“Buttigieg’s Climate Promises: What Could He Actually Do?”

“The Transportation Department, which holds sway over planes, trains and automobiles, faces limits on how it spends money. Still, here are five possible steps.”

“WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg, President Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Transportation, vowed to make climate change a top priority during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

But that raises a question: How much can a transportation secretary realistically do to reduce emissions from America’s vast fleet of cars, trucks and airplanes — all of which the agency oversees, to varying degrees?

Transportation now accounts for one-third of the nation’s greenhouse gases each year. And the sector has been stubbornly difficult to clean up, as the vast majority of Americans remains deeply dependent on gasoline-fueled vehicles to get around each day.

The federal agency has a number of powerful policy levers that could be used to try to change that. One strategy might be to encourage state governments to rethink how they design their roadways and mass transit systems, nudging the United States away from its reliance on automobile travel. Another is to help ratchet up fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and trucks and promote cleaner electric vehicles.”

Brad Plumer reports for the New York Times January 21, 2021.