The ‘Elitism’ Trap Migrates From Transport Reform to Climate Change

Transportation debates have a terminology all their own, whether arcane ("multi-modal"), hard to define ("subsidies"), or outright misleading — as is the case with "elitism," the standard line that road-building acolytes often apply to those who suggest that the government focus more on expanding transit and other forms of clean transport.

waxman_markey1.jpgClimate bill coauthors: Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. (Photo: Wash Indy)

Now that the issue of climate change has come to the fore again in Washington, however, the E-word is breaking out all over. The Senate and House climate bills devote a disproportionately little attention to transportation reform, but the GOP strategy for undermining them seems to be all about stereotyping climate advocates as urbanized elitists.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) did it this afternoon at a press event slamming the Senate climate legislation:

It’s hard to believe that Kerry-Boxer is worse than the other California-Massachusetts bill, the Waxman-Markey bill. … I am most concerned that this job will kill manufacturing and
coal-dependent jobs in the Midwest, South and Great Plains.

And a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski used the same rhetorical devise in an interview with Roll Call:

“The
climate change debate is being driven by California and Massachusetts,”
Murkowski spokesman Rob Dylan said. “People forget what life is in the
middle of the country, and I think that’s what we’re trying to talk
about.” 

The conservative National Review has also taken the cue on the California-Massachusetts dis.

It’s no surprise that opponents of congressional action on climate change are trotting out the elitism trope, but it is a distressing sign that the nation’s cities, long under-represented in policy debates despite their powerful legislators, are about to become pawns in two culture wars at once.

California and Massachusetts are not just transit-rich, they’re also the nation’s No. 1 and No. 15 most-populated states. In a Congress increasingly dominated by rural-state lawmakers, it’s not such a bad thing to see Californians and Massachusettsans being spoken for on the climate question.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Effect of Climate Change on Transport Infrastructure

|
A sobering post today from the Streetsblog Network on the importance of preparing our transportation system for the effects of climate change. Megan McConville at The City Fix reports on a panel titled "Perspectives on Adaptation to Climate Change," hosted by the Engineers Forum on Sustainability. The message? "We can no longer focus exclusively on […]

Senate Climate Bill Leaks: The Good News and Bad News for Transport

|
The Senate’s climate change legislation will finally make its debut tomorrow, courtesy of environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and foreign relations committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA). But the Washington Post has already obtained a "close-to-final" version of the bill [PDF], which provides some details but leaves unanswered the key question of how much aid […]

Senate Climate Bill to Feature Transport Carbon Cap — But No Trading

|
Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) are set to roll out their long-awaited, somewhat delayed climate change bill tomorrow without onetime co-sponsor Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The legislation no longer includes its originally conceived "linked fee" on motor fuels — which was quickly branded as a gas tax increase, alarming Graham and the White […]

Talking Headways Podcast: Zero Emissions Cities Are the Key

|
This week we’re joined by Patrick Oliva, co-founder of the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate, to talk about the decarbonization of transport. The conversation touches on the electrification of the transportation sector and what it means for climate change, the role cities need to play in the Paris process and what levels of government work best to address climate change, and what the focus should be for mayors in the coming decade.