Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bernie goes Green New Deal

Most of the major presidential candidates have now put forward aggressive Climate Change proposals (thanks Gov. Inslee and CNN!).  I’ll leave it to others to assess the relative merits of all these programs and the performance of the candidates on CNN and other venues.  However, most of the coverage and commentaries I have seen give scant attention to the transportation elements of these programs, which I will attempt to remedy, beginning with Bernie Sanders.  Bernie has launched a really big and comprehensive program (available here).  I will leave aside the revenue piece for the moment and summarize the spending and policy elements.
The overall goal is to “fully electrify and decarbonize our transportation sector,” which I think is a clear and crisp goal statement.
Some of the specific program ideas (my comments in parentheses):
·      Build a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure with open access and interoperable stations.  (I’m all for this.  No details provided, although I think you could do a lot for the $85.6 Billion proposed!)
·      Replace all transit buses and school buses with electric models.  (I agree.  It’s time for this.)
·      Set up a vehicle trade-in program, as well as direct grants for low-income people, to incentivize replacing old internal combustion vehicles with US-made EVs.  (There are plenty of successful program models to build on.)
·      Replace all diesel trucks with “fast-charging and long-range electric trucks.”  (Definitely needs to happen, but the technology to make it happen is not yet reliable and scaleable.)
·      Build more public transportation, increase ridership by 65%, promote transit oriented development.  (Definitely doable and important, but the devil is in the details.)
·      Build regional high-speed rail to complete the Obama proposal.  (Important and expensive.  The “regional” qualification is key as it recognizes that it’s a big country and not all intercity corridors are suitable for high-speed rail with existing and reasonably predictable technology.)
There are other key transportation proposals included under “Infrastructure”:
·      Increase funding for roads.  (Yes, but I would add a qualifier that the Highway Trust Fund can’t be used for highway expansion.)
·      Repair freight and passenger transportation networks using TIGER grants.  (Don’t know how this is supposed to work.  I’m all for TIGER grants, but these are best used for targeted innovative projects, not bread-and-butter rehab work.)
·      Retrofit public infrastructure – including roads and bridges – to withstand climate impacts.  (Absolutely.  But not sure whether we are talking about a new program here.  The roads and bridges piece could be handled through adjustments to FHWA programs.)
·      Adapt to sea-level rise by providing funding to coastal communities.  (Same comment as above.)

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