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New Consumers Union Report Finds California’s Clean Transportation Policies Provide Net Savings for Consumers

Analysis projects annual household expenditures on gasoline significantly lower by 2030

Thursday, March 31, 2016

SACRAMENTO, CA – California households are likely to save up to $1,530 each year by 2030 from clean transportation policies, according to a new report from Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The report, conducted by ICF International, analyzes the consumer impacts of California’s primary policies to lower carbon emissions from the transportation sector, including: the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards, the Zero Emission Vehicle Program, sustainable communities strategies (Senate Bill 375), and the AB 32 Cap-and-Trade Program.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Energy Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The question we set out to answer was whether California’s efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions would hurt consumers. And the answer is no. In fact, we found that California’s clean transportation policies work together to help lower consumer fuel costs, insulate consumers — especially low-income consumers — against gasoline price spikes, and save the state billions of dollars. And the health benefits and savings from reduced air pollution are nothing to sneeze at. Overall, consumers come out ahead as a result of these low carbon transportation policies. ”

“This Consumers Union report reinforces that California’s comprehensive portfolio of low-carbon transportation policies is delivering results for consumers and public health. By increasing vehicle emissions standards, requiring cleaner-burning fuel, expanding access to electric vehicles, and planning our communities to be more transit-friendly, we are increasing competition and giving consumers healthier and more affordable options to meet their transportation needs,” said California Senate President Pro Tempore, Kevin De León.

“The evidence grows daily that California’s climate policies are helping low-income families all over the state,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Legal Counsel Sekita Grant. “Communities of color are and must be at the forefront of our clean energy future, and that future is arriving. When you combine the consumer savings documented in this report with the health benefits of cleaner air and the new clean energy investments bringing jobs and opportunities into underserved neighborhoods, it’s a win-win-win for communities that have been hit hardest by pollution and economic troubles.”

The report notes that these programs come with compliance costs, but despite the popular focus on the price at the pump, consumers’ monthly or annual overall costs for transportation are what really impact a household’s ability to pay their bills. Health care costs related to air pollution and wasted time in congestion also are key factors when considering consumer impacts.

The key results of ICF’s analysis include the following:

  • Households will likely save between $1,210-1,530 annually by 2030 (after accounting for the compliance costs of California’s transportation policies) and that consumers will face considerably lower annual fuel expenditures moving forward.
  • Low income households will experience the largest savings from low-carbon policies (measured as a share of income). The combination of improved vehicle efficiency and reduced vehicle miles traveled from sustainable community planning can reduce the lowest income group’s exposure to fuel price increases.
  • Over the next five years, California’s low-carbon transportation policies will save residents between $8-18 billion annually on gasoline fuel expenditures.
  • By 2030, the total cost of ownership of alternative fuel vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies will be very competitive with, and in several cases, cheaper than conventional vehicles using gasoline. Even in the first year of ownership, many alternative fuel vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies will be competitive with conventional vehicles using gasoline.
  • As a result of California’s sustainable community strategies, Californians will save 350 million hours that they would have otherwise spent sitting in traffic, with a cumulative value of over $6 billion by 2030. This translates into an annual savings of roughly 20 hours and $350 per worker.
  • California’s transportation policies will reduce harms attributable to criteria pollutant emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, and petroleum consumption, in the range of $3.0-4.8 billion annually by 2030. This monetized value is linked to benefits such as: a) reduced incidences of premature mortality, bronchitis, upper and lower respiratory symptoms, asthma exacerbation, nonfatal heart attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, work loss and restricted activity days, b) avoided costs of climate change, and c) reduced exposure to volatile petroleum markets.

“Through extensive planning for a long horizon, California is weaving together policies that can deliver both consumer and environmental benefits,” said Baker-Branstetter.

Consumers Union will circulate copies of the report with members of the state legislature amid industry calls to weaken or eliminate low-carbon transportation programs. Members of the media are invited to attend a briefing in the Capitol today at 1 pm in Room 126.

A full copy of the report is available online at http://www.consumersunion.org/research/LCTReport.


Contact: Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

Consumers Union is the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications.