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March 29, 2021
New Report Highlights Connection Between Air Quality, Climate Change, and COVID-19
Source: EV Hub
More than a year after the first lockdowns were implemented, the United States is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the COVID-19 pandemic. Although cases are still dangerously high in many parts of the country, more than a quarter of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 14 percent are fully vaccinated as of March 25th. This progress is encouraging, but many of the challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic are not going away anytime soon.

In unintended ways, the pandemic has provided a window into the emissions reductions and air quality improvements possible when the use of fossil fuels in transportation is significantly reduced. It also demonstrated how the most vulnerable communities are often hit the hardest in health and economic emergencies. In an effort to highlight these challenges and place them in a broader context, Atlas has partnered with the Alliance for Transportation Electrification on a new report titled “Air Quality, Climate Change, and COVID-19.” The report makes the case for transportation electrification as a part of the solution to some of the public health, environmental justice, climate, and economic crises buffeting the nation.

The urgency to promote clean energy and transportation is especially pressing from a health equity perspective. Communities of color will continue to face disproportionate air pollution burdens, contributing to worse health outcomes unless swift action is taken to reduce emissions across the U.S. economy. These communities are on the front lines of emissions from vehicles, ports, power plants, refineries, and other major sources of air pollution. Studies have shown that a one unit increase in fine particulate pollution exposure can increase COVID-19 mortality risk by up to eight percent.

Health challenges are exacerbated for those living in Western states from New Mexico to Washington, where record wildfires swept through large swaths of the region and produced unhealthy air quality for several months in 2020. Wildfires and other extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change and other factors including land management practices. The record number of acres burned throughout the 2020 fire season caused a worsening in average air quality in North America compared to the previous year. No other region in the world experienced a yearly decline in air quality in 2020. In the month of September, 77 of the world’s 100 cities with the highest recorded air pollution were in the United States.

These public health and climate crises are coming at a high cost to both communities and the nation as a whole. The $3.6 billion price tag associated with direct response to wildfires and estimated $95 billion in damages from 22 extreme weather disasters tracked by NOAA in 2020 alone has placed additional strain on states seeking to provide services for their citizens as they struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus, not to mention the inevitable impacts on rebuilding and insurance costs for families and communities. Beyond the cost of environmental crises, communities of color have faced higher levels of unemployment as a result of the pandemic compared to white communities.  

While one intervention cannot solve all of the problems facing the country, the surge in transportation electrification investment and policy activity seen so far in 2021 could help to make EVs an important part of the recovery solution through economic stimulus, job creation, and a reduction in harmful air pollution. This is especially true as the Biden administration looks to tackle infrastructure investment with a focus on climate change and racial inequity in its next big legislative push. This paper is the first paper in a two-part series. The second paper in the series will provide a closer look at the specific ways transportation electrification can address these challenges and includes an exploration of near-term policy and funding opportunities to decarbonize the transportation system. Stay tuned for part two in the coming months and see part one in the EV Hub Resource Library.
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ICYMI: On 3/12, we recorded a great conversation with Cassie Powers from NASEO and Geoff Morrison from Cadmus on their new EV policy rubric. You can watch or list to the show here.
Recently, we pulled together a special episode on the U.S. Postal Service. Nick Nigro was joined by two powerhouses on this issue, Dorothy Robyn of the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy and Gina Coplon-Newfield of the Sierra Club. They discussed the contract awarded by USPS, the response from Congress, the role of EVs, and where we go from here.

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EV Hub News

Virginia Becomes 13th State to Join the ZEV Program

On March 18th, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 1965 into law. This makes Virginia the 13th state, and the only state in the Southeast region, to join the California-led ZEV program. The program, which requires manufacturers to make available for sale an increasing proportion of EVs across the state, has also been adopted by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Both New Mexico and Minnesota are going through the regulatory process, which could result in them adopting the ZEV program as well. Read More Here

Six Utilities in Southeast and Midwest Partner for Electric Highway

On March 2, 2021, six of the country’s largest utilities agreed to partner to develop fast charging corridors throughout the Midwest and Southeast. The Electric Highway Coalition, made up of American Electric Power (AEP), Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, plans to roll out DC fast charging across the region. This marks the first major multi-utility partnership in these regions, following similar initiatives in the Rocky Mountain region under REV West and along Pacific Coast interstates with the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor. Read More Here

GM to Sell Only EVs by 2035

On January 28th, 2021, General Motors (GM) announced plans to electrify their entire sales offerings by 2035. This follows announcements made in late 2020 that the company will increase their overall investment in EVs to a total of $27 million in support of at least 30 new EV models by 2025. GM is now leading the total investment commitment to EV manufacturing in the United States. The new announcement is part of a wider ambition for the company to reach carbon neutrality across all operations by 2040. GM is also the first of the “Detroit 3” automakers to make a commitment of this nature and follows European auto giants Volkswagen and Daimler who made similar commitments in 2020. Read More Here

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