As the country tries to loosen COVID’s grip on society, efforts are focused on reestablishing economic viability while protecting public health.
Quite a tall order considering the effects of climate change have been threatening public health long before the coronavirus outbreak, and will only continue to compound our current crisis unless we do something about it.
In fact, in April, right as the United States was experiencing a spike in cases, a research team at Harvard affirmed what we feared: there is a clear correlation between air pollution and the COVID-19 death rate.
Several institutions including Cambridge University discovered similar findings.
So, as we recognize the inaugural Ozone Action Week (Aug. 3 – 7)—an initiative from Clean Air Partners to show residents how they can change their habits to improve air quality—let us take a look at how we can clean up one of the nation’s top polluters: transportation.
If we really want to address climate change, we must start there.
One advantage we have now that we did not a century ago, is technology that can keep us moving while reducing emissions.
From advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol to electric vehicles and sustainable aviation fuels made from plants, green energy breakthroughs are happening at rapid speed.
We have the technology to ween ourselves off fossil fuels, but we need policy to catch up. A lot can be learned from California.
62 million tons of carbon pollution have been avoided since the state’s low carbon fuel standard was implemented in 2011. That is equivalent to removing more than 13.4 million passenger vehicles from the road. California’s model for decarbonizing transportation is working.
And for modes of transportation like air travel where electricity is not an option, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are providing the alternative.
(SAF) – made by refining organic or waste substances such as recycled cooking oil and food scraps, forestry waste such as waste wood, and fast-growing plants and algae – can reduce up to 80 percent of CO2 emissions over the lifecycle of the fuel compared to fossil jet fuel.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been a successful driver in expanding markets for these fuels and lowering emissions, but the long-standing policy is being systematically dismantled through the issuance of waivers allowing fossil fuel companies to circumvent renewable fuel obligations.
It is time we build off the success of the RFS and continue progress on improving air quality by implementing a national clean fuel standard.
The public is ready to embrace a clean fuel standard.
Right now, despite the COVID-19 upheaval, consumers are embracing sustainability. According to a study from BIO member Genomatica, nearly half of Republicans say the government should continue to prioritize sustainability.
Now more than ever we need to prioritize the health of humans and our environment in getting back to some sense of normal.
We should all take individual steps to limit our carbon footprint, especially as part of Ozone Action Week, but we should also push for a clean fuel standard in our states and at the national level as part of those efforts.
Reducing the emissions from transportation through a clean fuel standard will go a long way in creating a more resilient world and improving public health as we rebuild coming out of this pandemic.