Saturday, June 25, 2022
June 25, 2022

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In Our View: Better late than never with electric vehicles

The Columbian

With C-Tran purchasing new buses and with Gov. Jay Inslee tooling around Tacoma, Washington is increasingly going electric.

The local transit agency has announced plans to add 10 all-electric buses to its fleet. And the governor this week took a ride on the state’s first electric school bus, purchased by the Franklin Pierce School District. “In Washington, we’re electrifying planes, trains, ferries and automobiles,” Inslee said. “And today, we’re showing we can electrify buses, too. It’s exciting to celebrate the first electric school bus in Washington state, because this effort is, ultimately, all about our kids and their future.”

The goal is to reduce carbon emissions and to combat human-generated climate change — an area in which Washington is a national leader. The problems involve why it has taken so long and why there remains strong opposition to the facts surrounding climate change.

As far back as 1977, a senior scientist for Exxon (now ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company) wrote, “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” Still, the corporation engaged in a decades-long misinformation campaign to obfuscate that science and protect the profitability of the petroleum industry.

And as far back as 1989, advisers to Republican President George H.W. Bush called climate change “the most far-reaching environmental issue of our time” and said, “the consequences for every nation and every aspect of human activity will be profound.”

Modern Republicans, however, have adopted a position of denying the human influence on climate change, with President Donald Trump insisting it is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese.”

In other words, decades of denial and misinformation have slowed this nation’s advancements in developing electric vehicles and reducing carbon emissions. We should be long past the point where rolling out electric buses is newsworthy, but here we are.

And so we note that C-Tran is one of six agencies in Washington to put money from a federal settlement with Volkswagen toward electrifying its fleet. The German automaker equipped vehicles with devices to fraudulently hide diesel emissions, and in 2016 agreed to pay a settlement of $15.3 billion.

Because of the time it takes to order and outfit the vehicles, the first all-electric buses won’t hit the streets of Clark County until 2021. They will replace all-diesel buses in the agency’s fleet, and will join 62 hybrids already in use. Maia Bellon, director of the state Department of Ecology, said: “Big diesel engines are some of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state. Investing in zero-emission alternatives is essential for improving air quality and protecting Washington communities.”

The state has led the way in attempts to reduce carbon emissions, including a goal of having 50,000 electric passenger vehicles on the road by next year. Statistics from the governor’s office indicate that goal is within reach, and it is notable that Washington has more than 2,400 public charging ports after having 12 as of 2010.

Some critics have said that the manufacture of electric vehicles creates more emissions than standard vehicles. But studies leave no doubt that battery-powered vehicles are more environmentally friendly over their lifetime.

Because of that we applaud the move toward more and more electric vehicles. But we lament the fact that we didn’t get to do it years ago.

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