Thursday, May 22, 2008

Curbing Carbon from Cars

I thank Jan Mazurek for sending me this "heads up" on new proposed Senate legislation. Will the Senate simultaneously pass this bill and offer a gas tax holiday? Net Zero?

As urban crime falls, as the Baby Boomers get older, as household size shrinks --- these forces all encourage people to live at higher density BUT what about firms? Google's campus is not located in a center city. They have a cute little building in Santa Monica but I doubt that 5,000 people work there. As I have written about many times, when people work in the suburbs --- they tend to live in the suburbs and drive a lot. Are there any market forces encouraging jobs to move back to downtown? Good urban research has documented that information technology has encouraged firm fragmentation such that the deal makers are located downtown while the middle management is exiled to the suburbs.

Curbing carbon from cars

Posted By Sen. Tom Carper On 5.06.2008

This summer, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider groundbreaking,
bipartisan legislation to reduce our country’s greenhouse-gas
emissions. Through this bill we would harness market forces to fight
manmade climate change and reduce emissions from power plants,
factories, office buildings, and vehicles.

It might surprise some to learn that transportation is the
fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. To address this,
legislation was signed into law last December to require cars to
average 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2020, up from 25 mpg today. Our
current climate-change bill includes a provision to require cleaner

But we need to do more to address how far people drive. Since 1970,
overall energy consumption - in spite of vehicle fuel-efficiency
improvements - has grown by 41 percent. This is partly because the
vehicle miles traveled in the United States grew 148 percent. This
increase is largely due to longer commutes and shifts in driving
patterns, not population growth. In fact, population growth accounts
for only 38 percent of the increase in vehicle miles. Between 2005 and
2030, consumption is expected to increase another 59 percent.

Across much of the United States, driving is essential to accomplish
the smallest errand. In most places, one cannot get to work, pick up
kids from school, or buy a gallon of milk without burning at least a
gallon of gas. There simply is not reliable transit to take people
where they need to go. Many kids can no longer walk to school safely,
because they live in communities that are designed more for the
automobile than for the pedestrian. Along many busy roads, there
aren’t even any sidewalks to accommodate anyone who might want to walk
instead of drive.

Living in a sprawling area without transportation options can double a
family’s greenhouse-gas emissions. The negative consequences go beyond
the effects on the environment. Longer commutes and increased driving
distances cost time and money. Many American families must own
multiple cars and spend more time away from home. This means less
money to invest in your home or child’s college fund-and less time to
spend with family.

The climate bill that will be considered by the Senate would place a
“cap” on carbon-dioxide emissions and establish a market in which
polluters could buy and sell permits to release those emissions. The
proceeds from the sale of these emissions permits would raise
trillions of dollars that could be used to support the deployment
alternative energy, fund research into clean technologies, and address
our growing transportation needs.

The current legislation provides some funding for transit - about $500
million a year - but this is less than half of what we spend annually
on public transportation; if anything, we should be spending more than
we have in the past to meet the large and growing need for transit

Additionally, we need to invest in sidewalks and crosswalks that will
make our neighborhoods more walkable. Furthermore, we should offer
incentives for development patterns that encourage people to walk
rather than take a car everywhere they need to go.

We must offer Americans alternatives to car travel if we are going to
be successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning
ourselves from foreign oil. Fortunately, such measures also have the
welcome effect of allowing Americans to spend less time and money
stuck in traffic. In other words, this policy is good for working
families, good for the environment, and good for our economy.

That’s why I’m backing it, and that’s why the Senate should include it
in the climate-change bill this summer.

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