What If Climate Hawks Fought Dirty Highways Like They Fight Dirty Energy?


American climate activists’ single biggest achievement in recent years was the defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline. Nothing has unified and energized more people than the fight to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground. Yesterday, the world watched members of the Standing Rock Sioux defend their tribal lands and water from armed police acting in the interest of companies building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

National figures in the climate movement have mobilized large numbers of people against pipelines, and to great effect. But what comes next? Erica Flock writes at Negwegon Communications that it’s time for high-profile climate activists to take the next step and expand the fight to what’s causing the demand for these pipelines — our dirty, old-fashioned transportation system:

From Keystone XL to Dakota Access, pipelines have become a symbol of the world we want to move away from. But the leaders of these movements rarely (if ever) mention transportation, even though the oil running through these pipelines will be used primarily for transportation. Instead, they tout clean energy.

Reducing transportation emissions is more complicated than swapping one energy source for another: it requires us to zone for density and mixed uses; grow funding and accessibility for public transit, walking, and bicycling; fix the federal transportation bill; scale up EV adoption and shared mobility; use alternative fuels and efficient technology for aviation and shipping; and lots more.

The climate community’s lackluster approach to transportation translates into lackluster political leadership. Already, Hillary Clinton has indicated that she’ll increase highway capacity as part of her infrastructure plan if elected president. Highway proposals should be scrutinized as vehemently as coal plants: both lock in emissions for years to come.

A wonky list of policy demands doesn’t mean that movement-building isn’t possible around transportation. Just look at what the Netherlands was able to accomplish when people fed up with traffic fatalities took to the streets in the 1970s. Pithy, straightforward campaigns like Strong Towns’ #NoNewRoads and U.S. PIRG/Environment America’s new report 50 Steps to Carbon-Free Transportation are the kinds of things climate activists should be able to get behind. When transit’s on the ballot, as it is in communities across the US this election, climate hawks should get out the vote. And advocates should scale up solutions that help address emissions in other sectors like agriculture too. It’s time to start thinking bigger than clean energy.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland reports on the initiative to make the city’s bike-share system accessible to all by offering qualifying people memberships as low as $3 a month and the option of paying with cash. And World Streets shares a pretty great flowchart of the cascading problems that result from an over-reliance on driving.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

House Bill Delayed, But Transit, Biking, and Walking Aren’t Safe Yet

|
Congress is in recess, and the House’s atrocious transportation bill has been dismembered and delayed, but if you want to preserve funding for transit and active transportation, don’t let your guard down yet. There’s still plenty to watch out for as the House and Senate attempt to reauthorize federal transportation programs. As we’ve reported, there are […]

House Defies Veto Threat, Passes Drill-And-Drive Extension

|
In a brazen but expected display of defiance — both of the President and of bipartisan efforts in the Senate — the House voted today to extend transportation policy through the end of September with several contentious policy changes attached. The bill, whose name (The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II) reads like the […]

Why Federal Efforts to Link Transportation to Climate Change Matter

|
Cross posted from the Frontier Group.  Twenty-five years ago this spring, I was a fresh-faced undergrad at Penn State enrolled in a course on existential threats to civilization, including climate change. We knew then (and yes, with a reasonable degree of certainty we did know) that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were […]

What Went Unsaid at Last Night’s Debate

|
At last night’s presidential debate in Nassau County, the best opening for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to talk about transportation policy came when undecided voter Phillip Tricolla asked the following question of the President: QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department […]

Will Big Highway Projects Have to Consider Climate Change?

|
Since 1970, the National Environmental Protection Act has required federal agencies to consider the impacts of their projects on air, water, and soil pollution — but not on climate change. Until recently, carbon dioxide, which causes global warning, wasn’t classified as a pollutant and so couldn’t be regulated under environmental laws. The EPA in 2009 […]

House GOP Tries to Horse-Trade Senate Bill For Keystone Pipeline

|
In another desperate attempt to push forward their fossil fuel agenda, House Republicans have indicated that even though they’ve been incapable of passing a transportation bill, they’re willing to go to conference committee and pass the Senate bill. All the Senate Democrats have to do in return is approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Our sources […]