Pa. can build a clean electric vehicle future. Wolf, lawmakers must embrace it | Marc Stier

Dozens of business leaders, including leading vehicle manufacturers, have urged Wolf to redouble his efforts to electrify transportation in Pennsylvania

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

By Marc Stier

To protect our economy and lives from devastating climate change, the future of transportation on our roads must be based on electric power. Twenty-nine percent of greenhouse gases nationwide are generated by transportation—the largest percentage of any sector of the economy.

The federal government is thus strengthening its commitment to electric vehicle adoption, and multiple vehicle manufacturers have committed to full electrification, with auto manufacturers such as Volvo, Ford and GM investing tens of billions to scale up domestic EV production over the coming decade.

These companies are reimagining their vehicle portfolios, releasing new electric models, and investing in electric vehicle manufacturing and the required supply chains in the United States, including right here in Pennsylvania.

This transformation has to happen not just with the cars we drive but with what is known as medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHD), that is trucks and buses. MHD vehicles represent just 11 percent of vehicles on the road, but they produce 29 percent of all vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to high levels of air pollutants that undermine our health. Freight vehicles are a major source of fine particulate matter, which is linked to serious health problems, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and lung cancer.

New Study: Electric vehicle expansion could help Pa.’s meet its climate goals

According to the American Lung Association, widespread adoption of electric vehicles by 2050 would result in an estimated savings of $72 billion per year in health costs nationally. Disadvantaged communities located along transportation corridors would secure a disproportionate share of these health benefits of the electrification of transportation.

Fifteen states, including Pennsylvania, have signed onto a Multi-State Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding, pledging that at least 30 percent of all new trucks and buses sold in the state will be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.

We applaud Gov. Tom Wolf for taking the first steps by committing Pennsylvania to the multi-state agreement to electrify trucks and buses and funding the development of a clean transportation plan.

The governor now has a critical opportunity to build on this important work by taking the necessary actions to meet the objectives outlined in the MOU.

Doing so will yield important benefits for the future of Pennsylvania and the American transportation industry, further signaling Pennsylvania commitment to American leadership in the future of transportation, with major implications for job opportunities, energy security and emissions reductions.

Dozens of business leaders, including leading vehicle manufacturers, have urged Gov. Tom Wolf to redouble his efforts to electrify transportation in Pennsylvania.

As Pa. lawmakers evaluate the future of electric vehicles, this company is thinking strategically

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center agrees. We urge the governor to advance additional policy measures to meet the commitments of the agreement by taking public that include purchase incentives, electrification of transit and school buses and investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We also urge him to condition these incentives and investments on the companies receiving them instituting pro-labor polices of the kinds the Reimagine Appalachia campaign has embraced.

These businesses—including Amply, EVgo, Proterra, Rivian, Siemens, Volvo Group North America, Nestlé USA and other large and small businesses throughout the commonwealth—know it is time to accelerate the transition to electric medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) vehicles to protect our economy, energy security, public health and climate.

They know that we must act with urgency to modernize and transform the school buses, delivery trucks, public buses and refuse trucks that travel through our neighborhoods and along our highways.

The MHD sector is a critical part of this transformation and is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the global automobile market. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake as the United States competes with China and other nations to be a leader in the EV supply chain.

We have a finite window of opportunity to leverage state and federal policy action to preserve American leadership and the jobs that come with it, jobs that can be located right here in Pennsylvania.

Electric vehicle technology has improved rapidly over the last decade, paving the way for new models of every vehicle class. Mack Trucks, a part of Volvo Group North America, has committed to developing electric transport solutions for a myriad of commercial and industrial purposes. Mack is currently producing their fully electric Mack LR Electric at its Lehigh Valley Operations plant in Macungie, Penn.

The LR Electric is helping to build widespread acceptance of zero-emissions solutions in the very demanding refuse segment. Volvo and Mack aim for their product range to be “fossil-free” by 2040.

Electrification of MHD as well as our cars is not just important because it reduces greenhouse gases and dangerous pollutants. It will also contribute to energy security and economic growth. The United States is the world’s largest consumer of petroleum, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s daily supply.

We spend $81 billion per year just to protect oil supplies in the Persian Gulf. Our dependence on this volatile commodity, which currently fuels 91 percent of the transportation sector, jeopardizes U.S. economic sovereignty and skews foreign policy priorities.

Electricity, on the other hand, is ubiquitous, domestically produced right here in Pennsylvania, and far more stably priced than petroleum-based fuels. Pennsylvania spends over $1 billion annually on oil imports – dollars that could be invested back into the local economy with a switch to electric transportation.

The electrification of transportation is a question of when – not if. Pennsylvania now has a chance to help our nation pick up the pace so that we can protect the health of our citizens, improve our energy security, create American jobs and remain competitive on the global stage.

Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a progressive think-tank in Harrisburg. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.