September 14, 2009
The classifieds in this issue include two chief executive officer positions!
U.S. Should Reward Governments for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
BY SEN. TOM CARPER (D-DE)
The following op-ed ran in the Wilmington News Journal, Wilmington, DE, on Aug. 18, 2009.
Here’s the problem: We use a gas tax to fund our nation’s transportation system. That means that we pay for roads and transit by burning gasoline. It also means that when Americans drive less, transportation funds dry up.
How, then, can we in Washington ask cities and states to help combat climate change by reducing the amount their residents drive, when doing so will deprive them of federal transportation dollars? We would be punishing local governments for doing the right thing and that is not acceptable.
The solution is to reward state and local governments with federal funds based on how much they reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Automobiles and light trucks alone contribute half of that. In spite of fuel efficiency improvements over the past 30 years, transportation energy consumption has increased dramatically because the distances that Americans drive have doubled.
Without considering the transportation sector, even the most effective climate change legislation cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to turn the tide on global warming.
In the past, efforts to clean up our transportation system have focused on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions. Two years ago, Congress increased the CAFE standards for the first time in more than 30 years, and President Obama recently announced that we must reach the new fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2016.
In that same legislation that increased CAFE standards, Congress also established a Renewable Fuel Standard, requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel be sold in 2020—up from just nine billion today. Taken together, CAFE rules and the Renewable Fuel Standard are expected to save two million barrels of oil per day.
Both are very positive steps. But over the next 20 years, the amount that Americans drive, measured in Vehicle Miles Traveled, is expected to increase 50 percent, largely negating emission reductions resulting from the new CAFE rules and Renewable Fuels Standard.
If our goal is to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent over the next 40 years, we need to find new ways to reduce pollution from transportation. One solution is the Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575), known as CLEAN TEA, which Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and I introduced in March.
Our legislation directs cities and states to determine how much they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation systems by investing in driving alternatives, public transit, intercity passenger rail, transit-oriented development, sidewalks and more. States and cities with more ambitious plans will receive more federal funds – finally rewarding local governments for doing the right thing.
Clean transportation projects will be funded by reserving 10 percent of the pollution allowances created in climate change legislation, which could generate $5 billion to $12 billion annually. Ten percent may sound like a large piece of the pie, but remember that transportation is one-third of the problem and growing faster than any other sector. In addition, CLEAN TEA projects will boost the economy by creating thousands of green jobs and reducing transportation costs across America.
If we in Congress hope to reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and move to a clean energy economy, we must consider the transportation sector in our national debate. It is not enough to simply focus on power plants and refineries.
Our CLEAN TEA bill is a key part of the answer and I intend to make sure it becomes an integral part of the congressional climate debate as we move forward in the months ahead.
Sen. Tom Carper is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. He began his Senate career in 2001 as Delaware’s junior senator and was re-elected in 2006. He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and chairs the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security.