The infrastructure for distributing and storing clean fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, and electricity is scarce and underdeveloped, as are most mass transit systems nationwide. Clean fuels and mass transit must also compete with a petroleum and automobile-based system that’s had 100 years to get established and has, over time, benefited from hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies. Leveling the playing field will require a shift of incentives away from pollution and toward clean-energy solutions, using policy to enact new standards, allocate some public dollars, and drive new private investment into our nation’s low-carbon transportation infrastructure. Specifically, transportation policy should:
- Shift the focus of federal transportation spending away from new roads and toward mass transit options and the repair and maintenance of existing roadways.
- Develop a mix of incentives and standards to encourage private investment in alternative-fuel vehicles and fuel distribution infrastructure, including electric vehicles, the use of natural gas in the heavy-duty fleet, and increasing production of high-yield, low-carbon biomass feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel.
This piece of the clean-energy transformation brings economic and environmental benefits from diversifying and decarbonizing the transportation sector, but it is particularly relevant to improving U.S. national security, which remains severely compromised due to our heavy dependence on oil, and on foreign oil imports in particular. We will only kick this dependence by renewing and rebuilding our transportation infrastructure around efficiency, reduced vehicle-miles-traveled, and clean and domestic fuel resources. The transportation bill up for reauthorization in the coming year is the perfect opportunity to set the policy framework for this transformation.
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