Transportation is closely linked with energy and environmental policy. The transportation sector accounts for about one-third of the United States’ global warming emissions and over two-thirds of our oil consumption.
The single biggest opportunity to influence U.S. transportation policy is the federal transportation authorization bill. That is why LCV and its state LCV partners are working to shift the transportation bill from a policy largely focused on building and maintaining highways to one guided by national goals that reduce our use of oil; promote smart growth; support public transit, rail, cyclists, and pedestrians; and reduce the distance we drive. While the ratio of highway to transit funds has traditionally been about 4 to 1, we are working to ensure that a larger portion of the funding goes to transit and other low-carbon transportation options, so Americans are empowered with alternatives to paying high gas prices at the pump.
Raising fuel efficiency standards and addressing vehicle greenhouse gas emissions directly are critical to cutting our dependence on oil, reducing pollution, and combating global warming. In April 2010, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) and the EPA finalized historic clean car standards for model years 2012 through 2016 that were embraced by labor unions, auto companies, and environmentalists. By 2020, these standards will reduce oil consumption by 1.2 million barrels per day and save drivers $34 billion at the pump.
Additionally in August, 2011, the US DOT and the EPA finalized the first ever first-ever global warming pollution and fuel efficiency standards for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks. This is an important first step to cleaning up our nation’s pick-up trucks, semi-trailers, buses, and other work vehicles.
LCV is also working to ensure that the next round of clean car standards – which will set levels from 2017 through 2025 – are as strong as possible. The US DOT and EPA announced an initial agreement with automakers and autoworkers to meet a standard equivalent to 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025. LCV is working to ensure that loopholes or other measures do not undermine this goal. According to analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, this framework would cut oil consumption by as much as 1.5 million barrels per day, or 23 billion gallons of gasoline annually, by 2030.
Some in Congress are preying on Americans’ anxiety about foreign oil to promote North American fuels that would do more environmental harm than good by threatening drinking water, destroying sensitive lands, and making the global warming crisis worse. These include liquid coal, oil shale, tar sands, and conventional corn-based ethanol.
LCV is currently working to ensure that the Obama administration does not grant a permit to the proposed tar sands Keystone XL pipeline. Oil produced from tar sands—extracted through a water-intensive and destructive process—weighs in at three times as much global warming pollution as conventional oil. The proposed pipeline would transport the world’s dirtiest oil from the boreal forest in Canada through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico.
Rather than spending billions of dollars to support fuels that make global warming worse, we should focus our efforts on increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, promoting hybrid and electric vehicles, and developing renewable fuels that can reduce global warming pollution and reduce our dangerous dependence on oil.