A working concept of a gas pump climate change warning labels that the City of Berkeley is considering. (Courtesy 350 Bay Area)
A working concept of gas pump climate change warning labels that the City of Berkeley is considering. (Courtesy Raymond Pajek)

The City of Berkeley is considering requiring gas stations to display climate change warning labels on gas pumps. Environmental group 350 Bay Area, which is leading the “Beyond The Pump” campaign, says the goal is to inform the public about the harmful effects of CO2 emissions.

“We have to change the social context of burning gasoline,” says Jamie Brooks, with 350 Bay Area. Putting messages at the point of sale of gas will influence human behavior, he says. He compared the proposed stickers to the warning labels on cigarettes.

A working concept of Berkeley's gas pump warning label. (Courtesy Raymond Pajek)
A working concept of Berkeley’s gas pump warning label. (Credit: 350 Bay Area)

The Western States Petroleum Association sent a letter to the City of Berkeley arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional. The oil lobby group says it would violate a gas station owner’s right to free speech by compelling them to display statements about “alleged” impacts of global warming.

But 350 members say the labels would simply cite state laws, such as AB 32, which state that emissions are harmful to humans and the environment.

“We feel that the message is accurate and noncontroversial,” said Jack Fleck, a retired transportation engineer and 350 Bay Area member. “It is simply a fact that the state has found that greenhouse gases pose a serious threat to the public health.”

Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission voted Thursday in favor of drafting an ordinance. The city council could vote on the proposal as early as this fall.

Berkeley Considers CO2 Warning Labels at Gas Pumps 25 June,2014Sally Schilling

  • ClayShentrup

    This idea has merit. But consider that 51% or more of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Given that, it seems only logical that the first priority is to get this kind of warning in Berkeley restaurants that serve animal products. The warning sign could also point out the increased risk of cancer, heart disease, etc.

    • Kungfoochimp

      Please stop encouraging this sort of vapid, feel-good, sloganeering.

      Not everyone is so enamoured with the aging hippies pushy “global guilt” finger-wagging nonsense.

  • martinhomec

    Berkeley needs free EV charging stations

    • Kungfoochimp

      Yes, “free”. Because the many thousands of dollars to build the charging station, and electricity used to charge the cars are made by magical pixies.

      Ps – if you’re interested in some magic beans hit me up.

  • Chris J

    It’s an interesting idea, but by the time they see the sign, they’re already there in their cars. I’d think that a public information bit could start with some sticker on the car itself saying ‘Do you REALLY need to drive for this errand?’

    • Kungfoochimp

      Or they could stop wasting everyone’s time, but then they wouldn’t get to feel smug, superior, and enlightened, nor get to hold multiple catered meetings where they discuss which handicapped, Tibetan lesbian will design the sticker, and which woman-owned Hopi indian tribe printing company will produce the sticker.

      If Berkeley was really serious they would outlaw vehicles and gas stations in the city limits. I won’t hold my breath.

  • For consistency will the Berkeley city council therefore be putting warning signs TWICE THE SIZE ON AC TRANSIT BUSES since these emit 111% more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than cars? Or will Berkeley be demonstrating that it cannot do math, is inconsistent and is unfairly alienating people who have no choice or who prefer to travel by car?

    Bus CO2 emissions: 298g per passenger mile
    Car CO2 emissions: 141g per passenger mile
    CONCLUSION: Buses emit 111% more CO2 than cars in Alameda county


    Running the official California Air Resources Board EMFAC emissions figures specific to emissions from cars projected to be on the road in 2020 registered in Alameda (a reasonable future timeframe):

    CAR CO2 EMISSIONS: 141g CO2 per passenger mile
    CO2_RUNEX per mile (emissions while running, not at standstill):
    236g CO2 per vehicle mile (year 2020, specific to cars registered in Alameda county)
    1.67 average occupants per car (see source #2 below)
    236/ 1.67 = 141g CO2 ppm
    CAR EMISSIONS: 141g CO2 per passenger mile

    BUS (UBUS) EMISSIONS: 298g CO2 per passenger mile
    CO2_RUNEX per mile: (emissions while running not at standstill)
    2,268g CO2 per vehicle mile (year 2020, specific to Alameda County CARB figures)
    7.6 average riders per bus (see notes below for source)
    2,268 / 7.6 = 298g CO2 ppm

    – The above calculations unfairly reduce car emissions as they do not consider enacted Pavley II legislation that further reduces car emissions, but that is not yet considered in the EMFAC data.
    – Above assumptions assume gasoline passenger cars (not diesel), diesel cars have 7% higher emissions, still nowhere near enough to close the gaps with buses)
    – It is a flawed assumption to assume by getting more people to take buses average ridership will increase and emissions will drop. The most well served arterial routes are already served, so increasing usage will result in diminishing returns (e.g. lower ridership)
    – Ferries emit 3x as much CO2 per passenger mile
    – Above assumptions take into account anticipated fleet and technology adoption for both cars and buses (with exception of considering Pavley II)

    (1) CO2 emissions using California Air Resources Board data for vehicle year 2020:

    (2) Average car occupancy 1.67
    US DoT National Travel Trends Survey:
    American Passenger Transit Association 2009 Factbook, Appendix A.
    table 16, page 39.

    (3) AC Transit average ridership 7.6 passengers
    Source: AC Transit – http://www.actransit.org/wp-co
    divide annual passenger miles of 194,486,764 by annual vehicle miles of 25,569,281 = 7.6 average occupants on an AC Transit vehicle


Sally Schilling

KQED Science intern Sally Schilling brings environmental conflicts to life by finding the people most affected by them. She’s recently told the stories of park rangers on the hunt for redwood burl poachers, and the accidental activists in Pittsburg who are fighting a proposed crude oil facility being built in their backyards. Sally is currently studying video journalism and investigative reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She grew up on an organic farm near Davis, Ca.

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