Federal Plan Takes Aim at Transportation Emissions

A ‘first of its kind’ federal plan sets out goals for cutting carbon emissions in the transportation sector, but postpones the biggest reductions to the 2030s and 2040s, according to an article by Ian Duncan in the Washington Post. “The blueprint doesn’t set out new, enforceable targets, but serves as a long-term guide for federal agencies tasked with writing climate rules and spending environmental funds,” Duncan explains.

The plan is based on three concepts: ‘convenient,’ which includes promoting more walkable communities; ‘efficient,’ including modes of transportation like buses and trains; and ‘clean,’ for fuels like batteries and hydrogen.

The plan relies on the adoption of electric vehicles for most of the reductions. As Duncan notes, “The infrastructure law included $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure, split between a network along highways that officials hope will give drivers confidence to take electric vehicles on long road trips, and a program designed to ensure that disadvantaged communities have access to chargers.” The law also includes a $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit (though it notably excludes credits for electric bikes). However, Duncan points out that “Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of miles driven in 2021 in the United States,” and the growing popularity of large trucks and SUVs is slowing any gains in emissions reduction.

Meanwhile, “many environmental advocates have urged state transportation agencies to limit the construction of new highways that tend to encourage driving, and instead invest money in alternative infrastructure, such as bus lanes and bike paths.” According to a Georgetown Climate Center study, “if money from the infrastructure law were invested in such green projects, it could contribute a further percentage point cut to emissions over the course of the decade.”

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