February 2013

Andrew Schwartz, CFIRE Research Intern

Since the election, most of the news out of Washington D.C. has focused on mostly short term issues: the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. However, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) recently released “Energy 20/20”—her energy plan through 2020 as a response to the Obama Administration’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” from March 2011. These two policies represent both the Republican and Democratic visions for the future and hopefully the beginnings of serious discussions.

Transportation officials are keenly aware of strong interconnectedness between the transportation sector and energy and environmental policy. According to the EIA, the transportation sector accounts for 28 percent of primary energy consumption (93 percent of which is petroleum-based) (see Figure 1) and 34 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (see Figure 2). So, how does each of these blueprints address this important relationship?

Figure 1

Figure 2

Both proposals recognize transportation’s current reliance on petroleum. Murkowski suggests this should be addressed by eliminating the need for foreign oil through increased domestic production and collaboration with our energy-rich neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Further ideas include the development of alternative fuels, including biomass, and increasing vehicle efficiency. Similarly, the White House pushes efficiency improvements and cleaner, alternative fuels. The Obama Administration is also pushing for cautiously expanding domestic energy production.

The Murkowski energy plan does not seem to explicitly address any new transportation solutions outside of delivery infrastructure upgrades such as transmission lines and pipelines. The White House energy plan has ideas for congestion, quality of life, and economic developments. Electric vehicle-friendly infrastructure, alternative transportation availabilities, marine highways, improved livable communities, and economic competiveness infrastructure investments are all ideas proposed for “moving forward.”

Environmental policy is carefully interwoven in both blueprints, particularly dealing with greenhouse gases and climate change. Murkowski advocates small steps that have broad benefits such as improvements in efficiency and resiliency. The White House proposes comparable efficiency standards, but goes further to include environmental extraction regulations.

It is important to remember that each of these proposals is an array of ideas, not legislation. Putting these policies into practice could be a long way off or may not ever happen. Still, it is intriguing to those in transportation to see politicians in our nation’s Capital give serious thought to how transportation fits in with long term solutions for energy and the environment.

CFIRE has once again teamed up with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Engineering Professional Development to offer scholarships for rail-related short courses.

In the Spring of 2013, there are three courses eligible for CFIRE scholarships.

Get more information and apply for a scholarship today.