Getting rid of fossil fuel uses that make us miserable

Cutting America’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, as President Biden recently committed to do in rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, isn’t going to be easy. While renewable energy is booming, electric vehicles are finally here in large numbers, and the nation is awash in opportunities for energy efficiency, no amount of technological change alone is likely to get us all the way to our 2030 climate commitment — let alone decarbonize the nation entirely by 2050.

We are going to have to change the way we live.

So, as we start to grapple with exactly what it will…


Subsidized driving and the burden of climate change

Phil Romans via Flickr, made available under Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

To a resident of Bangladesh or Haiti or other largely poor countries ravaged by climate change, the recent debate over charging Americans an extra penny or two for every mile they drive must have seemed strange.

The debate was kicked off earlier this spring when Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg floated a per-mile tax on vehicle travel as a mechanism for paying for transportation infrastructure. Some on the left criticized the idea as damaging to Americans living in places where driving is a necessary fact of life.

Charts showing the progressivity or regressivity of the gas tax flew around the…


A bizarre 2020 should make us rethink our transportation priorities

Salem Parkway, North Carolina, User Breawycker via Wikipedia Commons, Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0

When COVID-19 shutdowns began a year ago, rush-hour traffic evaporated from America’s highways.

Thanks to new data from the Federal Highway Administration, we now know just how many cars vanished from the roads. Americans drove 13.2 percent fewer miles in 2020 than the year before. On average, Americans drove less last year than in any year since 1989.

In some places, reopening of businesses, schools and other activities began to bring cars back to the roads as the year went on. But even by year’s end, traffic in most of the country hadn’t fully returned.

Vehicle-miles traveled per capita, U.S…


Why the states still matter on climate change

Imagine you are Steve Kornacki. [1]

You’ve got a TV audience of millions, a map of the 50 states behind you, an army of stat geeks waiting in the wings to supply you with fresh information, and an entire wardrobe filled with well-worn khakis.

Election night is long over. Instead, you’ve got a new assignment: Explain to your viewers how states are faring in the fight against global warming.

Your high-tech map enables you to zoom in to see emissions coming from anywhere in the country — from a skyscraper in Manhattan to a tractor in a tiny county in…


Bicycling toward a better future post-COVID

Mural along the Neponset River Greenway, Dorchester, MA. Photo by the author.

Bicycling in an American city is fun, great exercise and a way to do one’s part against climate change.

But it’s more than that. Bicycling is a reminder that a different world is possible — a world where people move a bit slower but more joyfully; where our neighborhoods are transformed from places to get through as quickly as possible to sites of exploration, wonder and genuine community; and where the pollution and noise of cars and trucks is seen for what it is: optional, and not an unalterable fact of life.

Bicycling helps you see the world differently. And…


Mission creep in a key Fed rescue program threatens public trust

FirstEnergy Stadium is home to football’s Cleveland Browns. FirstEnergy is one of hundreds of Fortune 1000 businesses that meet the criteria for the Federal Reserve’s “Main Street” lending program. Credit: Erik Drost, CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When politicians talk about “Main Street” businesses, I picture the shops on our local main drag, Dorchester Avenue in Boston. I think of the just-opened restaurant run by a man who has overcome hardship, missteps and tremendous odds to finally see his dream of a kitchen of his own come true. I think of the local bike shop, the cafe with the tasty muffins, and the myriad small pharmacies, grocers and stores in our neighborhood’s “ Little Saigon.”

I don’t think of Fortune 1000 companies. And I sure don’t think about corporations with their names on football stadiums. Yet, these…


On what to keep and what to leave behind after COVID

(Photo by the author)

I’ve just finished Vaclav Smil’s book , “Growth,” which tracks patterns in the growth of … well, almost everything — bats, microbes, gas turbines, cities, empires — in an attempt to process the mechanics and meaning of growth in our world.

I had been intending to read the book ever since I’d seen an interview with Smil in the The Guardian that included the following quote:

“We could halve our energy and material consumption and this would put us back around the level of the 1960s. We could cut down without losing anything important. Life wasn’t horrible in 1960s or…


Vehicle travel during COVID-19 and what comes next

The COVID-19 crisis has felt surreal in many ways, but few aspects have felt quite so strange as the evaporation of car traffic from American cities. In my neighborhood of Boston, for example, one is just as likely to hear birdsong as car engines during the morning rush hour these days. A new analysis by the firm StreetLight Data, based on cellphone data, shows just how dramatic the drop in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) during the COVID-19 outbreak has been. Household vehicle travel across the contiguous U.S. …


The COVID-19 crisis has felt surreal in many ways, but few aspects have felt quite so strange as the evaporation of car traffic from American cities. In my neighborhood of Boston, for example, one is just as likely to hear birdsong as car engines during the morning rush hour these days.

A new analysis by the firm StreetLight Data, based on cellphone data, shows just how dramatic the drop in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) during the COVID-19 outbreak has been. Household vehicle travel across the contiguous U.S. …


The Highway Lobby wants to spend billions of dollars to prop up a failed approach to transportation. That’s a bad idea.

Credit: Trong Nguyen, Shutterstock

Sports seasons are suspended. Concerts and public gatherings are canceled. Millions of us are cooped up at home trying to stay healthy and stay sane.

But the work of teeing up the next generation of boondoggle highway projects doesn’t stop — not even for a global pandemic.

Two weeks ago, the Oregon Transportation Commission voted to move a proposed expansion of Interstate 5 through the heart of downtown Portland one step closer to construction. …

Tony Dutzik

Associate director/senior policy analyst @ Frontier Group focused on energy, transport & climate policy. http://www.frontiergroup.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store