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The Voice of the Black Community

Opinion

It's time to move ahead on clean cars, clean jobs, and clean air
Tech allows us to tackle multiple challenges
 
Published Saturday, May 22, 2021 11:20 am
by DeAndrea Salvador

COURTESY DeANDREA SALVADOR
North Carolina Sen. DeAndrea Salvador.

President Joe Biden recently introduced an ambitious plan to address our nation’s infrastructure through his American Jobs Plan.

While improving our roads, bridges, and tunnels is certainly one obvious component of what this infrastructure plan will do, it isn’t the only component.  The president’s plan also recognizes that we desperately need cleaner vehicles traveling these new roads, bridges, and tunnels.


Today, we’re facing several interconnected challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic downturn, systemic racial inequities, and the climate crisis, all of which are impacted by transportation sector pollution in some measure. 


The transportation sector is already our largest source of carbon pollution, driving climate change and its wide-ranging impacts. Dirty air makes the effects of COVID-19 much worse, as the disease attacks respiratory function. And dirty air is often concentrated near major roadways and low-wealth and BIPOC communities. This is not some distant problem; Mecklenburg County received an “F” for ozone pollution in a report just issued by the American Lung Association.


We need both short- and long-term strategies to tackle the climate crisis and protect our health. That includes investments in clean car technology and infrastructure, as well as strong policy limits on transportation sector pollution. 


In the short run, driving forward with cleaner cars and pollution free vehicle solutions has the most promise for reducing pollution, spurring our economy, and reducing environmental injustices in our state. Limiting pollution from cars, trucks, transit, and other transportation sources also will help support a transition to clean energy, creating other economic opportunities, and we already know that establishing higher fuel efficiency standards saves North Carolina and other families across the nation money at the pump. 

The $620 billion in improvements earmarked in the American Jobs Plan will transform our transportation infrastructure and particularly the $174 billion the President has committed to ramping up our electric vehicle market. These electric vehicle investments will bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., provide well-paying jobs to workers, boost economic growth, clean our air, reduce carbon pollution-causing climate change, and make us a global economic leader in clean technology.


The president’s plan includes specific investments in cleaner cars, trucks, and buses that will spark an electric vehicle revolution by building a network of 500,000 EV chargers, replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles with cleaner vehicles, electrifying at least 20 percent of our school buses, and helping consumers purchase the vehicles of tomorrow. The plan also doubles federal funding for public transit, tackles delayed repairs, and connects new communities and neighborhoods to new bus and rail service, especially in those communities that have been excluded and denied opportunity.


These investments will not only help clean our air and our roadways, but will also serve as a major job creator. North Carolina could expect 22,500 new jobs by 2030 if strong clean car standards are again put in place. 


We also need to compliment these investments with stronger federal clean car standards, and under recently restored Clean Air Act state authority, North Carolina and other states could even go beyond the limits set by the federal government to protect their residents and spur our economy. Auto manufacturers had already begun to respond and were moving to cleaner technologies, until the previous administration illegally rolled back these standards.


We can no longer put off the climate crisis or transportation sector pollution driving it. While President Biden has taken some bold steps, he needs a cooperative Congress to truly move the needle. It’s time for North Carolina’s federal representatives in Washington to put partisan politics aside and do what’s right for our public health and the environment.

DeAndrea Salvador represents the 39th District, encompassing parts of Mecklenburg County in the North Carolina Senate. 


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