Green Transportation

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Executive Summary:

Green transportation - transportation that produces less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline—is needed to mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on foreign oil. State and local governments are updating vehicle fleets to greener forms of transportation. For example:

  • Illinois requires state agencies to purchase flexfuel vehicles that run on E85 (fuel that contains up to 85 percent ethanol) and diesel vehicles that run on B5 (fuel that contains 5 percent biodiesel fuel).
  • 100 percent of the transit fleet in Culver City, Calif., runs on compressed natural gas, while 80 percent of the garbage trucks run on compressed natural gas, saving the city an estimated $1.2 million annually.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $100 million in funding through the Federal Transit Administration for 43 transit agencies in 27 states to purchase hybrid buses.

Advancing alternative fuels is another way states can make transportation greener:

  • States such as Washington offer various tax exemptions, credits or rebates for alternative fuels and vehicles.
  • As of June 2009, 38 states either mandated biofuel use or provided incentives for it. Twelve states have renewable fuel standards requiring a certain percentage of these fuels be used.
  • Biofuels produce one-third less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. However, pipeline infrastructure will need to be built if biofuel usage is to increase.
  • Clean (or ultra low sulfur) diesel offers another fuel alternative. Clean diesel is more efficient than gasoline and reduces CO2 emissions by 10 to 20 percent.

Electric vehicles are considered by many to be the future of green transportation, and the automobile industry predicts electric vehicles will make up 10 percent of the market in 2020. However, for the market to truly expand, several things must occur:

  • Tax incentives promoting the purchase of electric vehicles will need to be established;
  • Locations for electric vehicle charging stations will need to be identified and multiplied many times over;
  • Local electric grids will need to be reinforced to handle increased demand; and
  • Building codes will need to be revised to ensure buildings are wired for car chargers.

Finally, other green transportation policy activities involve thinking beyond the automobile:

  • The Obama administration announced a “complete streets” policy that seeks to put bicycle and pedestrian projects on equal footing with road and transit work. Complete streets are those designed and operated to enable safe access for all users.
  • Oregon and Florida have the oldest state complete streets policies.
  • New York is considering such legislation this year.
  • Some state departments of transportation have also made complete streets part of their internal policies.
  • The National Complete Streets Coalition identified 10 elements a complete streets policy should have.
  • But critics say encouraging more bike riding simply doesn’t make sense for a modern industrial nation and such policies can take money away from repairing crumbling roads and bridges.
  • Still, communities such as Portland, Ore., New York City and Detroit are working to change existing infrastructure to better serve those on two wheels.