In early August, President Biden signed an executive order setting a target to make 50 percent of all new cars sold in 2030 electric vehicles. This announcement follows a wave of transit authorities committing to fully electric bus fleets—including DC’s recent plan for a full transition by 2045, Chicago’s push for a full transition by 2040, and LA’s commitment to a zero-emission fleet by 2028.
The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and cars and trucks make up 82 percent of the sector’s emissions. Accelerating the transition away from combustion vehicles is a crucial step toward both meeting emission reduction goals and offering public health co-benefits from reduced tailpipe point source pollution.
But electric vehicles depend on power produced elsewhere to recharge, making them only as environmentally beneficial as their local power generation source. This can lead to an inverse result: if available power sources rely on fossil fuels, increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road could increase overall greenhouse gas emissions and deadly pollution in nearby communities—communities where people with low incomes and people of color are most likely to live.
To avoid exacerbating harms to these communities, policymakers can use environmental justice principles to prioritize cleaning the worst-emitting power plants and ensure the electric vehicle transition doesn’t disproportionately affect any group.
Read the full article about the push for electric vehicles by Amy Rogin at Urban Institute.
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