The Green New Deal (GND) is a resolution from U.S. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, both Democrats. It highlights the need to take bold measures to mitigate the growing threat of climate change, plus the prevalent problem of income inequality.
Transportation is a major aspect of the GND. Here are some of the transportation-related topics it covers and the changes that might occur.
A Net-Zero Emissions Goal
An earlier version of the GND set a milestone of the United States achieving zero emissions for the transportation, industrial and agricultural sectors by 2030. However, the latest edition of the GND proposes getting to the point of net-zero emissions. That means greenhouse gas emissions still happen, but at levels short of what the atmosphere naturally gets rid of or stores.
The people working to implement the changes rolled back their initial vision after realizing the difficulty of zero emissions in certain cases, such as for air travel.
More Dependence on Different Forms of Getting Around
People in the United States who can afford them love the convenience cars provide. Whether they’re going on long-distance road trips or heading across town for groceries, they hop into those vehicles and go.
The Green New Deal hopes to change that behavior. It proposes a high-speed rail network that helps people reach their destinations without booking flights. Some individuals pointed out that it’s not possible to cease using planes, but the GND doesn’t aim to do that.
It discusses “… overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; clean, affordable and accessible public transit; and high-speed rail.”
BMW’s i line features high-tech electric vehicles that help change people’s ideas about future cars, and numerous other manufacturers have followed suit with models that don’t need fossil fuels to run.
Ocasio-Cortez also advocated for using bike lanes and public transit on Twitter in mid-2018, although the GND doesn’t specifically mention the former. In any case, this plan seeks to encourage Americans to travel in ways that may be unfamiliar now but could become commonplace and even convenient.
There’s a lot of work to do before reaching that stage, however.
Automobile Enhancements Are Ongoing
Many people know the automobile industry takes continual steps toward progress in areas like fuel economy. For example, enhanced rolling resistance and better truck aerodynamics can cause such gains in long-haul vehicles. BMW, for example, intended to roll out more electric vehicles before the GND captured mainstream attention.
In early November 2018, BMW’s CEO said the brand aims to release five new all-electric vehicles by 2021. It also has other eco-friendly options in the works, such as plug-in hybrids. Those efforts align with what the GND hopes to do.
What About the Potential Downsides?
Some analysts chimed in to say that these transportation proposals are too far-reaching, especially in a short timeframe. Electric vehicles are far from mainstream adoption, only making up a tiny percentage of overall cars on the road. Moreover, although the prices have come down, they’re still not cheap and are likely out of reach for people in low-income brackets.
It’s also possible automakers would have to scale up their manufacturing efforts too quickly. Such rapid growth is undoubtedly difficult to manage.
Also, train travel works well for densely populated metropolitan areas, but not for residents in rural places. So, there are notable disadvantages for people in isolated towns that cannot afford electric vehicles — or cars of any type — and don’t have nearby rail networks to use.
Still in the Early Stages
In light of these possible pitfalls, people must keep in mind the “as much as is technologically feasible” line from the Green New Deal. It’s inevitable that some of the things proposed won’t work as well as advocates expect and could even be impossible.
On a positive note, perhaps the GND will encourage people to think about future improvements in the transportation sector with more open minds while being motivated by the time-based characteristic it brings.