Climate, energy debates must factor in transit policy
From today’s Energy & Environment Daily 03/20/2009
Josh Voorhees, E&E reporter
Any congressional debate on climate change and energy independence must take into consideration the nation’s transportation systems, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said yesterday.
“A discussion of climate change legislation and transportation reauthorization would be incomplete without examining transportation infrastructure policies and practices,” said Markey, chairman of the Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence.
The transportation sector accounts for about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and roughly 60 percent of the sector’s emissions come from passenger cars, according to government estimates.
Markey pointed to last year’s record increase in transit ridership and said the transportation authorization should respond to public demand with increased funding for rail and buses, along with increased attention to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.
“Congress must reroute its approach to transportation policy,” he said. “It must acknowledge the indivisible link between transportation and climate change by giving the public choices in transit. People should drive because they want to — not because there’s no sidewalk leading to the train station or because a city bus system does not expand to the suburbs.”
Markey’s position corresponds to that of other key players. President Obama and Democrats have vowed to use the upcoming national surface transportation reauthorization to recast the nation’s transportation strategy to curb emissions.
In addition, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) has promised dramatic increases in funding for passenger rail and transit, along with new federal policies to address the road congestion that exacerbates fuel consumption and air pollution from cars stuck in traffic.
And on the Senate side, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has indicated that the Senate version of the reauthorization will need to address the environmental impact of transportation for it to win the support of her committee.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a member of the select committee who formerly sat on the T&I panel under Oberstar, is pushing legislation requiring 10 percent of any potential cap-and-trade revenues to be funneled to environmentally friendly modes of transportation, like rail and transit.
He said that opponents of cap-and-trade legislation fail to understand that the generated revenues will have far-reaching benefits. Critics “ignore what happens with the money,” he said. “The president envisions that significant amounts of money will be available to further incent energy efficiency, be available for rebates for families and be invested in other ways.”
A panel of alternative transportation experts argued before the panel that they believe Americans are ready to abandon their cars in exchange for other modes of transportation, but that the lawmakers would have to support them to make that happen.