Infrastructure Act Can Drive CO2 Up – Report

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The bipartisan infrastructure package signed last month could lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, depending on how transport finance programs are implemented, according to a new analysis.

The $ 1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains provisions to further develop electric vehicles, renewables, power lines, and carbon capture technologies. The move, supported by many clean energy groups and Senate Democrats, has been touted by the White House as a tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, according to a study by the non-partisan Georgetown Climate Center, the land transport law’s provisions could be used to upgrade highways or build new main roads, which could lead to higher emissions in the long term. Whether emissions go up or down depends on how states, local planning agencies, and the Department of Transportation ultimately allocate funds, the analysis found.

“We realized that IIJA could be an important part of the US response to climate change. Or it could lead to more greenhouse gas emissions than we are currently tracking, ”said researchers at the center, which is part of Georgetown Law, in a post of their findings.

According to the EPA, the transportation sector is currently the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. In total, the Infrastructure Act provides about $ 599 billion for spending “Surface traffic”, which includes highways, public transportation, sidewalks, bike paths, roads and the associated infrastructure, the researchers estimated.

But once federal funds are distributed to the states, state officials usually have flexibility in how the funds are used. As an example, the researchers note that the law will distribute $ 70 billion over the next five years to the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program, which allows states to invest in, but also for, public transportation and charging stations for electric vehicles Road and bridge construction projects.

By analyzing various options for using the law’s funds, the researchers found that emissions could fall below a normal scenario by 2023 if policy “prioritizes low carbon transport strategies” and gives priority to maintenance work on existing roads.

The report’s reference case assumes that the company’s proposed government average fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks built between 2024 and 2026 would be fully implemented and the cost of EV batteries would continue to decrease.

However, if the funds are instead used to expand highways, the law could have the opposite effect, increasing emissions by 1.6 percent from the baseline scenario by 2032, the analysis said. Emissions would increase due to a phenomenon known as “induced demand”, a concept that refers to a gradual increase in traffic that has been observed as new roads or lanes are built.

“In short, traffic expands within a few years to fill the new lanes, which brings more pollution,” said the researchers in their post.

The White House did not respond in a timely manner to a request for comment on publication.

Although the analysis highlights the decisions state and local bodies face when the law’s funds are used, federal agencies can also influence how some of the funds are used, said Deron Lovaas, a senior policy advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who did not at the research. For example, the guidelines released by the DOT last week are designed to encourage investments that are in line with the government’s climate goals, Lovaas said.

Some states have also started using federal transportation more creatively than they are for upgrading highways, Lovaas added. Still, highway rebuilding projects have historically accounted for about 15 percent of federal highway spending, said James Bradbury, the center’s containment program director and lead researcher for the analysis.

“There are some encouraging signs and many states are eager to get targeted funding for low-carbon strategies, including transit and electric vehicle charging,” Bradbury said in an email. “States are also beginning to submit proposed spending plans to stakeholders in order to receive contributions to projects so that residents and communities have the opportunity to communicate their needs and priorities to their states.”

Overall, the analysis shows that the effects of the Infrastructure Act on greenhouse gas emissions are “indefinite” for the time being, said Lovaas.

“The results and impact of the bill are 100% implementation,” he said.


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