CLEAN TEA Bill Will Reduce Transportation Emissions
Jul 14 2009
WASHINGTON – The United States cannot mitigate climate change without also cutting emissions from the transportation sector, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) stressed this afternoon at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“As we develop a comprehensive climate change bill, we must consider how every sector of the economy can play a part in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, the transportation sector must be a bigger part of the debate this year,” Sen. Carper said. “By incorporating transportation provisions in the next climate bill, we have the chance to start addressing many problems at once by generating more funding for transportation infrastructure, building more money-saving transportation alternatives and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”
To address transportation’s role in climate change, Sens. Carper and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) recently introduced the Clean Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act or CLEAN TEA (S. 575), aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing Americans with lower-carbon transportation alternatives.
“We – right here in Congress – have a lot to say about how the nation’s transportation system is developed, how efficient it is and how much it pollutes. We should make sure that as we tell American businesses to get their houses in order, we clean up our act as well,” said Sen. Carper.
Transportation is responsible for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and automobiles and light trucks alone contribute 21 percent. And, in spite of fuel efficiency improvements, since 1970 overall energy consumption has gone up by 41 percent because the vehicle miles that Americans travel have increased 148 percent.
Sen. Carper stressed that passage of his CLEAN TEA bill is essential because “vehicle miles traveled” are expected to increase 50 percent in the next 25 years, negating any emissions reductions resulting from the Renewable Fuels Standard and CAFE rules established just two years ago.
“We fund our transportation system through a gas tax, which is to say that we pay for roads and transit by burning gasoline,” Sen. Carper said. “When Americans drive less, our transportation dollars dry up. So states and localities seeking to cut oil use, to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce their constituents’ gas costs end up getting less federal transportation funds. This is punishing them for doing good. Instead, we ought to reward state and local governments by sending federal dollars based on how much they reduce dangerous emissions.”
The CLEAN TEA bill is based on the adoption of a comprehensive climate change bill that creates a cap and trade program. Under such a system, overall greenhouse gas emissions would be capped and polluters would have to acquire credits at auction to emit greenhouse gases.
Under CLEAN TEA, 10 percent of the allowance allocations would be used to create a more efficient transportation system and lower greenhouse gas emissions through strategies, such as:
- Funding new or expanded transit or passenger rail;
- Updating zoning to support transportation plans; and
- Making neighborhoods safer for bikes and pedestrians.
To be eligible for the funding authorized by the CLEAN TEA bill, cities and state departments of transportation must determine how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would then provide federal funds to states and localities based on their expected reductions per capita in greenhouse gas emissions in each of their transportation plans. States and cities with more ambitious plans would receive greater funding.
CLEAN TEA is supported by a number of smart growth and transportation advocates, including Transportation 4 America, the American Association of Railroads and the American Planning Association. In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Democratic Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.