Arguing the Case: Climate, Energy Independence and Transportation

Yesterday I spoke on two panels at the annual ITS America conference in Houston. This big event brings together industry and government experts interested in technology and its applications in transportation, meaning everything from toll booths to electronic signage along roads and rails stops. So it's a pretty big deal in the transporation world, and in fact the Secretary of Transportation was on the agenda this morning.

My second panel was a study in contrasts, with Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation, Wendell Cox of Demographia, Reid Ewing of the University of Maryland, Richard Mudge of the Delcan Corporation, and myself. Interestingly, everyone except Mudge -- who insisted that energy independence is of paramount importance, not a loony assertion since 70 percent of our oil goes to transportation -- agreed that climate change is a threat and the transportation sector needs to play a serious role in cutting emissions. This surprising agreement reminded me of a funny line from a serious, wonderful little book about the ethics of climate change that I read on the plane ride: "The world was waking up to climate change. People, many of them without beards, were talking seriously about rainforests, conservation and how best to save energy."

So we debated means, not ends. Being an inveterate optimist, I made the case for a harmonious three-pronged plan -- more efficient vehicles, cleaner energy sources and reduced carbon-intensive travel activity -- and of course Cox and Staley disagreed. But it was a thoughtful discussion. Makes me more hopeful about a possible sea change in transportation policy, as we've seen just in the past few years with vehicle policy. My last couple of slides provide a couple of additional reasons for hope:


Its america climate panel View more presentations from NRDC.