Clean Fuels Program Reduces Emissions And Makes Health Investments

It should not be a surprise that climate change is both an environmental and a public health crisis.

Wildfire smoke is officially recognized by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division as a concern to employees, and last year’s heat dome in Oregon resulted in the deaths of over 100 people due to excessive heat.

One of the longest heatwaves ever recorded occurred in July, prompting heat advisories to be issued throughout the state, a state of emergency to be declared in 25 counties, and an investigation into three probable heat-related deaths in Multnomah County.

Heat, a lack of breeze, and pollution combined to cause air quality warnings along Interstates 5 and 84 throughout the state. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency’s capacity to safeguard the public from dangerous air pollution was completely destroyed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, which disregarded precedent.

Given this, it’s crucial now more than ever that state governments take action to safeguard the public’s health from the impending catastrophe of climate change. The Clean Fuels Program, which uses financial incentives to encourage suppliers to sell lower-carbon transportation fuels, is one of our most effective tools for reducing our dependence on costly, volatile fossil fuels and fostering healthier communities.

We can start by strengthening and expanding it right away. The Clean Fuels Program has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6 million tonnes over the course of its six years of operation while replacing 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline with cleaner fuels without raising pump costs.

This is a significant victory for the environment. It’s also a significant victory for public health. Burning fossil fuels produces various air toxins, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, in addition to climate pollution.

All Oregonians pay the price for the harm done by burning fossil fuels with their health and their wallets, but those with low incomes and those from communities of color pay the most because they are more exposed to the problems and have fewer resources to deal with them.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimates that each year, soot from diesel engine exhaust causes 176 early deaths, 25,810 lost workdays, and $3.5 billion in annual health care expenses as a result of exposure.

Clean Fuels Program Reduces Emissions
Clean Fuels Program Reduces Emissions

The Clean Fuels Program’s appeal is that it not only reduces emissions but also makes investments in better alternatives.

With the money from the program, some school districts in Oregon purchased their first electric buses, giving students a calmer, healthier trip. Businesses, ranging from small trucking fleets to TriMet, only use renewable diesel thanks to the Clean Fuels Program. Electric vehicles have been given to nonprofits like Meals on Wheels and the Native American Youth and Family Center so they may spend more on providing their services and less on gasoline and upkeep.

Low-income Corvallis residents have received funding for electric bikes. With funding from Clean Fuels, electric vehicle charging stations have appeared all over the state, from Pendleton to Klamath Falls to Forest Grove. Even more impressively, the same approach reduces hazardous local air pollution, creating healthier communities and saving millions of dollars annually on healthcare.

The Clean Fuels Program benefits both public health and the fight against global warming. The program’s carbon intensity reduction goals should be increased this autumn so that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality can invest as much as possible in a healthier, more resilient future.

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