The transformation of transportation is a big part of Governor Brown's plan for fighting carbon pollution in California, strengthened by the recent passage of SB 350. At a recent forum on all things automotive, Hector de la Torres of the state's Air Resources Board explained that there are multiple ways the state plans to make that happen; through "reducing vehicle miles traveled, making communities more sustainable, easier to walk, bike, etc." Another important piece of the puzzle? Policies that help support the use of zero-emission vehicles.
Tesla VP Diarmuid O'Connell says it's more than government regulations that's driving sales of their Model S.
"[Customers] find when they get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle, and especially ours, that it's more fun," he reports. "It's a high-performance vehicle, it's safer, the handling is better, and of course, it's got the zero-emissions profile."
And the old guard is getting into the EV market as well. General Motors' Shad Balch says that the Chevrolet Volt is having success akin to its well-loved Corvette and Camaro models, and is "by all accounts, the most successful vehicle we've ever done."
Electrified cars are all well and good, says Alex Bayen of UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies. But replacing gas-guzzlers with EV's doesn't solve another issue: traffic congestion. "There was a time when, yeah, maybe you could regulate how cars were sold, which cars were sold and how a traffic light can be used to make traffic better," says Bayen. But the advent of new technologies such as mobility apps and autonomous cars limits the ability of government to control traffic patterns. Private driving services such as Uber and Lyft are changing the way mobility and demand are managed; even public transit is changing.
After hearing the late climatologist Stephen Schneider speak in Japan, Tim Flannery, a trained scientist, decided he had to help convey the message. "I thought, the best thing I can do is to write a book to inspire the people who perhaps don't understand as well as I did," Flannery says. The result was The Weather Makers, a 2001 book that helped bring the topic of global warming to the general conversation.
Climate scientist Ben Santer also experienced a life-changing event - but of a different sort. As one of the authors of the IPCC's 1995 Climate Assessment Report, he penned a 12-word sentence that turned out to have global political and scientific impact. After evaluating the evidence, he says, he and his colleagues came to the conclusion that "The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on global climate." The reaction was swift, widespread - and in some cases, vitriolic.
"I had no idea that that single sentence was going to change my life profoundly, and really change the world," Santer told the audience at The Commonwealth Club. "It cost me about one and a half years of grief defending that finding and the process by which it had been reached.
"But I learned a lot of important lessons," he adds. "Words matter, and they can change the world."
Executive Board Member, San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance
Environment and Energy Communications Manager, General Motors
Liao-Cho Professor of Engineering; Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley
Hector De La Torre
Member, California Air Resources Board
Scientist, Explorer, Author, Atmosphere of Hope
Head of Public Policy & Business Development, Getaround
Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
Staff Reporter, San Francisco Examiner
Climate Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Associate Vice President and Lead Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund