By Rob Hirsch
Santa Fe is taking initial steps to embrace a cleaner transportation future, one that will hopefully mean zero tailpipe emissions within a generation. The ultimate goal is to have a comprehensive, interactive network of solutions that will make our city cleaner, help residents get around efficiently and cost-effectively and catapult us to become a leading community in combating climate change in a way that benefits our people.
Of course, we need to make progress on multiple fronts to accomplish the unifying goal. We need affordable housing for reasons of integrity, diversity and fairness; but also so people don’t have to leave town and commute so far, and don’t pollute so much in getting around. We need to facilitate better proximities of our workplaces, homes and service centers (including schools and healthy grocery stores). To become more sustainably integrated, we need thoughtful higher densities in urban planning, as well as greater walkability, bike-ability and mobility. We also need more agile and useful public transportation, such as shuttle busing, car-share and other smart advances so people can get around more easily, inexpensively and in a way that best protects our environment and climate. We also need to promote the ethic of conservation. The greenest commute is the one we don’t take because either we choose not to, we don’t need to (for example, we grow more food at home) or we choose another effective option such as tele-conferencing.
All this is vital, but there is another key way for our community and society to dramatically and responsibly leap forward in environmental stewardship without forgoing our convenience-oriented car culture. That is through the integration of electric vehicles (EV) and a renewable energy (RE) grid. We should be joining China, India, the UK, Norway, France and many others that are pledging to phase out or ban the sale of fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040 in favor of the electric-vehicle revolution. Much sooner than 2040 the EV costs will be the same or better than the gasoline combustion engine vehicles.
EVs also cost much less to be maintained. More importantly, we can bust the dirty marriage of fossil fuels and vehicles. That was convenient in the 20th century when we did not know about greenhouse gases causing climate change. Now that we know, we must do everything in our power to avoid fossil fuel use and draw down greenhouse gas emissions. In conjunction with embracing the EV revolution, we should simultaneously be joining The Solutions Project (http://thesolutionsproject.org), 350.org, as well as other local and nationwide organizations in calling for 100 percent RE. Combining EVs with an RE grid will propel us into a state-of-the-art green economy, and we will soar, becoming healthier, saving resources (including lots of money) and restoring the life force of our precious planet.
Even though they are baby steps, it is important that the City of Santa Fe is making initial strides in this direction. On Dec 13, 2017, the city passed a resolution to transition to EVs, initially with administrative vehicles, and to assess the costs of other fleets as well as to plan for an EV charging station infrastructure. With a green transportation/EV event at Santa Fe Community College’s Innovation Center, as well as with PNM’s recently installed charging station at Genoveva Chávez Center, seeds have been planted for a cleaner transportation future. Of course any transition to EVs needs to be coupled with a major transition to an RE electric grid (with battery storage and demand response), and PNM must become transparent, accountable and responsive to our community’s needs in this regard. Baby steps can lead to leaps and bounds if our community demands action. The upcoming 25-Year Sustainability Plan, to be published in early 2018 by the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, will help advance not only EV and renewable energy; it will call for a holistic approach to clean transportation and hopefully propel our citizenry and our elected officials to action.
Robb Hirsch runs Energy, Sustainable Development & Leadership (EDL),
a consulting firm specializing in large-scale renewable-energy projects. He is also executive director of the Climate Change Leadership Institute, serves on the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission and is currently board president of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce.