Merced County Times Newspaper
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Clean transportation policies to be topic of conversation with expert

Patricio Portillo, Transportation Analyst
Patricio Portillo,
Transportation Analyst

Are you interested in the future of electric vehicles?  You’re in good company because so is Patricio Portillo, an expert in transportation.

The University of California, Merced is putting on a virtual Ask Me Anything (AMA) open to the public on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m., featuring Patricio Portillo, Transportation Analyst for the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

The NRDC, founded in 1970 by a group of law students and attorneys at the forefront of the environmental movement, works to safeguard the earth, including its people, plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

These days, its leadership team and Board makes sure it works to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.

What’s causing air pollution is no secret — the single largest source in California is the transportation sector, and diesel-burning trucks are a major contributor.

The California Air Resources Board has approved new regulations requiring truck manufacturers to transition to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024.

One of Portillo’s roles at NRDC is to work on clean transportation policies so that transportation’s negative impact on the environment can be minimized.

Andrea Guerra, who was Portillo’s intern when a student at UC Merced, worked closely with him and shared with the Times some interesting things about his work which would be good material for those attending the AMA to ask him questions about. Guerra is currently finishing her internship at UC Merced and will be attending UC Santa Barbara in the Fall, working toward a Master’s degree in International Studies, the same degree Portillo earned.

Guerra told the Times, “Patricio Portillo is friends with Guillermo Ortiz, Sustainability and Diversity Educational Programs Manager in the Sustainability Department at UC Merced.  Patricio Portillo and Guillermo Ortiz decided to connect their spaces and do something powerful, and they wanted to create an internship exclusively for UC Merced students to help diversify the environmental world so people of color could seek environmental jobs.

“I was lucky enough to go to an Environmental summit that they helped coordinate at UC Merced.  I decided to apply for the internship.  I was interviewed by Portillo, and he accepted me for the position and was my supervisor. He taught me about transportation.  I joined the coalitions he was part of and got to see how he did his work, even though it was remote.  I learned how he spoke to the State agency, California Air Resources Board, to convince them why they should do things.

“I am finishing my internship by writing a blog about living in a disadvantaged community, and all of this was possible because Portillo was my supervisor and mentor and provided both roles so not only did I do work in the environmental space but I was learning to be an advocate and learning what it means to work in policy and blog writing.

“As an expert, Portillo is required to know everything about transportation, both public and private, and he focuses on the Government vehicles, which are in Vehicle Classes 2B through 8, which includes utility fleets and medium and heavy-duty vehicles, and not so much the everyday car.

“He is currently working on the Advanced Clean Fleets Rule, a rule that will require people who own a large number of trucks to purchase the electric vehicles being made.

“Within transportation, there are a lot of different sectors.  Portillo touches a little bit on everything because he is a Transportation Analyst so he analyzes things like the economic and social benefits if we were to switch to electric vehicles.  His specialty is medium and heavy-duty vehicles like the big freight trucks we see on the highways.

“He also works with coalitions, community-based organizations, public health organizations, and big green non-profit organizations where he talks to others and engages with them to come up with how electric vehicles will be good for our economy and health and meet our climate goals, so he looks at how they will impact society.  Not only does he focus on the economic aspect, but he also focuses on the social aspect such as how the switch to electric vehicles will ultimately lower health risks because there won’t be as much pollution.

“One of his big roles with NRDC is to be an advocate, and this includes lobbying.  He meets with the California Air Resources Board regularly because it’s a State agency that makes up the rules, and he pushes for them to make the rules better and stronger for clean transportation.  He talks with them about why switching to electric vehicles is important and what they have to do to make sure they are meeting the needs of the communities and the residents of the State so that everyone can breathe cleaner air and have less health risks.

“He educates others on how the process can be done.  He writes blogs which are very powerful to educate NRDC members and staff, and they are also educational for outside parties because sometimes they get posted by news entities.

“He backs up his information with concrete research and data.”

To join the AMA, participants can register at

Those who cannot participate during the AMA, can e mail their questions for Patricio Portillo in advance to Erin Meyer at [email protected]

Erin Meyer, M.S., Sustainable Food Programs Coordinator at UC Merced’s Office of Sustainability, Office of Leadership, Service and Career, told the Times, “Portillo holds a Master’s in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, with a concentration in Energy and Environmental Policy, and a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Economics from Temple University.

“Patricio Portillo works on policies related to electric vehicles, which I’m very interested in, and that’s why I picked him for the AMA.  He is a good friend and colleague of Guillermo Ortiz, who is in the UC Merced Office of Sustainability, and we wanted to do a different topic than sustainable food.

“I think some appropriate questions for people to ask Patricio Portillo during the AMA would be:

What do you do at NRDC?

What kind of populations do you work with (because his work has to do with inequities in transportation’s environmental impacts)?

What current policies are you working on?

Why do we need to look at sustainable transportation?

What role does sustainable transportation play in job creation?”

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