In the wake of the recent United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report regarding global warming, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, made a short but profound statement when she said, “Every bit of warming matters, and every bit of avoided warming matters.”
Dr. Lubchenco’s pragmatism is a breath of fresh air, and it is good to see federal lawmakers in agreement. The U.S. Senate recently approved the $1.2 trillion surface transportation bill that will inject funding into the nation’s critical infrastructure and as importantly, reduce CO2 emissions. The Senate’s proposal clearly shows that there is no single path to a low carbon future but that multiple, proven, and easily deployed solutions for reducing emissions are available today.
Propane Infrastructure Funding
In the bill, $2.5 billion in grant funding for propane refueling infrastructure along the national highway system is included. Why is this smart? Today in 38 states, medium- and heavy-duty propane-powered vehicles have a lower carbon footprint when compared to similar electric vehicles charged from the coal and gas-powered electrical grid. In addition, the legislation invests $17 billion in port infrastructure to address emissions. Ships are rapidly converting to cleaner energies, so this investment builds on that momentum. At the end of 2020, in fact, more than a quarter of the ships on order in terms of tonnage were slated to be propelled by liquefied natural gas or propane.
Clean school buses also get much-deserved attention in the infrastructure bill. More than $4 billion has been budgeted to support conversion of heavy fossil fuel buses and transit vehicles. Propane school buses have recently been chosen by decision-makers in Michigan and Massachusetts, Maryland and Missouri, South Dakota and South Carolina. Safety is improved, maintenance costs are dramatically lower, ranges are longer, fuel costs are lower, and because every bit of avoided warming matters, it should be noted that propane buses reduce NOX by 96 percent and carbon dioxide by 13 percent versus diesel counterparts.
Low Carbon Energy Now
The IPCC report projects that the world will probably reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming within just the next two decades. It is not inevitable, however. Avoiding that future starts with dramatically slowing the world’s progress toward it. Dr. Lubchenco urged the same in 2019 when she said, “Now is the moment for more scientists to pivot from simply documenting the tragedy underway to also creating scalable solutions.” In this climate crisis, we would do well to take her lead.
Low carbon, high-density, affordable energies are key to turning in a better direction. They are available to us now, and liquid fuels innovation underway today promises to deliver even greater reductions in CO2 emissions. We can, and should, move toward a future where precision energy options power the world and save the planet –– and do so today.