The non-profit Climate + Community Project (CCP) recently published a Green New Deal for transport who put some numbers behind what a commitment to demand destruction in the United States might look like: Allocating $300 billion to fully electrify public buses, school buses, cars, trucks, vans, postal vehicles, railroads, sanitation vehicles and other aspects of the federal fleet by 2030. (Progress on only one of them – postal vehicles – has been depressingly slow, thwarted by right-wing postmaster Louis DeJoy.) Rather than aiming to outsource internal combustion engines for electric vehicles on a one-to-one basis, the plan would spend $300 billion on a “Clean Mobility for People” program. clunkers,” offering drivers a credit to trade in gas guzzlers for new and used EVs, but also e-bikes, annual transit passes, or a combination of the above. Coupled with this, there would be a goal of quintupling public transport ridership while “reducing the share of daily car trips by a third and reducing the kilometers traveled per capita by 25%”, write the researchers of the CPC. Ambitiously, the plan would end the use of federal funds for new highway infrastructure except for “targeted opportunities that improve equity.” The plan also provides $25 billion a year for a decade to fund public transit.
As the authors note, reducing reliance on private car transport is also key to reducing the supply chain worries that have ensnared much of the global economy as that pandemic recoveries have accelerated. The cost of nickel— a key component of lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles — has exploded in recent weeks. As electrification takes off, the use of these materials will increase, but the concurrent transition to greater mass transit may prevent us from simply trading one complex set of geopolitical dependencies for another. In its report, the CCP recommends reducing the amount of extraction of battery materials from sensitive ecosystems and disadvantaged communities, investing in recycling capabilities, and holding imports of these things “to the highest standards in on labor rights, human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as on environmental sustainability and emissions.
Transportation isn’t the only aspect of life in the United States that could benefit from a climate-friendly upgrade. Other IEA recommendations include working from home rather than going to the office; they note that car commuters travel an average of 11 miles one way by car, and that more than three-quarters of these drivers travel alone. On the same route, new cars making this route in the United States consume 40% more fuel than those sold in Europe.