‘Green New Deal’ To Seek Transport Overhaul

Photo:  Kerri Evelyn Harris/Flickr/CC
Photo: Kerri Evelyn Harris/Flickr/CC

The Green New Deal will include a shift in transportation systems away from fossil fuels, according to a still-vague draft released to the press on Thursday.

The proposed resolution — H.R. 11, titled, “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” — was released to the press by freshman Rep. (and national celebrity) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). It offered few specifics, but did call for a new approach to infrastructure that would overhaul “transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable and accessible public transportation; and high-speed rail.”

The passage — the only one to address transportation — is part of a 14-page document that spends almost a third of its space just defining the magnitude of the climate crisis facing the nation, including the $500 trillion in lost economic output expected by 2100, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The resolution mentions a wide variety of issues worth tackling, such as decarbonizing buildings, deforestation and the need to “eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.”

No specific legislation is proposed in the resolution, which focuses on the need for change rather than specific methods of achieving it. There is no mention of carbon pricing, for example, one possible strategy for combating global warming.

It’s a “slogan in search of specific policy solutions,” said Jeff Davis at the Eno Center for Transportation, while David Roberts at Vox noted that it’s disappointing the resolution doesn’t mention land use, which is deeply connected to transportation inefficiency.

Ocasio-Cortez was elected in November after defeating powerful incumbent Joe Crowley in a June Democratic primary. Crowley’s car-based politics was partly responsible for making him appear to be out of step with his transit-using constituents in the Bronx and Queens (he released a campaign ad featuring himself being driven around the neighborhood, while Ocasio-Cortez’s ads featured her using the subway). Crowley also opposed a protected bike lane project in his neighborhood days before the election. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez frequently touts walking, biking and transit, as she did this week in a tweet that reminded people to “walk, bike and use public transit” more often to reduce carbon emissions.

The bill will be sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the Senate. The lawmakers will hold a press conference in Washington today at 12:30 p.m.

It follows a similar call from new House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio to reduce the fossil fuel consumption of the nation’s transportation systems.

“Everything else we’ve done [past infrastructure bills] has really been iterations of what we’ve been doing since the ’60s, so I’m looking at major new policy initiatives as we go forward,” he told Streetsblog last month. “Transportation is, depending on what you read, the first or second largest [carbon] emitter. We need to move beyond the fossil fuel transportation system. If we’re going to electrify the system, we need a breakthrough in the battery technology to do it really efficiently, to begin to build the backbone for an electrified transportation system. I think we need to do a public infrastructure [adding electric vehicle charging stations across the country] or incentivizing the states to do electrification infrastructure.”

DeFazio has not announced a specific bill as yet.

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