California may be cutting edge in improving air quality and putting more electric cars on the road, but one San Francisco group says that many state residents -- and their vehicles -- have been left out.
The "No Californian Left Behind" report set forth by the Next Generation "think tank" concludes low-income residents in rural areas, including Solano County, still drive older, high-polluting cars and can't afford electric vehicles.
Further, these residents have little, if no, access to public transportation, and spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on their vehicles, according to the report made public Thursday.
This large fleet of polluting vehicles form a big barrier in the state's effort to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions as required by law, the report notes.
"We are huge supporters of the electric vehicle program and public transportation programs and all the efforts on high speed rail," said Kate Gordon, Next Generation vice president of climate and energy.
"But the state has missed a huge portion of the population -- those who are car-dependent and non-urban. They should also get access to safe, clean and efficient cars," Gordon said.
Next Generation estimates that 15 percent of California's vehicles produce half the state's air pollution, Gordon said.
That's between 2 million and 3.5 million inefficient models dating mainly from the mid-1990s, which are often unable to pass emissions tests, she said.
Many of the households that own these vehicles are low-income and live in car-dependent areas like the San Joaquin Valley with no public transit options, according to the report.
The San Joaquin Valley, the Central Valley and other areas of the state's rural areas are also where a large percentage of the low-income residents can't afford electric vehicles or have no public transportation systems.
Most of the Bay Area is not rural and also has access to BART and other public transportation, but parts of the region fall into the rural category, Gordon said.
Solano County is one area where there is a large percentage of low-income residents who are car-dependent and challenged in finding good public transit systems to get around, Gordon said.
The report has been released as the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board starts to rewrite guidelines for both the state's vehicle retirement and replacement program, and the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program.
Gordon said now is a good time to bolster these programs to benefit low-income residents and take polluting cars off the highways.
"The state of California has an opportunity to address these problems by helping families replace these cars with cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles - and in the process, help a lot of families save a lot of money on gasoline," according to the report.
As the revisions to the guidelines get underway, Next Generation recommends policy makers set more aggressive vehicle efficiency baselines for replacement vehicles in the program and also undertake greater public outreach.
It's also recommended that the state get a better handle on unregistered vehicles so that they can be targeted in a retirement and replacement program.
For more details and to read the entire report go to http://thenextgeneration.org/.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.
©2014 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)
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