Transportation is closely linked with energy and environmental policy. The transportation sector accounts for about one-third of the United States’ climate change pollution and over two-thirds of our oil consumption.
The single biggest opportunity to influence U.S. transportation policy is the federal transportation authorization bill, which is up for reauthorization in September 2014. 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 four to one, 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 vehicles’ climate change emissions directly are critical to cutting our dependence on oil, reducing pollution, and combating global warming. During the Obama administration’s first term, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the EPA finalized two rounds of historic clean car standards that roughly double fuel efficiency standards by 2025. These standards are widely embraced by labor unions, auto companies, and environmentalists. By 2030, these measures are predicted to save $1.7 trillion at the pump, reduce carbon pollution by 580 million metric tons, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Additionally, in 2011, the DOT and the EPA finalized the first ever carbon 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. President Obama has directed these agencies to develop and issue the next phase of standards for medium and heavy duty trucks by March 2016.
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 tar sands, liquid coal, oil shale, and conventional corn-based ethanol. LCV remains committed to defeating the dangerous and dirty Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, for more on that campaign see the “Holding Big Oil Accountable” section.
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.