T4America Blog

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Step 1: Electric vehicle chargers. Step 2: Real structural reform.

Last week, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Andy Levin (MI-9) released the “Electric Vehicle Freedom Act,” a bill that would aim to “establish a nationwide electric vehicle charging network within five years.” The creativity behind this bill is exactly what Congress needs—we just need to focus on more than EVs.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW 2019. Photo by NRKBeta on Flickr’s Creative Commons

You’ve (hopefully) heard it all before: transportation accounts for the largest share of carbon emissions in the United States, and those emissions are rising—even as other sectors have improved. 

Tackling those rising emissions is the goal of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Andy Levin’s  new “Electric Vehicle Freedom Act.” The bill—released in tandem with the House majority’s new infrastructure framework—would build an electric vehicle charging network along the nation’s highways, according to the Hill. 

It’s rare to see a bill that uses transportation funding for something brand new, like EV charging. On that front, this bill is a clear winner. Now it’s time for Reps. AOC and Levin to completely rethink the transportation program overall—because the structure of the program itself sets the U.S. on a course to increase transportation emissions. 

Like a terrible prophecy, the federal transportation program spends billions every year to build new highways, encouraging more and more driving. With the limited funding for transit, rail, walking and biking overwhelmed by the billions spent on highways, federal policy is designed to keep us in our cars (which generates more congestion and pollution). 

More and more driving negates any emissions reductions from electric vehicles because the fleet of U.S. vehicles isn’t turning electric as quickly as vehicle miles traveled are increasing. Despite an admirable 35 percent increase in the overall fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet from 1990-2016, emissions still rose by 21 percent because driving increased by 50 percent in that same period.

Electric vehicles are absolutely necessary to decrease our emissions, but they aren’t enough. We need to drive less. That means a complete restructuring of a federal transportation program built to increase driving. We would love to work with Reps. AOC and Levin on crafting a forward thinking transportation bill that will put the entire country on a path to truly lower carbon emissions.