Transportation is the economic sector that contributes the most to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making up 33 percent of the national total in 2019, according to figures from the Department of Transportation.
But the Biden administration is determined to change that. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development announced a first-of-its-kind roadmap to decarbonize the transportation sector by 2050.
“The domestic transportation sector presents an enormous opportunity to drastically reduce emissions that accelerate climate change and reduce harmful pollution,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a press release announcing the new plan.
The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization is part of President Joe Biden’s goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and creating a clean electrical grid by 2035. It includes plans to boost electric vehicles (EVs), design more pedestrian friendly communities and put money towards public transportation options like buses and trains, The Washington Post reported.
“The electricity sector has to overachieve or overdeliver in terms of emissions reduction,” RMI principal E.J. Klock-McCook told The Washington Post. “Transportation is the next in line from a technical and economic standpoint.”
The blueprint includes a timeline for how decarbonizing transport might go, according to The Hill:
- By 2030: Investments made in public transit, transportation infrastructure, batteries and hydrogen power; goals set for increasing the percentage of EVs on the road.
- 2030-2040: Increasing vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
- 2040-2030: Working towards “fleet turnover” to replace aging fossil fuel powered infrastructure with other alternatives.
The Hill noted that the blueprint might not survive a future Republican administration. However, the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have laid the groundwork for many of the changes the administration envisions, The Washington Post pointed out. For example, the IRA offers as much as $7,500 in tax credits for people who buy EVs while the infrastructure package included $7.5 billion for EV charging stations.
“Both of these laws are catalyzing huge differences and are poised to do more,” Natural Resources Defense Council senior policy adviser Deron Lovaas told The Washington Post.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the climate crisis, the blueprint emphasizes that creating more walkable communities and reducing vehicle emissions will also have positive impacts on human health, especially for marginalized communities disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution. Reforming transport can also cut away at the second highest yearly expense for U.S. residents while creating well-paying jobs to help with the transition.
“Transportation policy is inseparable from housing and energy policy, and transportation accounts for a major share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so we must work together in an integrated way to confront the climate crisis,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in the announcement. “Every decision about transportation is also an opportunity to build a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future. When our air is cleaner; when more people can get good-paying jobs; when everyone stays connected to the resources they need and the people they love, we are all better off.”