Recently I had the opportunity to participate in Oregon’s Ten Year Future Energy Task Force as part of its Transport Design team. Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber is endeavoring to make a coherent vision going forward that promotes decreased petroleum consumption and increased economic activity. This was my first serious task force and I found the exercise both stimulating and daunting.
As a state, Oregon has in place carbon emission reduction policies that require us to reduce our GHG emissions to below 1990 levels by the year 2050. One way to visualize how we get there is to pick this number and then, using the tools we have, work backwards to see what will get us there. Which of these tools must we use to reach the goal we have set? The short answer is that there are a number of tools we can use to reach this goal… and we must use all of them .
Enter transportation electrification. Oregon spends more than $2b per year for transportation fuels. Transportation relies on fossil fuel for 99% of its energy. As a sector, efficiency and alternative fuel choices have dramatic effects on GHG. In addition, all the fuel use we displace through these efforts gets translated into money spent domestically and locally. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by aligning energy policy behind electric vehicles.
What is the future for Oregon in this? We have four recommendations pending:
- Build Oregon into a Center of Excellence for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). We have all the pieces to improve vehicle and freight movement through advanced technology, from the universities and research centers to information technology companies. Encourage businesses to test new ITS products in Oregon.
- Accelerate vehicle and fleet turnover by building the needed alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure with charging stations at home, at work, in public areas and for commercial fleets. Follow that up with making energy efficient vehicles more visible and more attractive to purchase at the point-of-sale. This includes the right mix of financial and non-cash incentives to get the older, more polluting vehicles off the road and into the junkyard.
- Resolve financing and funding barriers that inhibit the market growth of highly efficient vehicles. As federal CAFÉ standard increase, zero emission vehicles hit the road and fuel use decreases, there will be challenges to a transportation system funded by gas taxes. Flexible revenue and financing models will help the state achieve its energy and emission goals. Current plans such as Complete Streets also need to be funded.
- Develop complete communities and re-affirm the benefits of Oregon’s land use system. Oregon’s transportation and land use strategies have evolved over the last 40 years into a model for strategic planning, community-centered decision-making and efficient outcomes. The next 10-to-20 years will require renewed efforts to keep a focus on community development within urban growth boundaries.