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Huntington Beach Prepares Plan for Green Government Vehicles

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The Huntington Beach City Council voted in favor of developing a plan to upgrade its 900-vehicle fleet of city-owned vehicles to alternative fuels during a city council meeting Oct. 6.

The proposal was brought forward by Councilmembers Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser, resulting in five votes in favor of the plan. Councilman Erik Peterson voted against the plan due to economic concerns. The meeting took place following the city’s coastal oil spill and carbon-intensive air show. 

“We’re looking at alternative fuels so that can be electric vehicles or something else that makes sense … to move us off our consumption of fossil fuels, which are pumped off the shore here, and now onto our beaches, unfortunately. I look at this as something that we’ve been needing to do for a long time,” Kalmick said.

Kalmick expressed hope during the meeting that Huntington Beach would be a harbinger of an alternative-fuel culture. 

“The city making this determination … could help potentially inspire other cities and other folks to take a look at giving up their gasoline vehicles, as it makes sense,” Kalmick said.

Peterson, who voted against the proposal, was unenthusiastic about alternative fuels. 

“I’m never getting rid of my truck. It’s going to suck the diesel forever, and I love it. And you know what? No CO2 in diesel. It’s not a combustion engine. It’s a compression engine. I only have ash and I love that ash,” Peterson said.

Diesel, however, does emit carbon. Compression engines depend on internal combustion. According to the Energy Information Administration, diesel was responsible for 24% of the transportation sector’s CO2 emissions in 2019.

Peterson’s main hesitancy came down to economics. 

“Before I’d like a policy like that I’d really like to see the financial benefits to it,” he said. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in September 2020 that new passenger vehicle sales in California must be zero-emission by 2035. GMC and Toyota have also announced plans to discontinue fossil-fuel vehicles. Kalmick stated during the meeting that two electric police cars have been ordered for the Huntington Beach Police Department. 

“If they’re no longer selling the vehicles in California, it means the supply and demand curve will be wacky and we don’t want to be behind the curve,” Kalmick said during the meeting.

The plan will, in part, evaluate the costs associated with upgrading to alternative-fuel vehicles. According to an analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists, electric vehicles save consumers money over time despite their higher shelf-price. In addition, they reduce greenhouse gases even when factoring in battery production and non-renewable electricity sources, according to the EPA

It is unclear whether the city’s fiscal evaluation of the plan will factor in the economic impacts that climate change is projected to have on Huntington Beach if carbon emissions are not drastically reduced — and even sequestered — soon.  

“According to a 2014 Vulnerability Assessment, there is potential for widespread inundation across large portions of northern Huntington Beach in the vicinity of Huntington Harbour and Bolsa Chica by [the year] 2100,” California Coastal Commission stated in a report. 

Sea levels could rise between three to 10 feet by the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue, according to Point Blue Conservation Science and the U.S. Geological Survey (interactive map). 

Photo courtesy of Our Coast, Our Future

Photo courtesy of Our Coast, Our Future

Another consequence of climate inaction is more intense droughts in Southern California, which would, in return, extend its wildfire season. 

“Our recent prolonged drought in California was the result of the shift of the jet stream to the north,” Orange Coast College geography professor Irene Naesse told New University. “As a result, the Pacific high pressure cell shifted further north than normal. This meant that the normal rainfall that comes on shore in the winter went north into Canada, and California was dry. The reason that the jet stream is shifting further north and is more variable is due to the melting of the sea ice in the Arctic.”

Photo courtesy of the Water Education Foundation

According to Stanford scientists, California droughts are occurring more frequently due to greenhouse emissions. 

Transportation currently accounts for 50% of the state’s carbon emissions. Mandating zero-emission vehicles will “achieve more than a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80% improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide,” according to Newsom’s press release.

Southern California Edison provides power to Huntington Beach. In 2020, the company sourced 43% of its electrical power from renewable sources, according to an Edison International Sustainability Report. Meanwhile, 42% was sourced from unspecified generating facilities due to imports from “open market transactions.” An additional 16% was sourced from natural gas. 

For Huntington Beach to end its dependence on fossil fuels, Southern California Edison must source electricity from renewable energy facilities. California Senate Bill 100 requires utility companies to provide carbon-zero power statewide by 2045. 

“I think it’s important that we lead and model the transition from fossil fuels,” Moser said during the meeting. “So much of the time we talk about the decisions we can make as individuals with regard to climate, and you know reduce, reuse, recycle. But as a city we are a larger entity and will have an outsized impact versus an individual decision.”

Kallen Hittner is a City News Staff Writer for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at