Cars and trucks are a leading source of carbon pollution in the United States, and a poll released by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that Americans of all political views overwhelmingly endorse two Obama Administration initiatives to put the brakes on that climate pollutant. The administration is pushing for cleaner cars that use less fuel and clean transportation planning, which could usher in safe bikeways, pedestrian walkways and public transit.
NRDC also released data ranking the states by their carbon pollution from transportation, which would be affected by the national clean transportation goals. Of the top 20 largest emitters, seven states — California, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia — generate more than 40 percent of their carbon pollution from transportation; on a national average, transportation accounts for about one-third of carbon pollution.
NRDC’s poll finds that 95 percent of Americans want automakers to keep improving fuel economy for cars and trucks, including 97 percent of Democrats, 94 percent of Independents and 93 percent of Republicans. And 79 percent want the government to keep increasing fuel efficiency standards.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated it may issue standards this year requiring transportation planning agencies to start identifying, and then find ways to reduce, the climate and carbon pollution from projects in their transportation plans.
NRDC’s poll finds that 78 percent of Americans agree that “state transportation agencies should take vehicle-related carbon pollution and climate change into account when developing transportation plans and also seek ways to reduce that pollution.” This view is held by 92 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents and nearly two out of three (64 percent) of Republicans.
“Our poll shows Americans have just two words to say about clean transportation: ‘Floor it.’ Americans want cleaner cars and better planning that green-lights transportation options that saves money, reduces the use of oil, and improves our air, health and quality of life,” said Pete Altman, director of Federal Campaigns at NRDC. “The Obama administration is on the right track to deliver cleaner transportation, and we must resist attempts by automakers to weaken our fuel economy standards. In fact, we need to make our cars and trucks even more efficient. And we should modernize the way we plan and build the transportation systems of the future. President Obama has an opportunity, by delivering strong results, to cement a climate legacy as firmly grounded in transportation as it has been in the power sector.”
In 2012, Obama issued landmark standards for 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025. Recently, three federal agencies issued an interim report concluding that automakers are on track to meet that goal.
“Because automakers can meet the challenge, Americans are demanding cleaner cars and trucks, and our planet requires cleaner cars, there’s no reason to ease the vehicle fuel economy goals,” said Luke Tonachel, director of the Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project at NRDC. “The transportation sector is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution. Continuing to strengthen clean vehicle standards is good for America’s consumers, and it’s absolutely critical to bringing about cleaner, healthier air and a more stable climate.”
Currently, the roughly 400 state and municipal transportation agencies across the country that receive federal transportation funds are required to identify transportation needs, address issues like safety, and set priorities for transportation projects and budgets. If Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx brings forth a new national standard this year, those planning agencies would begin to take into account carbon pollution and climate impacts, which could shift their transportation plans toward reducing climate change, traffic congestion and harmful air pollution by expanding clean transportation options. A public comment period on the possible national standard ends August 20.
NRDC’s poll indicates that Americans think it’s a great idea for the whole country. Millennials and 18-34 year-olds (both at 88 percent), as well as women and Hispanics (both at 86 percent), are particularly inclined to agree that “state transportation agencies should take vehicle-related carbon pollution and climate change into account when developing transportation plans, and also seek ways to reduce that pollution.” Additionally, 77 percent think that cars and trucks, of which there are 260 million on the road in the U.S., “contribute to the problem of air pollution” a great deal or somewhat. This view is held by 87 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Independents and 69 percent of Republicans.
“The transportation choices we make today will take us where we go tomorrow,” said Deron Lovaas, senior policy adviser in NRDC’s Urban Solutions program. “Let’s make sure we get where we need to go. Americans support carbon pollution performance standards for transportation plans. So let’s tell Secretary Foxx: Let’s get this new plan on the road!”
The amount of transportation-related carbon pollution varies by state but generally the most populous states are the biggest polluters. The top 10 biggest transportation polluting states are: Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The top 10 least transportation polluting states are: Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana, Maine, Idaho and North Dakota. Among all of those states, 11 generate more than 40 percent of their total carbon pollution from transportation, suggesting that clean transportation initiatives could have a sizeable impact on the key contributor to climate change.
The clean transportation poll was conducted for NRDC by ORC International.