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Climate Change

A look at Edwards/Obama Greenhouse Gas Plans

1:32 PM PST on November 12, 2007

Some people felt I was a little harsh on Hillary on Friday, arguing that other candidate's Greenhouse Gas plans weren't any better than hers in recognizing the link between reducing emissions and alternative transportation. Let's see how some of the other Dems' plans stack up.

First, let us look at John Edwards' Achieving Energy Independence & Stopping Global Warming Through A New Energy Economy. Much like Clinton's plan, searches of Edwards' plan also didn't produce any hits for the terms "AMTRAK," "cycling," "bicycle," "biking," "walking," "pedestrian," "alternative transportation," and "automobile dependency." Also like Clinton, Edwards puts a lot of stock in using more efficient cars and household appliances. Unlike Clinton, Edwards does at least explore the link between sprawl and vehicle miles traveled. The plan says:

Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.

While that's all well and good, there's no specifics on what he actually plans to do. I guess Edwards gets an incomplete. Hopefully, he'll be more forthcoming at the Grist event.

Surprisingly, Senator Barack Obama had the energy plan that spent the most ink on transportation reform. I say surprising because Obama's media reputation isn't that he's big on details. He even mentioned bicycling, walking and taking transit as alternatives to driving that need to be promoted. Still no mention of AMTRAK. Poor Amtrak.

From the section entitled Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities.

Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Require States to Plan for Energy Conservation: Current law simply asks governors and their state Departments of Transportation to "consider" energy conservation as a condition of receiving federal transportation dollars. As president, Obama will require governors and local leaders in our metropolitan areas to make "energy conservation" a required part of their planning for the expenditure of federal transportation funds.

Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives divers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.

These three proposals would all benefit transportation networks around the country, but especially here in LA. It would require the folks at SCAGS to emphasize bike, pedestrian and transit projects instead of road widenings as far as the eye can see (and beyond on smoggy days). It doesn't have the specificity of Clinton's proposal, but since her proposal didn't really program that much money towards transportation reform, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

On Friday I'll post a scorecard with any updates that are necesary to help attendees prepare for the Grist event on Sunday. Later today, I'll give the Republicans' energy, transportation and greenhouse gas plans a once over so we can see how they stack up as well.

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