By Ryan Martel
In just over five days, more than 276,000 people put down $1,000 to reserve their own Model 3, signaling that American appetite for electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise.
That's good news because greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are growing faster than in any other sector in the U.S. and account for about 30 percent of the total. A major shift to electrified vehicles in the transportation sector is necessary to give us a fighting chance to meet our climate goals.
Yet, just as EVs are poised for growth, oil industry interests are sharpening their knives. Energy companies, including Koch Industries, are increasing their public opposition to electric vehicles because they are realizing the significant potential impacts of EVs on oil demand.
Recently, for example, Jim Mahoney, board member of Koch Industries, penned an oped in Fortune about opposing government subsidies that favor one form of energy over another. “Koch opposes all market-distorting policies, including subsidies and mandates—even if they may benefit the company," he wrote.
What Mahoney was really taking aim at were incentives offered to the small but growing electric vehicle market in the U.S.
His op-ed was mum on fossil fuel subsidies—which the International Monetary Fund pegs at $5.3 trillion. And he certainly didn't mention the 11 fossil fuel federal tax subsidies identified by the Department of Treasury that cost U.S. taxpayers $4.7 billion per year—some of which have been in place for more than 100 years. Or the numerous public lands leasing and royalty breaks for oil and gas production.
Mahoney singles out the electric vehicle tax credit because electric vehicles are a threat to oil, which is mainly used for transportation and his op-ed is part of a broader attempt to roll back tax credits that support advanced vehicles.
If you doubt that the tiny but growing electric vehicle market could threaten big oil, consider this: Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) projects that oil displacement as a result of increased electric vehicle deployment could lead to an oil crash by 2023. BNEF flags battery prices and strong policies as important drivers of EV growth. In fact, battery costs have dropped dramatically—falling by 65 percent since 2010. By 2030 they are estimated to fall from $350 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to below $120 per kWh.
To-date, oil producers have underestimated the competitiveness of electric vehicles, but they are seeing the threat to their market share and are taking aim at the EV industry. Because they can't do much to improve the environmental profile of their own core products, we can expect a growing effort by the oil industry to undermine the electric vehicle sector. It's no surprise that Koch Industries is leading the way.
To thwart electric vehicle progress, Mahoney's op-ed trots out tired arguments against clean energy subsidies, even though the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program has earned American taxpayers a net of $30 million as of 2014.
He further claims that EV tax incentives are “welfare for the wealthy," because—as he would have it—only rich people buy electric cars. This may have been true in the past, but not now. He conveniently fails to mention the forthcoming affordable long range EVs like the Chevy Bolt, which will drive 200 miles on a single charge and sell for about $30,000 (after using the $7500 federal tax credit) or Tesla's new Model 3, which will sell below the average price that Americans are paying for new cars.
Indeed, the sticker price of many other electric vehicles before government incentives is at or under the average new car price—like the Chevy Spark EV at $25,750 or the Nissan Leaf at $29,000. And of course the sticker price doesn't take into account the much lower fuel and maintenance costs of EVs.
Beyond cutting transportation emissions, a shift to vehicle electrification will also promote grid reliability and renewable energy generation by providing flexible storage options. The past several years have seen profound shifts in the electricity sector fuel mix, smart grid and storage technologies, as well as comprehensive federal regulations to aggressively reduce emissions—making EVs even cleaner.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated greenhouse gas and fuel economy rules for cars, the current federal rules don't anticipate more than 2 percent penetration of EVs. In order to realize the many benefits of electrification of the transportation sector, we need to provide critical early support, such as through tax incentives and efforts to build out charging infrastructure.
We should also recognize that while the EV sector shows promise, the playing field is still tilted towards traditional gas-fueled vehicles. It's critical that we simultaneously preserve policies like the federal fuel economy standards, which make all vehicles more fuel efficient, as well as those that promote EVs, while opposing self-serving efforts to maximize polluter profits.
Mahoney of course never once mentions the central reason that this conversation matters: pollution.
And given the chance, Americans will always choose, clean air, clean water and a healthy world for their children over a world fouled by unnecessary and unwanted pollution. EVs have the potential to advance all of these objectives as part of a clean energy future.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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