Sunday, May 13, 2018

Solutions To Pollution On Display During Florida’s Smoggy Week

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

Our kids with asthma need this. 
Who pays for it? VW's $$ could. School bus manufacturer 
Bluebird of GA showed their new electric bus to FL school 
officials at Friday's event in Lakeland. Bluebird joins 
Canadian manufacturer E-Lion in making these emission-
free buses available. FL's VW settlement funds could buy 
these to help our kids with asthma breathe easier. 
OK, here’s the good news: this past week, officials from Florida’s transit agencies and school boards learned about buses without tailpipes – clean, quiet zero emission buses that cost less to own that any other type, buses that will eliminate a major source of carbon emissions and smog.

The bad news? We needed those buses yesterday – literally. As the state celebrated May as "Clean Air Month", in the past week Floridians from Jacksonville to Sarasota suffered from harmful levels of smog – O3, or ground level ozone – that has made it really tough to breathe for folks with asthma and COPD and, on some days, for all of us.

Smog - An Unseen Health Threat

Unlike particulate pollution that we get from forest fires and really dirty diesel trucks, you can't see, taste or smell smog. Like a sunburn you don’t feel until you get home from the beach, smog burns the inside of your lungs. People with pulmonary issues suffer at lower levels than the rest of us. Kids with asthma have to interrupt their games on a playground to whip out inhalers as smog reaches just 60 parts per billion - 17% lower than EPA's current standard of 70 ppb.

Floridians this week in places like Jacksonville (115), Sarasota (133), Lakeland (115), and Tampa (166) all got the inside
of their lungs fried by ozone, making folks wonder why they were having trouble breathing. Sound like anyone you know?
Where does smog come from? FPL, Duke and the other utilities burning coal and “natural” (we call it fracked) gas, to be sure. But more than those guys, it’s you and me, driving our cars. Unless you drive an EV, that is.
Florida sunshine converts NOx and VOC into ozone. Sunny
spring days in weeks without rain results in harmful
levels that has won Hillsborough County an "F", year
after smoggy year, from the American Lung Association

AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles, citing a new survey that shows that 1 in 5 Americans want one. Fifty million Americans, or 20%, will likely go electric with their next vehicle purchase, up from 15 percent last year.

Thanks to Florida's $166 million from Volkswagen, the solution to this pollution could be here soon, in large numbers statewide that make it possible for everyone to go electric and replace many of our dirty diesel buses. We could also have many more EV charging stations, thanks to VW and Sierra Club’s settlement agreement with Duke Energy that results in the utility spending $9 million on EV charging stations for places like multi-unit homes and interstate exits – places we need to be able to charge if more of us are going to drive cars without tailpipes. We especially need rapid charging stations at every exit on our highways for the new generations of EVs that go ~ 250 miles on a charge, so we'll all be able to take them across the state or on longer trips outside of Florida.

With VW potentially contributing $25 million for EV charging stations in Florida, not to mention installing their own network nationwide, we could very soon reach the tipping point to the switch to EVs that so many now desire.

Automated vehicles use "lidor"
sensors on bumpers that see by
emitting photons, creating a virtual
reality vision for on an board computer.
Another reason EVs are on their way: automated vehicles (AVs) are in the last stages of development, as we saw at a demonstration in Tampa on Wednesday. These cars can all be electric and will make roads safer. Furthermore, they’ll eliminate the need for many of the asphalt surface parking lots that make Florida hotter as they also prevent natural stormwater percolation into the aquifer. And when they do park when out of service to recharge, AVs will take up 50% less room, as they can park close together without needing to allow passengers to exit.

Even UPS is starting to make the switch. On the transit front, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, PSTA, will take delivery of its 1st two zero emission electric buses this month, and they just ordered 2 more to serve low income neighborhoods in S. St. Pete, to help improve air quality there. The Broward County Commission is expected to order its first 15 electric buses at its 9 am meeting Tuesday morning, May 22 

Proterra is expected to soon add more
electric buses to the 4 that have
served Tallahassee for years, along 
with a new order from Broward Co. 
All the electric buses now being made in America were on display at the American Public Transit Association's convention in Tampa, where they were parked across the street from where the Tampa Bay Lightning are now contending in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (we thought that was fitting). Go Bolts! Go Electric! 

A Big Thanks To YOU: Our THANKS to all who took 
the FDEP survey on how best to use our $166 million
from the VW diesel scandal settlement to reduce smog
emissions from transportation.

Special thanks to Sierra volunteers in every Group in our Florida Chapter, all over the state, who asked thousands to have their say, from Earth Day to yesterday. We expect FDEP to release the results later this month, and for EVs to come out far ahead. 
We’ll share the results soon.
PSTA will soon have 2 BYD
electric buses serving St. Pete's
Downtown Looper. Next year, 2 more! 

Thanks again for helping Florida take a major step forward to clean up our smoggy skies, as we fight the climate change that threatens our future. Other states are, the rest of the world is 
why not us? 

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air & Ready for 100 Campaigns
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(o) 727-824-8813, ext. 303      (c) 813-841-3601