Petition: Support a Climate Bill That Invests in Green Transportation

At the end of March, representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey introduced an ambitious federal climate bill. This is the real deal — the legislative centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to combat global warming. Transportation contributes about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., so any climate bill will have to green the way we get around to be effective. On that score, however, the draft legislation has some glaring omissions.

It includes tougher national emissions standards for vehicles and incentives to develop plug-in hybrid infrastructure, but no funding for transit or more walkable development. There’s already a proposal circulating in Congress to link a cap-and-trade system with investment in transit and smart growth — the CLEAN TEA bill. Parts of CLEAN TEA have been incorporated into the Waxman/Markey bill, but not the core provision to dedicate 10 percent of the revenue from carbon auctions to green transportation projects.

That could change. Transportation for America is gathering signatures urging Congress to beef up the provisions for sustainable transportation in the climate bill. Adding the CLEAN TEA funding mechanism would translate to about $8 billion per year, based on the Obama administration’s projection for annual revenue from carbon auctions. Waxman’s committee will begin making changes to the bill on Monday, so now is time to sign on and speak up for stronger legislation.

  • garyg

    Densification and mode switching from cars to transit offer very little potential for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. By far the biggest potential is cleaner cars. So that’s where the focus should be.

  • Xue

    If you insert “short-term” before “potential for meaningful reductions” then that’s true. You can’t possibly be arguing that over the long-term, reducing car use would offer less reduction than just having more efficient cars.

    It’s also worth pointing out that in the long-term, reducing sprawling, single-use land use patterns would offer other benefits beyond reducing CO2 emissions that lower-polluting cars simply do not.

  • vnm

    Gary, why are you trying to make it an either-or situation? The only answer to climate change is “all of the above.” We need cleaner cars and we need to drive them less. But also, it isn’t just the driving of the cars that releases greenhouse gas emissions, but the manufacturing of them as well. So the more complete equation is that we need fewer cars to be cleaner and driven less.

    Cleaner cars are the natural, linear outcome of continuous advances in technology. Driving them less will require a broad restructuring of the land use, urban design and architectural status quo.

  • garyg

    If you insert “short-term” before “potential for meaningful reductions” then that’s true. You can’t possibly be arguing that over the long-term, reducing car use would offer less reduction than just having more efficient cars.

    That’s exactly what I am arguing. What level of reduction in transportation carbon emissions do you seriously expect to be able to achieve by, say, 2050 through mode-switching from cars to transit? 10%? 50%? 80%? Give us a ballpark figure.

    The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission estimated that real capital spending on mass transit would need to be increased by a factor of two to three, and that increased level of real spending maintained for 50 years, just to increase mass transit’s market share of surface transportation passenger-miles from about 1% to about 3%. Even if transit emitted only half as much CO2 per passenger-mile as automobiles (it doesn’t), this would yield a reduction in surface transportation CO2 emissions of just 1%. It’s just insignificant.

  • The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission estimated that real capital spending on mass transit would need to be increased by a factor of two to three, and that increased level of real spending maintained for 50 years, just to increase mass transit’s market share of surface transportation passenger-miles from about 1% to about 3%.

    Well, yeah. Spend an insignificant amount of money, eliminate an insignificant amount of pollution.

    Sorry to feed the troll, but I couldn’t stand seeing that crappy argument at the top of the “Recent Comments” list any longer.

  • gecko

    #1 garyg, “By far the biggest potential is cleaner cars.”

    Correction: By far the biggest potential is emphasis on virtual zero-emission vehicles (“ideal vehicles”) such as bicycles and or minimal size vehicles networked in public mobility systems with advanced public mobility systems to follow with accelerated ongoing improvements in modularity, practicality, ease-of-use, automation, range, speed, and resilience.

  • garyg

    Spend an insignificant amount of money, eliminate an insignificant amount of pollution.

    Since what you call an “insignificant” increase in spending — a doubling or tripling of real transit capital spending for a period of half a century — is highly implausible politically, a “significant” increase is virtually inconceivable. Welcome to reality, cap’n.

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