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EPA Drops Data Before GOP Forces Shutdown of Transportation Hearing

The Senate environment panel today was forced to prematurely shutter
its latest hearing on the next long-term federal transportation bill
after Republicans invoked a rarely-used right to close down committee
work as part of their broader
against the majority party's health care legislation.

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), center, with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) at right.
(Photo: NWF via Flickr)

abbreviated hearing gave senators little time to discuss the next
transportation measure's impact on energy and the environment, a
significant issue for members of both parties. "It's a shame," committee
chief Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, "but we're caught up with something
that has to do with health care."

, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) senior
air-quality official, did get to outline the results of an report her
agency released last month [PDF]
at the request of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). The senator had asked the EPA
to determine the maximum achievable reduction in pollution from the
transportation sector -- which currently accounts for about 30 percent
of total U.S. emissions -- by the year 2030.

For its emissions model, the EPA assumed that auto fuel-efficiency
standards would continue rising in concert with the Obama
administration's plan
to reach
an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Other
assumptions included a 60-percent improvement in the fuel efficiency of
new freight trucks and the transit and land use reforms outlined in last
year's Moving
Cooler report

What did the EPA find? Per McCarthy's testimony:

[B]y 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from thetransportation sector could be reduced by 600 to 1000 million metrictons annually, which would be the equivalent of taking 120 to 200million cars off the road. The projected oil savings are 4 to 7 millionbarrels per day, representing one-third to over one-half of our currentoil imports. These greenhouse gas emissions and oil savings represent a25 to 40 percent reduction in the transportation sector relative to theEnergy Information Administration’s 2009 Annual Energy Outlook baseline.

McCarthy emphasized that the report does not represent an official
EPA recommendation on transport emissions cuts, but its release comes at
an auspicious time, as Kerry bids to revive the prospects for a Senate
climate bill by
partnering with
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman
(I-CT) on a new approach to curbing pollution.

That Senate trio reportedly plans to make a revenue-neutral fuel
tax part of its climate proposal, a concept that could hinder lawmakers'
ability to use the existing federal gas tax as a tool to raise revenue
for the next transportation bill. The stated goal on all sides is the
same -- bringing America towards "energy independence" -- but major
questions remain over how to define that state.

NGV America president Richard Kolodziej, who leads a coalition of
energy firms and utilities seeking more support for natural gas-powered
autos, told senators that "we will not be independent" of foreign oil
within the next two decades. "But we will be much less dependent if we
can have a system where our commercial infrastructure cannot be affected
because of an embargo" by oil-exporting nations, he added.

Deron Lovaas, transport policy director at the Natural Resources
Defense Council, countered that a better term to define the national
ideal should be "energy-secure." That state would be possible by 2030,
he said, by combining policies that decrease demand (e.g. more
investment in transit) with more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Lovaas also cited his membership in the new Mobility Choice lobbying
alliance, members of which include conservatives Clifford
and Kenneth
. lllustrating the competing political interest in new fuel
fees, Lovaas said the new group "favors an oil security fee to pay for
inter-city passenger rail."

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