Virginia’s transportation sector is responsible for nearly half of Virginia’s CO2 emissions. These fossil fuel emissions already threaten our health by producing harmful air pollution, including microparticles (PM2.5). These fossil fuel emissions threaten the health of future generations by furthering climate change.
We all contribute to transportation pollution. We must all contribute to its solution.
As a physician, I know about 750 Virginians die prematurely from transportation pollution annually, that school children throughout the Commonwealth ride in fume-filled diesel buses, and that higher rates of respiratory illness occur in higher traffic areas.
Unfortunately, this pollution disproportionately affects people of color. They are three times more likely to live in a county with a failing grade for ozone and PM2.5 pollution days. COVID has been shown to accentuate the health consequences of dirty air.
We must take meaningful steps to reduce transportation pollution now. Rapid transition to electric vehicles(EVs) can dramatically reduce the negative health impacts of transportation pollution.
Several bills before the General Assembly now will accelerate this transition toward healthier and cleaner air for all Virginians.
Del. Bagby introduced legislation (HB 1965), already passed by the House of Delegates, would ensure Virginia auto dealerships have a broad range of new and used electric vehicles available that customers are already demanding. This bill, supported by the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, would support dealership jobs and retain vehicle sales revenues in our Commonwealth which now may be lost to neighboring states due to limited inventory.
More electric cars will require more electric charging stations. Senate bill SB1223, introduced by Sen. Boysko, will sustain the rapid expansion of the ongoing EV charging infrastructure.
House bill HB1979, introduced by Del. Reid, would provide rebate incentives for the purchase or lease of new and used EVs. Besides being cleaner, EVs are often less expensive than fossil fuel powered vehicles over their lifetimes., according to MIT Professor Trancik. EVs have fewer maintenance costs. As EVs are more efficient, energy cost per mile often is less. Historically, EVs have a higher initial purchase price, though this difference is rapidly shrinking. These rebates would help accelerate our transition to cleaner and healthier EVs.
Del. Keam’s bill (HB 2118), with the backing of Mothers Out Front Fairfax, would provide grants to support to transition to electric school buses. This grant would prioritize districts with high asthma rates and poor air quality.
In aggregate, these bills would increase Virginians access to cleaner transportation, improve access and affordability of EVs, and improve charging infrastructure, all while improving public health and protecting future generations from the threats posed by climate change.
That our leaders in the General Assembly are fully charged to drive this goal home is inspiring. Passing all these bills will comprehensively address Virginia’s transition to electric vehicles. Del. Bagby’s bill is the necessary first step. Let’s support the General Assembly in its efforts to get Virginians access to affordable, cleaner cars, trucks and buses. We all will then have healthier air to breathe for generations to come.
Nick Snow is a resident of Boyce.