The rabbi who blessed electric vehicles
October 22, 2018 Daisy Simmons ChavoBart Digital Media
[audio flash 01 : 30 MIN SEC
He says there's a moral reason for clergy to take a stand.
[image] Rabbi Joel Abraham (Image credit: Nexus Media News video)
Last May, Rabbi Joel Abraham drove his Chevy Volt [pih] to Mount Olivet
Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. As rabbi of nearby Temple Sholom, he
joined other local clergy for an interfaith blessing of electric vehicles.
At the event, electric cars and chargers were on display. The goal was to
educate faith leaders about how EVs can help reduce air pollution in Newark.
Abraham: “Newark is a huge port, so one of the problems or challenges with
the port is not only do you have many diesel operated vehicles coming into
the port to pick up things and take them out, but also, the large equipment
that’s used – the cranes, the dock vehicles, all of those things – use
petroleum products and create all these fumes for the people who live in the
The event rallied clergy behind campaigns that call for electric cargo
handling equipment at the port, electric buses, and more EV-charging
stations in the city.
Rabbi Abraham says there’s a moral reason for clergy to lead on this issue.
Abraham: “In the Jewish context, what we usually talk about is that we are
given not dominion to rule over the earth, but really given the
responsibility to care for the earth.”
Rabbi Argues That We Have A Moral Obligation To Adopt EVs
October 31st, 2018 Carolyn Fortuna
A few months ago, a group of clergy met in New Jersey for an interfaith
blessing of electric vehicles. Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom drove his
Chevy Volt as part of the day of educating faith leaders how EVs can help to
reduce air pollution. He described Newark as “a huge port” with many
challenges. “Not only do you have many diesel operated vehicles coming into
the port to pick up things and take them out,” he outlined, “but also, the
large equipment that’s used – the cranes, the dock vehicles, all of those
things – use petroleum products and create all these fumes for the people
who live in the area.” During the event, Abraham called upon clergy to take
up the cause to adopt EVs, arguing that there’s a moral reason for clergy to
lead on this issue.
Abraham’s comments are far-reaching. It is, indeed, time to embolden people
around the world to accept the moral obligation to adopt EVs. We must
advocate and lead by example in helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. In keeping with the aspirations of the Paris Agreement on
climate, we must all play our roles to achieve the objectives of the treaty
by gradually phasing in an EV fleet onto our roads. There is no shortage of
financial, reputational, and moral considerations to drive (pun intended)
the future of EVs.
“The book of Genesis gives us a job,” Rabbi Abraham said from Mt. Olivet’s
wooden pulpit in New Jersey. “We are stewards of this earth. It is our job
to take responsibility for this planet.” Electric cars, he reminds us, can
help us protect the earth for future generations. The event was co-hosted by
Newark Baptist Ministers and Vicinity, GreenFaith, and the #ElectrifyNJ
initiative of Jersey Renews. Electrify NJ is working to move New Jersey
towards a clean-transportation, clean-air future.
Yet Abraham’s call to clergy to educate their congregations about EVs comes
with additional considerations. The electric vehicle industry is part of a
larger consumer push for a greener, more ethical economy. With electric cars
estimated to make up 35% of car sales over the next 2 decades, the need to
account for the processes, from initial production to final dismantlement of
electric vehicles, is ever more pressing.
Given the complexity and the relatively new nature of electric vehicles,
particular attention needs to be paid to the environmental reporting
involving these vehicles. Retaining the green in all stages of EVs will
involve precarious, multilayered decisions. When we look to adopt EVs,
aren’t we really talking about a 3-part sustainability paradigm in which a
supply chain and its associated production processes, the functioning of the
electric vehicle, and cost considerations of all-electric transportation
create a combined moral equation?
1) Adopt EVs in a Well-to-Wheel Paradigm
EVs have been promoted for their potential to reduce the transportation
sector’s dependence on petroleum and to cut GHG emissions by:
Using off-peak excess electric generation capacity
Increasing vehicles’ energy efficiency
A well-to-wheels (WTW) analysis from Argonne National Laboratory — which
examines energy use and emissions from primary energy source through vehicle
operation — concluded that electrification of transportation significantly
reduces petroleum energy use, but GHG emissions strongly depend on the
electricity generation mix for battery recharging.
EVs can virtually eliminate the use of petroleum fuels for each vehicle mile
traveled on electricity. But, to achieve significant reductions in GHG
emissions, EVs must recharge from a generation mix with a large share of
non-fossil sources (e.g., renewable or nuclear power generation, the latter
of which has its own moral issues). Other subtle, but important,
complications include the rate of technological advancement that will be
made in the critical components of each vehicle technology (e.g., batteries
and fuel cell) and the specific control strategy adopted by each original
equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the combined operation of the electric
motor and engine of EVs.
Also, the lithium-ion batteries that power these vehicles bring their own
environmental reporting and sustainability challenges. Battery makers are
struggling to secure supplies of key ingredients in these large power packs
– mainly cobalt and lithium. The hopes of both battery electric and hybrid
vehicle manufacturers hang on the mining sector finding more deposits of
these precious minerals and to sourcing them in ways that are sustainable
and that respect local ecosystems. These are difficult but achievable goals,
such as in the the deep-sea polymetallic nodule exploration and development
2) Adopt EVs to Reduce GHG Emissions
As example of the need to adopt EVs, in New Jersey, transportation is the
number 1 source of GHG pollution, according to DriveGreenNJ. Emissions from
cars and light-trucks account for about 30% of the total hydrocarbons and
oxides of nitrogen emission in the air that contribute to the formation of
ground-level ozone or “smog” during the summer months.
The benefits of electric vehicles in New Jersey and elsewhere are
wide-ranging and well-documented. The Center for American Progress outlines
that EVs have fewer tailpipe emissions than internal combustion engine (ICE)
vehicles, leading to public health benefits associated with better air
quality. They are also quieter, reduce dependence on oil from abroad, have
significantly lower fuel costs and total costs of ownership, and are one of
the “most promising ways of reducing carbon emissions from the
transportation sector, which is the largest contributor to US greenhouse gas
Curious about the effects of EVs on pollution, I logged into the Union of
Concerned Scientists’ “How Clean is Your Electric Vehicle?” site. The little
Nissan Leaf I own produces 96 grams of CO2e and as much GHG emissions as an
internal combustion engine vehicle that gets 114 miles per gallon. The
energy we are using to charge our EVs matters. If consumers are recharging
their vehicles with coal or natural gas, the plants that provide that energy
are still giving off emissions — it is just happening outside of cities.
As Rabbi Abraham notes, “In the Jewish context, what we usually talk about
is that we are given not dominion to rule over the earth, but really given
the responsibility to care for the earth.” He and other clergy have spoken
about EVs not just as objects to be blessed but as tools for carrying out
the larger spiritual missions of those faiths.
Another clergy who has spoken out about the importance of electric vehicles
is Imam Saffet Catovic, Muslim chaplain at Drew University and a member of
the Islamic Society of North America’s Green Mosque Initiative, who offers
the analogy of a verse in the Koran. “The servants of the merciful are those
who walk upon the earth softly. Commitment to walking upon the earth softly
means reducing our carbon footprint.”
So why aren’t more people driving EVs? Many people are confused about
incentives, as incentives differ state to state. Depending on consumers’
income level, geographic location, and electric utility, they could be
eligible for a host of incentives for vehicles and/or charging
infrastructure. The variation in state laws and lack of clear information
has left some consumers frustrated. Charging infrastructure barriers also
inhibit EV deployment. Currently, charging infrastructure is mostly in
metropolitan areas in the Northeast and on the West Coast, which is similar
to the geographic demand for EVs.
In order to entice more people to adopt EVs, the US government should look
to the examples of Norway, China, and other countries as examples of
policies that are effective at bolstering EV sales.
3) Adopt EVs to Reduce Pollution’s Effects on Society’s Most Vulnerable
Low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately feel the
impacts of vehicle pollution and can benefit the most from the clean air and
cost-saving benefits of EV. Although EV prices are dropping faster than
expected, everyday consumers still need financial subsidies to overcome the
cost difference and incentivize them to buy an ICE car.
This is especially true for people of color, who lack access to cars at
higher rates than their white peers. The GreenLining Institute reminds us
that a low-income consumer may be eligible for various purchase incentives
but lack access to charging infrastructure at home or at work, making it
impossible for that person to own an EV. Or a low-income person might live
and work in a densely-populated city with a robust mass transit system and
have no need to own a car. People living in densely-populated areas may be
better served by providing access to EV car sharing services because they
might only need a car once in a while or for emergencies. Many underserved
community members lack familiarity with how EVs work, so increasing EV
awareness ensures underserved communities gain access to the world of EVs.
GreenFaith, an environmental group that believes all people deserve a
healthy environment regardless of their race or income, has called upon New
Jersey elected officials to invest in electric charging stations and
electrification of municipal fleets, buses, and cargo-handling equipment at
ports. “Breath is life. It’s a very simple thing,” Rev. Fletcher Harper of
GreenFaith said. “We all need to breathe, and it’s absolutely wrong that, in
the wealthiest country in the world, there are places where the air is so
dangerous that it’s not safe to breathe.” Their example can be replicated
across other communities around the world….
… ‘Cause it works!
The Port Authority of NY & NJ (PANYNJ) – the largest provider of
transportation infrastructure in a US metropolitan area – has joined The
Climate Group’s EV100 initiative and committed to electrifying its entire
fleet of vehicles and airport shuttle buses by 2030. EV100 brings together
leading companies making electric transport “the new normal” by 2030,
helping to address fast growing emissions from transport and reduce noise
and air pollution.
The public benefits of electric vehicles are clear; they have been proven to
improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions. Leaders across the US and
world have been called upon to develop legislation and plans to electrify
cargo handling equipment and other sources of air pollution, to electrify
transit buses and diesel-powered construction equipment used in our cities,
and to expand state rebates and subsidies that ensure households have access
to electric vehicles. The New Jersey community gathering that enabled EV
owners and charging station firms to educate faith leaders about the
advantages of electric cars, buses, and cargo handling equipment was a
But, to improve public understanding and support for EV technology
throughout the world, we need to continue the momentum and advocate for EVs
as the average person’s primary mode of personal transportation.
Federal-level policies and initiatives of the Obama administration created
the foundation for strong action: tax credits; the DOE’s Clean Cities
program and Workplace Charging Challenge; and investment in research and
development. Now it is up to us to advocate for those in our communities to
adopt EVs to maintain these programs and to draw upon local-level action an
important complement to state and federal policies.
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... Minister, Imam, Rabbi, Reverend bless EVs> God's Plan for Electric Cars
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