The Sierra Club supports two local proposals currently working through the Berkeley City Council and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to mandate labels at gas stations informing consumers of the link between driving, carbon dioxide emissions, and climate disruption.
In San Francisco, Supervisor John Avalos introduced the ordinance “Greenhouse Gas Information Labels for Gas Pumps,” which will be debated at the Land Use Committee in early 2015—likely as soon as mid-February. As for Berkeley, in November the City Council voted to direct the City Manager to draft an ordinance requiring the posting of the gas station warning labels. Once a draft is finalized, it will go back to the Environmental and Energy Commissions for approval before returning to the Council for adoption later in the spring.
It is important that consumers be given the tools they need to make informed decisions. Educating consumers at the point of purchase raises awareness of the connection between their action and its effects; in this case, that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. The strategy of warning drivers of the global consequences of filling up the tank is comparable to printing graphic images of diseased lungs on cigarette cartons; in both cases, the goal is to encourage consumers to think twice about their purchase, and ultimately cut down on their purchases.
Although the final gas pump label language has not been determined for either city, proposed designs inform the consumer about how much tailpipe carbon dioxide is produced by burning one gallon of fuel, and explain that carbon dioxide emissions are a significant factor in recent climate change. One proposed design for San Francisco’s label provides a resource for people wishing to make changes; directing people to the website sfclimate.org gives the city the opportunity to highlight numerous ways to reduce gasoline use — from improving mileage to avoiding solo driving altogether, by car-pooling, taking public transit, biking, or walking.
Gas pump warning labels have the potential to be part of the larger strategy for the cities of Berkeley and San Francisco to seriously address climate change.