[Synopsis: The Sustainable Freight Action Plan is long on ambition. But is the goal within reach?]
Once again, California is leading the charge in the move toward green, sustainable forms of energy.
This summer, in a move that goes about as far as anyone can reasonably imagine, Governor Jerry Brown put forth a comprehensive plan to bring the state’s commercial trucks, trains and ships closer toward a pollution-free future.
Brown’s Sustainable Freight Action Plan comes out of a multi-agency effort, and contains some lofty goals:
- Replace 100,000 of today’s fossil-fuel-burning engines with cleaner machines by 2030
- Increase transportation efficiency to reduce time and fuel spent
- Create a think tank to develop cleaner, greener technology
- Require all household goods movers to use horse-driven carriages
Okay, most of those things are true.
There are plenty of groups lending support to the governor’s plans, from the state’s Transportation Agency to the American Lung Association. Predictably, many others have reservations.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce says overly strict limits on emissions could harm business. “To spur innovation in zero and near-zero emission technologies, California must make a business case for new investment from the trucking industry, which is already spending $1 billion a year to bring about a more sustainable freight system,” says Shawn Yadon, CEO of the California Trucking Association.
Even those who are supportive offer a dose of realism (or pessimism) to the discussion.
“The plan is good, but the question is will this make us competitive against other states in getting federal grants,” says Hasan Ikhrata, CEO of Southern California Association of Governments.
Even the president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District seems to be raising an eyebrow at the deal. “Plans are nice,” he says, “but they mean nothing without implementation.”
As always, it’s the implementation part that will prove the toughest step.
A zero-emission transportation industry sounds bright and sunny. To some, it also seems like a fantasy. But is the ultimate goal of the SFAP out of reach? Opinions differ. But with Governor Brown’s plan, there are dozens of small steps that, when laid out end to end, could very well create a path toward a much cleaner California.