Not a Word About Transit in Obama Jobs Plan

President Obama released a blueprint for his second term yesterday, a 20-page booklet focused on job creation [PDF]. Let’s be clear: This came from his campaign machine, not the White House.

In the booklet, called “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan For Jobs and Middle-Class Security,” Obama touts his success at keeping the American auto industry alive through government life support, saying the bailout brought back the nearly-extinct manufacturing sector in the United States.

He also commits to drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, it’s part of Obama’s “all of the above” strategy that includes renewable energy sources, but it’s also got a lot of oil and gas, not to mention “clean” coal.

While about 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption is used for transportation, there’s not much in the document about investing in smarter, more efficient ways to get around.

The President mentions the doubling of fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, but that’s all he has to say about how to reduce fuel consumption. It would be refreshing to see a mention of transit and active transportation, freight rail, or even his apparently abandoned signature initiative around high-speed passenger rail. Reducing the appetite for drilling in the Arctic could be a more inspiring rallying cry than this surrender to our oil overlords.

At the end of the section on energy, in boldface, Obama says, “And by growing American energy, we can keep our young men and women working here at home, not fighting wars on foreign soil.” If he’d replaced — or at least supplemented — “growing American energy” with “building American transit,” he could have made a more convincing and coherent argument.

Later in the document, in a section on deficit reduction, Obama proposes to “commit half of the money saved from responsibly ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to reducing the deficit and the other half to putting Americans back to work rebuilding roads, bridges, runways, and schools here in the United States.” Still no mention of “transit” amidst the roads and bridges. No hint that we can fund transportation projects that use space and energy more efficiently, so that perhaps we can avoid the next war over oil.

13 thoughts on Not a Word About Transit in Obama Jobs Plan

  1. This document is propaganda.  It doesn’t offer any specifics, and the claim that taxes on middle class families have been cut $3,600 is laughable. 


  3. Not much of a plan, nothing on the needs to lessen the tax burdon on business making American company’s more competitive so they cam start hiring again. There is no mony available fro the war to invest in jobs, we would have to borrow more and increase the debt.

  4. The New Economic Patriotism

    A Plan for What the Average Person Can Do Right Now to Avoid Planetary Economic, Energetic and Environmental Collapse

    Our environment is not a luxury, it is the source of all inputs into our economy. Without a stable climate there will be no jobs, no security, and no middle class in the United States. The primary objective of all patriotic, non-suicidal citizens must be to create a way of life that does not consume resources at a faster rate than the planet can produce them nor add pollutants or CO2 to the environment at a greater rate than the planet can absorb them. Currently the United States consumes 25% of the world’s resources while constituting only 5% of the world’s population. American inefficient use of energy is a primary contributor to the imminent destruction of the planet’s biosphere upon which all life (even American life) depends.

    What the average person can do:

    1) Object strenuously to government policies that encourage and subsidize inefficient uses of energy.  Object strenuously to your local utility burning any coal whatsoever.  (There is no such thing as clean coal now or anytime in the near future. When it is proven that burning coal no longer puts sulfur dioxide, mercury, arsenic, CO2, and nitrogen oxide in the air, then we can talk about using it in power plants again.)
    2) Insist on a carbon fee and dividend program that discourages carbon emissions, encourages non-carbon emitting energy sources, and rewards efficient use of energy. Insist that the national electric grid be upgraded so that electricity can be reliably and efficiently transmitted between regions. Insist that a national rail grid be restored so that in five years Americans can once again take trains across the country with the frequency and speeds achieved in, say, the 1940s, and in ten years catch up to levels of service that the Europeans and Japanese have enjoyed for decades.
    3) Over the next five years, reduce personal CO2 emissions to 1/4th of what the average US citizen currently emits.
    4) Over the next five years, increase consumption of renewable energy to equal at least half of all energy personally consumed. Over the next five years, eliminate all personal consumption of coal-based electricity; reduce use of natural gas by half to keep natural gas prices low. (This may seem paradoxical, but low natural gas prices will encourage replacement of coal-powered electricity with natural gas-powered electricity.)
    5) Model, encourage and exhort responsible energy use.

    We consume energy and so emit CO2 in four basic categories:  electricity, heat, transportation, and embedded in the stuff we buy.

    How to reduce electrical CO2 emissions: 1) use LED bulbs (the price has come down, the quality gotten very good, and no worries about mercury like CFLs. Try out the excellent new Philips bulb); 2) eliminate vampire power drain with power-strips that you can entirely shut off; 3) replace inefficient baseboard heaters with high-efficiency ductless heat pumps; 4) replace inefficient refrigerators (usually 10+ years old) with high-efficiency ones and unplug grossly inefficient second refrigerators (usually found in garage or basement); 5) install ceiling fans so air conditioners only have to cool  to 80 degrees in summer (room will still be comfortable); 6) unplug vast array of unnecessary gadgets sprawling cords from your walls; 7) complain to store managers/theater managers/restaurant managers anytime in the summer their business is so over air-conditioned you need to put on a sweater to keep from shivering. After you’ve cut your electricity usage in half through these measures, install solar PV to reduce electrical CO2 emissions to zero, or purchase all renewable electricity from your utility (usually through a special program at slightly extra cost.)

    How to reduce heating (home and hot water) CO2 emissions:  1) seal and insulate attic (heat wants to rise more than go sideways–and don’t just blow in insulation, the sealing is important); 2) install programmable thermostat (and program it!) to allow household temperatures to drop into the 50s when you’re not home; 3) put thick comforters and/or blankets on bed so temps can be low 60s while you sleep; 4) install very low flow (1.5 gallons/minute) showerheads; 5)replace top-load washer with front-load; 6) weather-strip doors and caulk and plug sources of drafts and leaks in house; 7) blow insulation into uninsulated walls; 8) have relatively new HVAC systems (<10 years old) cleaned, balanced and duct work sealed for maximum efficiency; 9) consider having older HVAC system replaced with a high efficiency one; 10) replace leaky single-pane windows with double-pane; 11) hang clothes to dry outside in the sun; 12) use wood or gas insert in fireplace rather than open hearth fires (heat flies up the chimney); 13) if you build a new house, design and orient it for effective passive solar heating (as well as maximum energy efficiency.) After you've cut hot water use by 1/3rd, install solar hot water system on roof.  If you're a renter, negotiate with your landlord on how to make home/apartment more energy efficient.

    How to reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions: 1) live close to electrified public transit or live within walkable/bikable distance to jobs, goods and services; 2) exhort your local government to improve public transit; 3) exhort your local government to make local streets safer and more pleasant for walking and biking; 4) take the train instead of driving or flying for at least 1/4th of your long trips the next three years, 1/2 of long trips after that; 5) downsize your household one car and subscribe to a carshare service; 6) shop at places you can bike or walk to; 7) get an electric-assist bike if you must carry heavy loads or bike up sizable hills; 8) walk or bike all trips under 2 miles; 9) take some form of public transit at least once a month just to see if it's improving; 10) until there is a carbon fee and dividend program, buy carbon offsets for all plane and car trips; 11) effectively immediately, do not buy any new car that gets under 50 mpg; 12) discourage your teens from driving; 13) have your children walk, bike or bus to school (accompany them if necessary for their safety); 14) do not buy an electric car unless you have enough solar PV to produce the electricity for it. (Increased electricity demand may just induce more coal burning.)

    How to reduce emissions due to the "stuff" you buy:  1) buy locally made items–likely less CO2 via shipment and less coal used in its manufacture; 2) buy used; 3) buy high quality that will last longer and can potentially be repaired rather than replaced; 4) buy less; 5) grow your own (fruit, veggies, honey, eggs, etc.); 6) can and/or bottle your own; 7) trade with your neighbors who grow/produce their own; 8) buy as little gasoline/car-related stuff as possible (84% of household car expenses leave the local economy); 9) buy things with less packaging; 10) buy less plastic; 11) bring your own bags to the store; 12) in general drink tap water or beverages made with tap water rather than beverages shipped by truck (filter your tap water if it tastes bad); 13) eat less meat, especially beef; 14) if eat beef, eat grass-fed; 15) eat less packaged/processed foods (buy from the edges of the grocery store rather than the center); 16) buy locally grown/produced food; 17) learn (or remember) how to cook locally-grown veggies and healthy grains; 18) buy fruits and veggies that are in season; 19) do not buy food shipped by plane; 20) stay away from corporate fast food; 21) watch less TV to avoid you-must-buy-a-new-car brainwashing; 22) compost food and yard waste; 23) be careful not to waste water, especially if you live in areas prone to drought; 24) re-purpose and reuse as much as possible.

    Model, encourage and exhort responsible energy use. Bike whenever and wherever you can. Become personally fit and radiant with health. (Credit this to walking and biking.) Encourage others to walk and bike by advocating for streets made safe and pleasant for walking and biking. Get your energy bills down to zero and then pleasantly (though not insufferably) brag about it. Give LED bulbs, bike accessories, and handmade items as presents even if it makes your friends and family think you are a lunatic.

    Though admittedly only a partial list of all that could be done, the above recommendations will drastically reduce CO2 emissions, remarkably increase the health of most Americans, create local jobs and flourishing local economies, improve the resiliency and well-being of local communities, and eliminate the temptation for foreign oil (and other resouces) wars.  This, my friends, is the new economic patriotism.

  5. In response to Ms. Allen: Her program for a sustainable America reminded me of what John F. Kennedy said over 50 years ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

  6. Ridiculous. Prop up the old, no plan for the new. Drill, baby, drill. Rebuild old failing infrastructure to be exactly what it was before, reinforce the 1950s, affirm the status quo.

    This is the liberal candidate?

    We need options people. This two-party BoughtOutA vs. BoughtOutB system ain’t cutting it.

  7. This plan isn’t new.  He has simply summarized his American Jobs Act (which Moody’s Economy stated would create 1.9 million jobs) and other job-creating ideas into a single document.  Non-Partisan economists favor his jobs plan over anything Romney has introduced.  Don’t forget the recent poll conducted by The Economist shows that economists overwhelmingly believe Obama’s ideas are better than Romney’s.

  8. What do you expect?  Transit is largely seen as (whether rightly or no) an urban issue, and Obama is going to win urban votes handily while Romney doesn’t have much shot at them.  So why focus any effort on those votes when you can put out a message that might sway the suburban white voters that Obama struggles to connect with?  It’s unfortunate, but it’s not surprising any more than it is that almost no campaign dollars have been spent in New York or California or Texas while record amounts are being spent in Florida and Ohio and Virginia.

  9. The UK Sustainable Development Commission report “Prosperity Without Growth” describes quite succinctly the problems with the idea of “decoupling,” i.e. averting climate catastrophe by increasing efficiency so growth can continue without impacting the environment.  The problem is that efficiencies only lead to increased carbon output because there is no reflection of the cost to the commons in the price of the commodity.  50MPG is all well and good unless it just means driving twice as far because the fuel cost is the same.

    As KLA points out below, Fee and Dividend is the only sensible approach to making the economics start to line up with the physics of reality.  

    No politician wants to stand up in a debate and propose we plan for a target of zero growth, even though that’s what we’ll end up with anyway, so we’ll keep chasing the mirage of decoupling for now.  Don’t worry capitalists: eventually the invisible hand will just strangle us.

    I’m worse than a communist. I’m a realist.

  10. It takes him 4 years to put the his plan in a booklet? At least it is not 2000 pages, and we don’t have to vote for it to see what’s in it.

  11. 54.5mpg will bring fuel cost by half for a standard 4 dr sedan owner. My 2004 (8 yr old already) Prius still gives me 52mpg on average, city and highway combined. American automakers are still behind, but a govt push in the right direction is a good start…

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