COLTURA OP ED ON THE BIG POLLUTER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOODMay 15, 2020
May 2020 Gasoline Phaseout NewsMay 31, 2020
Cities need to know how many gallons of gasoline are pumped within their borders, so they can assess the impact of transportation greenhouse gas reduction measures, and refine strategies to more effectively reduce gasoline consumption. The California Energy Commission (CEC) collects reports of gallons of gasoline sold from gas stations each year, but so far has not released them. Coltura is working to obtain these reports. Here’s why it’s important to do so:
Urgent Need to Reduce Gasoline Use:
For California to meet its climate goals, it must slash gasoline use quickly. Per the IPCC, gasoline use (and all other greenhouse gas emissions) must decrease by roughly 50% over the next 10 years for a chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. The curve may be starting to head in the right direction (and will keep doing so temporarily in the face of coronavirus travel restrictions), but more is needed:
How can California cities most effectively drive gasoline use down 50% by 2030?
City Gasoline Sales Reduction Targets:
Cities are well-positioned to drive their residents’ gasoline use lower by taking accountability for reducing the gasoline pumped within their borders. They can:
- set a 5% annual reduction target for gallons of gasoline pumped within their borders;
- publicize their gasoline reduction targets; spark competition with neighboring cities;
- assess programs and incentives (such as EV charging infrastructure, transit, subsidies for e-bikes and e-scooters, EV ride & drives, and education campaigns) by their impact on the targets;
- track and report progress toward the targets; and
- celebrate as milestones are achieved.
To do this, cities need accurate annual gasoline sales volume data. Without that data, targets can’t be set, and progress toward them can’t be measured. Here’s an example of how the city of Sacramento could set targets if it had verified data:
This is where the problem lies. California cities don’t know how many gallons of gasoline are pumped from the gas stations within their borders each year.The Value of Gasoline Sales Volume Data:
As the saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” It’s critical for cities to obtain annual gasoline sales volume data to measure progress toward greenhouse gas reduction goals, and improve the effectiveness of their gasoline reduction strategies.
Knowing the correlation between localized gasoline volumes and local investments in measures such as alternative mobility, EV charging infrastructure, EV purchase incentives and public education campaigns would enable more effective use of these funds.
The data would also help cities better understand how gasoline consumption is affected by factors such as population, transit ridership, commuting, urban planning, EV adoption rates, gas station closures and openings, and gasoline sales in adjacent cities. And it could be used to optimize co-location of EV charging with the highest-volume gas stations, or to build EV charging near them.
The CEC Has Refused Thus Far to Release Gas Station Reports of Annual Gallons Sold:
The gasoline sales volume data already exists. California gas stations are required to submit a report annually to the CEC stating how many gallons of gas they sold in the prior year. However, the CEC has been unwilling to release those reports. Coltura has been filing public records requests and campaigning for disclosure of the data.
The CEC did provide aggregated gasoline sales volumes data for those cities with 4+ gas stations. However, because the CEC has not enforced the gas station reporting requirement (per its legal mandate to impose penalties of $500-$2,000 a day on gas stations which fail to report), many gas stations have not submitted their reports, and there is no way to tell which gas stations didn’t report. As a result, the CEC admits that total sales volumes were under-reported by 10% to 30% over each of the last ten years. The underlying annual gasoline sales volume reports are necessary for the information to be useful.
Public Health and Safety:
Additionally, annual gasoline sales volumes reports from gas stations are needed to understand the environmental, health, safety, congestion, equity, economic and other impacts of local gasoline sales volumes in surrounding areas. Pumping gasoline results in gasoline intrusion into surrounding soils and ground waters, and release of toxic vapors into the air that increase health risks to gas station workers and surrounding communities. Volume matters. For instance, there is a dose-response relation between volume of gasoline pumped, benzene release, and cancer risks. A recent study concluded that sales volumes should inform gas station setback requirements. Knowing the volumes of gasoline pumped in gas stations will help to protect those who live, work or attend schools near them, and prioritize enforcement of regulations relating to gas station pollution.
Coltura is continuing to pursue release of the gasoline volumes data, and thanks the many organizations that have joined in calling for its disclosure, including: Plug In America, Center for Biological Diversity, Stand.Earth, Mothers Out Front, The Climate Center, 350 Bay Area, 350 Silicon Valley, Fossil Free California, Clean Coalition, Acterra, ZEV 2030, Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action, Interfaith Climate Action Network of Contra Costa County, Menlo Spark, Sunrise Palo Alto, CONGAS, Project Green Home, and Silicon Valley Climate Strike.
Learn more about this data and why it must be released in the FAQs here.
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