Are Cars Here to Stay?

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For Kinney and her guests, the summary or subtitle, “Real progress on climate change will require innovations that some on the left won’t like” was the poke in the ribs that got the conversation rolling and moods shifted. 

Trembath writes that fossil fuel manufacturers and automakers are not responsible for the appetite Americans have for commuting to suburban developments. The author criticizes the urbanist and climate movements for not adequately reckoning with the enduring appeal of suburbs and car commutes. 

Upzoned guest John Reuter, a Strong Towns board member and fellow, spent the last decade working in environmental policy and politics. Reuter gets the conversation on Trembath’s article rolling by observing that in the progressive, left-of-center climate and urbanist movements in America, many are obsessed with investing in the electrification of vehicles

While electrifying cars may be an important transition, Reuter is more sanguine about real solutions needed by those movements: Namely, to reduce the number of miles which are driven in America each year. “There is an obsession with electric vehicle production right now,” Reuter says. “That’s where all the ‘gas’ is right now in the national environment.” 

A reliable common ground for the left and the right in federal budgeting is to build more highways, subsidize more suburbs, and re-tool the auto industry to build electric vehicles. “The idea we should build more stuff is one of the last remaining political consensus (points) in DC,” Reuter adds.

Charles Marohn, Strong Towns president and founder, finds a difficult contradiction in the choices made by the most progressive left of center places to prioritize the creation of walkable cities and resilient neighborhoods. Contrasting with those stated goals, are actions chosen at the federal level to fund new highways, new bridges, and more automobile infrastructure with a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill

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