For a STRONG America, some lessons for Europe ?

In a February survey, 73 percent of Americans said they feel they have no choice but to drive as much as they do. Studies have found that owning a car is more important in getting and holding a job than a GED diploma. Americans need convenient, secure transit choices other than driving alone in gasoline powered cars. This package of systemic transit policy upgrades recommended by the non-partisan Mobility Choice Coalition realigns a mixture of federal, state, and local policies to incentivize commuter choices while reducing oil consumption and quelling nuisances such as traffic jams.

The package includes five measures to remove the perverse incentives that encourage gasoline use in current policies: Allocating transit dollars to optimize oil savings, smart traffic management, HOT lanes and congestion pricing, insurance choice rather than “one-size-fits-all,” and liberalizing local land development rules. It also includes measures to expand the transit options for everyone, including: increasing vanpool, car pool, and private commute options, expanding inter-city rail when cost-effective, and providing transit vouchers to low income households.

 Lisa Margonelli, Director, Energy Policy Initiative New America Foundation, present STRONG project. STRONG (Secure Transportation Reducing Oil Needs Gradually) is a menu of policies to reduce US oil demand by more than 3 million barrels a day by 2020, without using new technology, vehicles, or fuels. STRONG America will result in large savings in oil, money, pollution, and carbon emissions by 2020, while reducing petroleum-intensive hassles like traffic jams. By 2020 STRONG’s gas savings alone could steer at least $347 million dollars a day to sectors other than oil in the US economy (if gas were $2.75/gallon). Importantly, STRONG gives Americans the power to decide how they commute, as well as what they drive by providing guaranteed loans for very efficient vehicles.  

By 2020, the EIA projects that Americans will consume 15 million barrels of oil per day through transportation. Of that, we will produce only 6 million barrels domestically, with more than a third of those projected to come from drilling in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. Economically, oil acts as a sponge in the US economy, as rising gas prices soak up disposable income. On May 11, 2010, for example, Americans spent $1.1 billion on gasoline–$239 million more than on the same day a year before, when gas was 62 cents cheaper per gallon. On a household level, lack of transit options means that the average family of four pays more to own and fuel a car than for either taxes or health care.

Americans tend to believe that our dependency on oil and lack of control over gasoline spending is inevitable until new technology and fuels are available. But in fact, a significant quantity of our consumption is the result of perverse incentives and a stifling of other transportation options that are grandfathered into policies at the federal, state, and local level. Relatively simple fixes for broken polices, coupled with a plan to make transit less fuel intensive and help middle class families get to work can make the American economy more secure at both the national and household level.  

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