Skip to main content
Read page text

areas could facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy while also creating much-needed jobs. Transportation: Not only could Biden undo Trump’s rollback of the Obama Administration’s emissions targets for vehicles, he could also set a target year for ending the production of diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles. Canada, for example, declared in 2017 that, starting in 2040, vehicles sold in the country should produce no emissions. In December, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, suggested a North America–wide ban on new fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. Japan announced recently that it plans to ban the sale of these vehicles by 2035. The United Kingdom, too, agreed to end the sale of them by 2030. Norway, one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, stated it would shift as early as 2025. In total, more than a dozen countries have set targets to end the sale of vehicles powered by fossil fuels. For Biden, ambitious targets here would go a long way.

Granholm was involved with the U.S. bailout of the automobile industry in 2008. That this bailout did not demand a more rigorous transition to electric vehicles was a missed opportunity. But Granholm’s previous experience working with the automobile industry could be a boon, and the transition could provide much-needed jobs in the U.S. automobile industry.

National legislation would be essential to reducing carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. To that end, Representative Mike Levin, Democrat of California, and Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act to the House in May 2019, and reintroduced it in October 2020 to the 116th Congress.

Even without national legislation, further opportunities for transition exist. For example, all federally owned and operated vehicles and public transportation could be shifted to electric.

Funding for public transportation could also be ramped up dramatically, to make it both more accessible and more affordable. The recent relief package included $45 billion in transportation funding: $16 billion for airlines, $14 billion for transit systems, $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion each for airports and intercity buses, and $1 billion for Amtrak. Like a food pyramid, this funding should be flipped on its head.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, ridership has increased by 28 percent since 1995. Public transportation systems could be overhauled to ensure smooth connections among trains, subways, and buses. Infrastructure for bicycling and walking could be expanded. For long distances, trains—a Biden favorite—could be supported, not only on the East Coast but also in the so-called Heartland, on the West Coast, and cross-country. Renewable Energy: Of course, electric vehicles reduce CO₂ emissions only if the source of the electricity is carbon-neutral. Retooling the U.S. energy grid away from fossil fuels, such as coal and gas (including fracking), is critical.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy use in 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available, broke down as follows: fossil fuels, 62.6 percent (natural gas, 38.4 percent; coal, 23.4 percent; petroleum, 0.4 percent); nuclear (19.6 percent); and renewables (17.6 percent). Biden’s original plan, the Biden-Sanders Task Force, and the Green New Deal all have framed renewable energy as a job creator and stated their commitment to union jobs.

The renewable energy transition would require infrastructure, specifically energy grid modernization. Here, an opportunity for local, community-owned decentralized enterprises could also ensure energy justice. A smart power grid could ensure affordable access to electricity. Biden has pledged to build 550,000 new electric vehicle charging stations. Their availability could be increased at all public buildings. The European Union also recently announced plans to have one million charging stations by 2025, setting the bar higher. Environmental Justice: Michael Regan, North Carolina’s environment secretary since 2017, was nominated to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He will be, if confirmed, the first African American man to head the EPA.

Regan would be in charge of regulating fuel-efficiency standards, emissions from power plants, and fossil-fuel projects. Regan brings with him a commitment to clean air and clean water, the lack of which disproportionately affects people of color and poor people. The shift to renewables will reduce many sources of air and water pollution.

“While leading the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina, Regan rightly pushed massive utility Duke Energy to clean up its toxic coal ash and fought Trump’s offshore oil drilling plans,” Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace senior climate campaigner, tells The Progressive. “But he has a mixed record on environmental justice issues in the state, failing to protect communities from the health impacts of living near hog farms and approving multiple permits for the carbon-intensive wood pellet industry. Regan, and the rest of the Biden-Harris Administration, need to pair their lofty rhetoric on environmental justice with consistent action.”

THE PROGRESSIVE | 35

My Bookmarks


    Skip to main content