking on Transportation Emissions

November 16, 2020

Last week, Virginia Clean Cities (VCC), in partnership with Earth Day Network, hosted  “Taking on Transportation Emissions”, a webinar to showcase greenhouse gas (GHG) emission issues nationally and in the state of Virginia. The webinar began by outlining the challenges presented by increased GHGs in the atmosphere, the role of transportation in GHG production, and transitioned into best practices for addressing decreasing emissions moving forward. 

In the United States, vehicles account for roughly 56 to 95% of  increased  carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions in the atmosphere. Both of these emissions, as well as  increased amounts of particulate matter,  have been linked to serious health impacts, such as cardiovascular and heart disease, damage to the overall nervous system, and an increased number of persons with asthma. Additionally, environmental impacts of increased emissions and particulate matter include increased smog, ecosystem destruction, and potential for water pollution. Zooming in on Virginia, the state spends around $26 million a day on carbon-intensive oil-based fuel. Roughly 48% of CO2 emissions in Virginia are from transportation alone. 

On the whole, there has been progress made since the late 1980s to reduce transportation emissions in the United States via increased emissions standards; alternative fuels have become mainstream in commercial, private, or governmental use; and fleet decarbonization initiatives have been supported by local and state governments and policies.. 

Actors, like VCC, provide tools and resources to make this possible. VCC works with local government authorities, corporations, universities,  and other non profit actors to help them establish emission standards, purchase green fleets and other renewable technologies, and establish partnerships among each other. More information on VCC can be found on their webpage.  

An Example of a VCC partnership is that with the University of Virginia. The webinar, “Taking on Transportation Emissions”, featured keynote speaker Mike Duffy, Transportation Operations & Fleet Manager at University of Virginia (UVA), who shared his experience working alongside Virginia Clean Cities to propel UVA’s fleet towards a greener and carbon neutral future. This past year UVA conducted a successful 1 year fleet study, which reduced university gasoline usage by 680 gallons. This reduction contributed to a decrease in roughly 7000 LBS greenhouse gas emissions, campus wide, and over 1000 dollars in fuelings costs to the University. As a result of these accomplishments, UVA’s fleet was recognized as the “43rd fleet in the Northern Virginia area”. Other accomplishments made by the University and by Mike Duffy”s  team include the University’s 2030 and 2050 carbon neutrality and fossil fuel goals, the inclusion of, UVA graduate student designed, electric bike pilot program, and the installation of a DC fast charger on campus grounds. 

Despite the advancements made by VCC, UVA, and other conscientious actors, the VCC team was mindful to note how far we, as a nation and as the state of Virginia, have to go to contribute to global carbon neutrality. Case studies were provided to exemplify how every actor, small or large, should begin to move forward to achieve this goal. Some of the case studies include corporate investments from Boeing and New Belgium brewing company, urban planning programs in both Copenhagen and Virginia Beach, and examples of local government involvement in Alexandria, Virginia. Interested parties will be able to access these case studies, as well as a brief synopsis of them, on the VCC website. Concluding the presentation, Allyen and Mike answered questions and engaged in conversation with the webinar’s more than 30 participants from a broad range of fields and interests. Based on the success of the event, VCC hopes to partner with Earth Day Network and other organizations in the coming years to continue on the path of carbon neutrality. The webinar was also recorded for your convenience.